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A History of Ankara Fashion: What Makes It So Special

Hey Queens! We're taking a different trip down memory lane to learn about the history of Ankara prints. You've seen this unique, intricate print in headwraps, clothing, and other accessories, including jewelry and handbags. This vibrant print has a fantastic story that's both interesting and inspiring. Continue reading to learn more about the history of Ankara fashion and why it's oh so special. 

The Ankara print originated in Dutch areas and was exposed to African culture in the 1800s. It was originally known as the Dutch wax print, during a process called Batik, which adds dye on top of wax with the cloth turning out to have multiple prints and designs. If more printing is needed, the process is repeated. It was originally worn by the wealthy to solidify social class. The printing style is referred to by other names, such as African wax print, Holland wax, Kanga print by Tanzanians, and Dutch Wax in Ghana. 

Currently called Kitenge by East African citizens, there are now unlimited ways that Ankara is printed. You can find florals, lines, geometric shapes, and many more. Since you can print multiple colors, you will often find more than two or three colors. Ankara fabric is usually sold by the yard within 6 or 12 increments. The fabric type is generally saved for special occasions but can still be worn casually. It is also seen being designed in large ruffles and dramatic dresses with matching hats and headpieces. We've seen many celebrities wear the Ankara prints at special events and red carpets in the current, modern-day, and age. 

 

The origin of Ankara fabric

In 1846, the Dutch entrepreneur Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen introduced the new printing method to Ghana through his company, Vlisco. The fabric was also introduced by Dutch soldiers from Indonesia to African citizens. The Europeans were also trying to create their own version of Batik using a cheaper method during the 19th century. They finally produced the printed fabric by using a technique that included attaching resin on both sides of the fabric, which was introduced by a Belgian painter.  

 

 

 

How Ankara print became a global phenomenon 

Currently, Ankara is worn in many different dresses and forms of clothing. Ghanaian fashion designer Christie Brown often includes Ankara in her collections. The printed fashion has been worn by American celebrities such as Beyonce and Solange and debuted on the fashion forefront within Reuben Reul's clothing brand Demestiks. Since then, an even longer list of celebrities has been seen sporting the beautiful fabric, including Zimbabwean-American actress Danai Gurira. 

Although the print is attractive and distinct, many fashion insiders didn't appreciate the use of the fabric in Stella McCartney's Spring Summer 2018 collection, where she showcased Ankara in the form of one-shoulder dresses and collared jumpsuits. The collection was a collaboration between Stella McCartney and Vlisco.  

 

 

The current state of Ankara prints

Today, Ankara fashion is worn in all forms of clothing, including shorts, dresses, and pants. Some wear their Ankara prints in the form of headwraps and beaded accessories. Putting together looks is simple when you're working with such vibrant colors and designs. Headwraps are one of the most popular ways to wear Ankara since they can protect your hair as well. Wearing an Ankara headwrap with red, black, and white colors is a great addition to a fall outfit since it has warm colors. A free-form headwrap is ideal for achieving the type of wrap styles you want. You can create a giant bow, or you can make a front knot. 

 

 

A Dhaka head adornment is one that you can wear with a black dress or blouse. With multi-color green, Fuschia, black, and silver colors, you'll be sure to find a chic fashion combination to compliment. Accent this type of headwrap with long, dangling earrings or shorter studs. 

 

 

Ankara is super versatile and can be worn with an Ankara tulle belt, as well. A tambara tulle belt with blue and goldish-yellow colors is ideal for your date nights and special occasions. Wear this combination with a knee-length dress and short boots or pumps. 

 

 

Ankara isn't limited to headwraps and belts; they are also made in fashionable handbags. A printed purse can be dressed up or down with ease. Wearing a large fold-over purse with jeans and a t-shirt is an easy casual outfit. You can wear the clutch style bag in orange, green, and blue colors. Add a beaded bracelet, and the handbag colors will pop! 

 

 

Printed Ankara fashion can also be paired with other fabrics and textiles like faux fur. An Aretta faux fur shawl set has all the elements to create a glamorous, Queen-like look that you can wear on date night or girls night. Made in rich orange color, the white fur details only add to the divine design. When paired with a sequin dress, the fur makes each look more angelic. 

 

 

When accessorizing with earrings, Akara doesn't miss any style steps. It's easy to wear Chinara large stud earrings that have colors including pink, black and blue. These earrings can be worn with sweaters, jackets, jeans, and any other combination. The large circular design won't overpower the ear; instead, accentuate. Wearing this type of Ankara look is versatile for casual and business occasions.

 

 

Ankara was created ultimately as a mistake, but make no mistake that this printed fabric is now one of the most sought out fashion looks in the land! The wax printing technique can create a unique pattern, whether large floral prints, dots, or lines. From its Dutch history to its West African takeover, celebrities and designers are fans of the intricate patterns. Made in any fashion piece you can imagine, including purses, shawls, earrings, and belts, Ankara isn't going away any time soon.