A Guide to Buying African Clothing

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African Dresses Hung UpThe African fashion industry is on the rise and more and more people the world over are looking to follow the trend of vibrant prints, eye-catching dashikis, Kente cloths and beautiful head-wraps. A lot of African designers offer their creations for sale online, while others rely on social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram for custom orders, so be sure to set a few hours aside to familiarize yourself with the products available to determine what exactly it is you are looking for.

The best place to find your African clothing is from the source itself – don’t go buying seemingly traditional dashikis from China when you can get a top-quality piece from Africa where the style originated and was perfected over decades. Broaden your fashion horizons and start shopping by following this guide to buying African Clothing.

Ready-to-Wear vs. Tailored African Clothes

One thing you will quickly notice when researching authentic African clothes, is that the market for ready-to-wear clothes isn’t as big as in the UK, Europe or the US, for example. This is due to many African countries lacking the infrastructure to produce at such a large scale. Another contributing factor is that many tailors do not have access to the highest training standards, causing designers to take the work up on themselves and with only limited hours in the day, it is easier to establish and maintain a made-to-order collection, rather than ready-to-wear collection that will require a large stock. Don’t be deterred if you can’t find a ready-to-wear item – after all, there’s nothing wrong with investing in an exclusive, custom-made piece to wow your friends with.

If you do opt to buy a made-to-order piece, be patient. A lot of African designers do not have the same access to internet, wholesalers and the ideal space needed for creating your order, so don’t be alarmed if your order takes longer than expected.

Know Your Symbols

The beautiful African prints we have come to know and love, are packed with meaning and if you are about to purchase your very first Kente style dress, you should know what many of the symbols on it stand for. Imagery and symbols have been used in African print techniques for a long time and aim to make a statement: they tell stories of honour, pride, struggle and status. Be a true fashionista by familiarizing yourself with the culture and history behind your African clothing and come to understand what it stands for. People will be naturally drawn to your colourful garments and it is up to you to be able to answer any kind of questions they may have surrounding the meaning of your clothing’s symbolism.

Know How to Spot a Fake

Authentic African clothing is famous for its intricate details, embroidery, beading techniques and quality fabrics. Whether you’re looking for something casual or formal you need to be able to spot fake African clothing, pay attention to the type of materials used and the style of the print to ensure you are getting an authentic piece rather than a fake. The easiest way to protect yourself from buying a fake, is to steer clear from big retail outlets that do not state the origins of the respective garments. Even a lot of African communities have easier access to rip-offs from China and India as they are more affordable thanks to low-quality fabrics and mass-produced prints. Check the product description of any garment you might be interested in to make sure that it does actually originate from Africa – you will be disappointed by any other cheap copy from elsewhere as these are made with fabrics that are less durable and will quickly lose their colour.


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