In recent years, Ankara styles have become increasingly popular, with more and more fashion designers incorporating the fabric into their designs. In this blog, we explore the history of Ankara and discover the most recent styles for women.
Ankara fabric (also known as ‘Kitenge’, ‘Chitenge’, ‘Dutch wax’ and ‘African wax print’), is 100% cotton cloth that is produced using the batik method; a wax-resist dyeing technique that originates from Indonesia.
The colours and designs are the same on the front and back sides of the fabric and they commonly feature different crackling effects. The fabric is usually sold in lengths of 6 or 12 yards but it’s also possible to purchase the fabric by the yard. The width of the fabric varies between 45 to 48 inches.
Ankara styles for ladies by Kitenge Store
The versatile fabric can be used to make modern African print clothing, fashion accessories and African interior design items. Ankara fabrics are popular in Africa due to their bright colours and bold patterns. They are associated with African culture due to their tribal patterns and motifs.
The colours and designs can reflect local traditions and symbols such as the tribe, marital and social status of the wearer. Ankara fabrics are often used as a non-verbal way of communication as some of the well-known designs have hidden meanings.
Ankara styles have become more fashionable outside of the African continent in the last decade, especially among the African diaspora. The rise of Afro beats music and the continuation of the African (or ‘tribal’) print fashion trend in western markets could be contributing factors.
Luxury fashion brands like Dior, Burberry, and Stella McCartney have used Ankara fabrics in their collections. Fashion retailers such as H&M and Anthropologie have also used African wax print fabrics as inspiration for their fashion and interior design products.
In 2011, US musician and fashion designer Gwen Stefani used the fabrics for her L.A.M.B collection. Celebrities including Rihanna, Madonna, Beyonce, Solange Knowles, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj as well as the former US first lady Michelle Obama have worn Ankara outfits.
We’ve witnessed the popularity of Ankara dresses during our time in the UK at music and African fashion events. They can be worn casually at home, on holiday, at music festivals or for smart occasions such as the office, parties and even weddings! Here are some of our favourite Ankara dress styles…Shop African Print Dresses
The Maxi dress style is an elegant look that can make you look taller especially if worn with heels. The glamorous gowns are perfect for special occasions such as a party or wedding and can also be worn on holiday with a pair of sandals or flip-flops.
Ankara style maxi dress (designer unknown)
Our particular favourite is the pencil dress style which can be dressed up for formal occasions with heels, a clutch bag and statement jewelry. It can also be worn to the office with a plain coloured blazer or cardigan over the top.
Ankara pencil dress by Kitenge Store
The fit ‘n’ flare dress is easy to wear casually with leggings, sneakers or ankle boots in the winter and with sandals or flats during warmer months. This versatile dress can also be worn to special occasions with heels and a stylish African headwrap (or headband) to match. This is a great way to get noticed and stand out in a crowd!
Fit ‘n’ flare Ankara dress style by Kitenge Store
We love bold and vibrant Ankara dresses that feature a trendy Bardot neckline. Wear this dress style casually with a straw hat and mules, lace-up sandals or white sneakers. For a boho vibe wear with a floppy hat and ankle boots. You can also wear this Ankara dress with bright coloured high heels and a cute clutch bag to match for formal events.
Off-the-shoulder Ankara dress (designer unknown)
Versatile Ankara style tops can be worn easily with a pair of black or dark blue jeans or chinos that match the colours in the print. An Ankara top is a great way to add a pop of colour to a plain outfit without going all out. Alternatively, you could wear an Ankara top with a matching skirt, pair of shorts or pants for a coordinated, head-turning look.
Ankara top and shorts by Kitenge Store
The wrap top is a flattering style for most body shapes. They help to elongate the body due to the v-neckline. Wrap-style Ankara tops look great when paired with a long beaded necklace or a chunky beaded bracelet. Wear casually when meeting up with friends for social occasions such as pub garden drinks or coffee shop catch-ups.
Tailored Ankara tops have different necklines and are flattering to wear due to their close fit. They look elegant but are still comfortable to wear and easy to move around in. You can wear African print tops casually or for smart/casual occasions such as BBQs or dinner parties.
African print top by Kitenge Store
Women’s African print shirts and blouses are very comfortable to wear when relaxing at home, for example, or even to the office if you work in a creative environment. The 100% cotton, breathable fabric will keep you cool during warm weather. You can choose to have short, three-quarter or long sleeves depending on the season or occasion. Style with plain coloured jeans or trousers that go well with the colours in the print and sneakers or flats.Shop African Print Shirts
Women’s Red Floral Long Sleeve Shirt by Kitenge Store
Like dresses, Ankara style skirts have become increasingly popular to wear and are great for making a fashion statement. Wearing colourful skirts is not only fun but can also help to boost your mood which makes you feel instantly happier.Shop African Print Skirts
African print pencil skirts make perfect office attire styled with a plain-coloured fitted shirt or top tucked inside the high waistband. Pencil skirts usually end just below the knee which some women prefer as they like to hide their knees. This skirt style can be worn with smart flat shoes, sandals or pumps. This is a very flattering, tailored skirt style as it helps to accentuate your waist and show off your curves whilst making you look tall if worn with heels.
Women’s Blue/Green/Purple African Print Pencil Skirt by Kitenge Store
Ankara maxi skirts can look fabulous with the right fabric design. If you opt for a loose, flowy skirt then wear it with a plain-coloured fitted top or blouse tucked inside the high waistband. Wear a casual short denim jacket over the top and sneakers or dress up with high heel boots and a leather jacket for the evening. During colder months you can still wear maxi skirts with a fitted sweater.
African wax print fabric maxi skirt by Kitenge Store
If you’re feeling creative and love to sew why not try and create your own Ankara style outfits at home for yourself, a friend or a family member? Versatile African print fabric can be used to make so many different garments from dresses, tops, skirts, jackets, trousers shorts and even dungarees!
There are lots of great YouTube videos and websites that provide dressmaking ideas with step-by-step instructions and sewing patterns. You could even try to upcycle an old item of clothing by adding small touches of African print fabric.
Authentic Ankara fabrics (made in Africa) by Kitenge Store
If you don’t have any suitable leftover fabrics at home that you could use, browse our online fabric shop for inspiration. Don’t forget to check out our helpful sewing tips when making your Ankara styles at home.Shop Ankara Fabric
To find out more about women’s summer styles make sure you check out our guide: Summer African Print Styles for Women and shop our unique, made to measure women’s clothing collection handmade by talented Tanzanian tailors using the finest, authentic Ankara fabrics.Shop All Women’s Clothing
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