History of African clothing: the evolution of fashion


Jamie African Products discusses the history of African clothing and fashion trends from ancient times to the modern era!

African clothing, fashion and fabrics have long been misunderstood by the rest of the world. Africa is a huge continent and the people of each of its countries have their own traditional fabrics, clothes, patterns and prints which are worn mainly for special occasions, ceremonies and represent the art of the African people.

Due to the climate of Africa, few clothes were needed for warmth. The type of clothing worn often depended on factors such as poverty levels or the availability of materials in a given geographic area. Men usually wore a loincloth or apron, positioned to support and cover the genital area. Women’s clothing consisted of wraps around the waist that extended to cover the breasts and the front of the body.


One of the earliest fabrics consisted of barkcloth wraps. The material was harvested from the inner bark of certain trees, soaked in water, beaten into sheets of cloth, and fashioned into whatever clothing was needed. Some modern cotton fabrics are called barkcloth, but that’s a misnomer. The only similarity to genuine barkcloth is in the texture appearance. Genuine Uganda barkcloth is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

animal skins

As in many cultures, animal skins were also used from domesticated animals and those obtained by hunting. The hides have been put through a specific process called tanning to turn them into leather. It was used for items ranging from clothing and shields to sashes for carrying infants. Animal skins were often used for their symbolic meaning, to mark the status of the wearer, as a personal totem, during rituals, or to denote tribal allegiance.

mud cloth

A fabric traditionally made by men, it was made by weaving strips of plain fabric into squares and then weaving the squares together. Cloth was soaked in water using leaves and branches, left to dry in the sun, and designs painted onto the material using fermented mud. The mud is washed off and bleaches used. The process is repeated several times. The result is a black and white fabric with patterns that had special meaning for the designer. Women also make mud clothes with designs that have often been passed down from generation to generation from mother to daughter.

wax prints

Contact with Dutch traders introduced wax prints to West Africa in the 19th century. Manufactured textiles were adopted by the Dutch from Indonesia. The process minimized the different coloring variations on the fabric. African women started asking for specific designs which became a secret form of communication.


Although a relatively new innovation, linen fabric is combined with traditional patterns, designs and embroidery for lightweight, everyday wear. Small changes have also been made in which certain garments can be made shorter or tighter for a chic and more elegant edgy appearance.

fashion and culture

Africans have taken fashions introduced by other cultures and created their own indelible touches. Traditional dress was discouraged in the workplace. Africans have found ways to incorporate their traditional African clothing designs and patterns into modern and high fashion garments that remain fashionable in the world today.

Although extremely popular, so-called African clothing has often been misrepresented. The African designs and patterns that adorn traditional clothing are an art form. Fashion houses and mainstream clothiers often mistakenly equate the use of items such as wooden beads and raffia fabric with “traditional”.

This can be especially confusing for young Africans struggling to learn more about their culture and customs. It is therefore particularly important for African clothing manufacturers to do their due diligence. Manufacturers should be aware of the cultural significance of what they are trying to imitate.

Modern manufacturing methods have allowed people around the world to sample traditional African clothing, styles, patterns, colors and designs. Many Africans have adopted more modern fabrics, while retaining the symbolism. As more and more celebrities embrace African fashion, it helps to keep the culture and heritage alive outside of Africa.

About Jamile African Products

Jamile African Products, is an online store created to promote African fashion to modern fashion aficionados. For more information visit: https://jamileafricanproducts.com/

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Company Name: Jamile African Products
Contact: Annet Khainza
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The country: United States
Website: https://jamileafricanproducts.com/


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