How to Make African Attire

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When it comes to African attire, the brighter the better.
When it comes to African attire, the brighter the better. (Image: NA/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Africa is a vast continent with 53 countries and a wide ranging landscape from the savanna and deserts to mountains. Consequently, there are many different styles of attire, ranging from the simple "kanga" of East Africa to the long draping “babariga” for men in West Africa that constantly needs to be hitched up because the arms are long. Much of the clothing in Africa is made from cotton, because it is the coolest fabric. Africans – particularly in East and West Africa -- love bright colors and the designs are recognizable by area and country. Making the attire yourself is an opportunity to create a fashion statement.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Sewing machine

Pick your style. Study the distinct attire of West, East and North Africa and decide what sort of outfits most appeals. You may go for the no-sew 2-yard loin cloth widely worn on the continent to an elaborate hand-stitched “jilaba” that women in North Africa wear over their clothes when they go out in public.

Select your fabric. Cotton is the most versatile material readily found in Africa and the brightly colored material is generally made locally. If you want an expensive outfit for a wedding or other ceremony, buy lace from Holland, as it is the most prized fabric, particularly in West Africa.

Go traditional. Genuine leopard skin may be difficult to find, but you can settle for a similar sized piece of fabric and dress as a Zulu chief. This outfit doesn’t require any sewing as it is draped around the waist and tucked in.

Sew a simple Egyptian tunic. Think of a long T-shirt and make a similar pattern. This two-piece attire requires measurements from the shoulders to just below the knee and only requires seams at across the top – from the shoulders to the neck -- and from under the arms to the hem.

Take a 2-yard piece of brightly colored cloth that is 45 inches wide, wrap it around your waist and you have a skirt. Wear it just over your bust, tuck in the edges and you have a dress to wear around the house.

Get a piece of indigo blue fabric that is at least 3 yards long. Wrap it around your head and you have a turban like the ones worn by the Fulani men in the Sahara.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add decorative touches. Africans spice up their attire with beads, feathers and pounded metal decorations.

References

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