Introduction to African maxi dress

Wearing an African maxi dress

African-inspired apparel is still a new concept to the rest of the world. This is evident every time actor Lupita Nyongo shows up with an African maxi to the red carpet.

However, adding an African maxi dress can bring some color and afro vibes to your wardrobe. African maxi dresses are comfortable and lightweight and can be made in any design, even with pockets. 

So whether attending friends’ brunch, a family gathering or a wedding, you can always count on an African maxi dress to make you look fresh. You will feel more confident than ever, and the intricate designs make you look bold and decent. 

Since the African maxi dress is still a long way from where it should be, let’s explore a bit more on it.

What are African Maxi Dresses?

Like kimono maxi dresses symbolize Japanese culture, colorful kitenge/Ankara designs and prints always characterize African attire. The modern fashion scene is full of African print, from dresses, pants, headgear, bags, and earrings. 

An African maxi dress is any long dress that extends from the shoulder downwards to the ankles. This dress isn’t limited to a specific style and comes in different patterns that communicate about certain African tribes and cultures. One thing you will appreciate about this unique fashion is how versatile African-print designs are. African maxi dresses can be formal or informal, simple or extravagant and fun or serious depending on the design you settle on.

African maxi dresses also have a regal, almost royal vibe to them, so you will look like an African queen every time.

What is the African Maxi Dress Fabric?

The fabric that makes maxi dresses is 100 percent cotton. It’s commonly known as Kitenge, Ankara, or Chitenge. The cotton goes through batik, using wax to dye the fabric and create art. If you are keen, you will notice that the print colors and patterns on Ankara and kitenge look similar on both sides of the fabric.

History of African Maxi Dresses

Ankara designs became popular due to Dutch colonization in Indonesia. While there, the Dutch officials took a liking to batik fabrics and transported a few back home. The Dutch preferred machinery, unlike the Indonesian natives, who used traditional methods to create patterns and designs.

Bulk production of batik fabric made the material cheaper, with low-quality imitations hitting the market. However, Indonesians still preferred their original batik fabrics to machine-made Dutch fabrics.

The trend grew in the 1800s when West African soldiers in Indonesia took them back home. Before becoming popular in Africa, the British and Dutch relied on heavy production. So Africans adopted it as a form of clothing, and that is when Ankara started being associated with Africans.

Although there is an increase in the amount of lower-quality Ankara fabric from China and India, West Africa still produces authentic fabrics. As a result, this fashion trend has reclaimed its position of glory as one of the most sought fabrics globally.

Since Ankara and kitenge can make any clothing, it’s now a quality material for making maxi dresses. These maxi dresses feature patterns and writings that communicate the wearer’s personality.

Ankara maxi dresses are not only trending in Africa, but they boast a global market reach. You can rock these dresses depending on the occasion. A long-sleeved high-neckline maxi dress is perfect for formal events, and you can rock them into your 50s. For the casual weekend look, wear a short-sleeved maxi dress for a more relaxing feel.

African Maxi Dresses With Pockets

Pockets may be a new thing to today’s maxi dresses, but they have always been part of African maxis. Most of them only have one pocket, but since kitenges are mostly custom designed for the customer, you can request your tailor to add two pockets.

Ways to Style an African Maxi Dress

An African maxi dress exudes confidence without any extra additions. Nonetheless, you still have a little room to switch up your style depending on the occasion. There are a few ways you can make your African maxi dress look bolder and outstanding.

1. Add Nude Heels

There are different types of heels to wear with a maxi dress; the longer the dress, the better the overall look.

A long maxi dress with a high thigh slit and fitting waistline paired with platform heels is enough to stop the show. Rock this look to a wedding, date night, or a VIP-only red carpet-event. Just be careful about walking up the stairs.

2. Wear Stunning Jewelry

African maxi dresses are already colorful enough, so your jewelry selection must be top-notch. Try to pair the outfit with statement earrings and necklace and maybe a gold chunky bracelet. Ankara design jewelry is good to complete that African look, but any natural or western jewelry will do.

You can settle for monochrome or neutral neck pieces that speak of your personality. Gold and silver jewelry would look better for a classier look, especially for formal occasions.

3. Pick a Statement Handbag

Again, African print can be a little much, so your accessories have to be over the top as well. Feel free to pick your most regal handbag, but keep the occasion in mind. For formal events, a sparkly clutch will do well, but a brown or black tote bag is always my go-to for other events.

What is an African Maxi Dress?

An African maxi dress is an ankle- or foot-length dress made from Ankara or kitenge fabric. This dress can be sleeveless, long-sleeve, with a v-neckline, or a well-fitted waistline. An African maxi dress is now fashionable because it communicates social status, tribe, boldness, and confidence.

How do you wear an African Maxi Dress?

Today, African maxi dresses are wearable to any occasion. Whether you are going to work, attending a wedding, or hanging out with friends. An African maxi dress can be formal or casual, depending on how you design or accessorize it. Of course, you should upgrade your jewelry and accessories to accommodate your new Ankara style.

Lior Shapiro

I love clothes with pockets and dresses, and I think any woman can pull off a good maxi dress.
I believe women's clothes with pockets make the world a better place.