How to Dress in an Authentic African Style

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As you may have noticed already, the African fashion industry is starting to leave its mark on the world. Fashionistas from around the globe are currently looking to source the best indigo dyes, Kente cloths and glass beads to recreate the authentic, African look. African fashion is rooted in traditional culture and heritage and many a garment tells stories through symbolism, colours and prints. One of the aspects of the African style that has made it so popular, is its versatility. For a long time, the mainstream media has focused its African fashion content on typical styles such as Ankara, the famous Dutch print that is usually crafted into dresses and tunics with playful cuts and quirky headbands to match. In recent years, however, renowned designers such as Lisa Folawiyo, have found a way to merge authentic prints with modern cuts and accessories, honing the African style for the 21st century. Here’s how to rock an authentic African style that would make Folawiyo and co. proud!

It’s All About the Accessories

The African fashion style is loud, proud and colourful and the accessories used to make outfits pop emphasize this message. Colourful intricate bead work, eye-catching statement necklaces, big hoop-earrings and headscarves will bring that beautiful African flair to your chosen outfit. Play with your colours – if your outfit is made up of one uniform colour, match it with a contrasting tone or a myriad of colours. If you want your accessories to be made up of bright, mixed colours, recycled glass-bead bracelets and necklaces are always a good choice.

When it comes to picking the right handbag to match your African style, you should be on the look out for raw, woven or recycled materials. Africa is home to some of the most incredible, centuries-old weaving techniques and many communities in rural areas still rely on the craft for their livelihood, therefore it is important to purchase your goods from a platform that directly benefits the artisans involved in the production process.

Prints, Patterns & Cuts

There are three main details that make African styles stand out above all others: their prints, patterns and cuts. Traditional Adire dresses, for example, can be easily distinguished by their tie-dye prints and patterns in varying colours. The Kente cloth designs, on the other hand, are woven and said to have been inspired by the weaving work of a spider. To this day, garments made of Kente cloth are worn only on important occasions in West Ghana and the Akan lands, where it is considered royal and sacred. Kente cloths are chosen by colour, pattern or name. Proverbs can often be found incorporated into the patterns and each colour symbolises something different. Green, for example, symbolises vegetation, harvest, spiritual renewal and growth.

Get to know the history and tradition behind your textiles and prints before deciding on which best suits you. African fashion is so rich in culture and symbolism, it will be worth your while to study the meaning behind your chosen Kente cloth or the origins of the patterns on your Adire dress.


Headwear has always formed an important part of African fashion culture and not just as a style statement. Head wraps, bands and hats are also worn as functional attire, as it protects the hair from harsh climates, heat and other environmental elements one is exposed to in Africa. There are many different headwear styles and tying techniques to choose from and when paired with the right outfit, a coquettish bowtie headband will add that final touch of African flavour to your style code for the night.


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