Modern African Style Dress: How to Select and Style

Here’s all you need to know about the African style dress. Discover the simplest way to spot authentic Ankara print, how to style a dress in a modern way!


Hey beautiful! You know what I really like? Learning about different cultures around the world and their exotic fashion and unique styles of clothes, jewelry and everything! I love those because I can wear them regardless of what trends are going on. Exotic fashion always looks trendy!



Since last week-ish, I’ve been very fascinated with the African style dress. They’re very colorful, bright and lovely! Let’s take a look:

How are African Style Dresses Unique?

They are very unique because of their print and look. They are all about their print. The most popular style is called Ankara.


What is Ankara Fashion?

Ankara is a fabric that is most widely and globally associated with the African dress. It is characterized by the bright tribal prints that are easily identifiable. Ankara has its origins in Indonesia, but it has gained lot of popularity in the last decade by western African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. Traditionally, African women use Ankara fabric to make maxi dresses that they see themselves and typically wear for formal occasions like weddings. But in the last decade, modern African women and designers have been using it to make short dresses, skirts, jackets etc. This has become popular as ‘Ankara fashion‘.


Is Ankara Print Only Used in Dresses?

Ever since the Ankara fabric has become popular worldwide, it has been used to make shoes, jackets, handbags. Modern fabric blends have been used to make accessories like socks that use just the traditional Ankara print.

How to Select an African Style Dress

Since the Ankara print has become even more popular than the fabric itself, it’s best to choose a dress that has the traditional style print. Here are a few quick tips:

    1. African style dresses typically have bright prints. These may use 2-5 colors. The best way to identify these prints is through its color palette. Western-style prints use contrasting colors from opposite ends of the color-wheel (complimentary colors). Whereas African style prints use colors that are next to each other in the color wheel (analogous colors), or sometimes colors on one whole side of the wheel.

african-style-dress-print-ankara-colors2. Ankara is usually small print but may occasionally be bold. They frequently use botanical or floral motifs. Geometric motifs are also common, like circles, dots, lines or triangles. Sometimes they also use nature-inspired prints like trees, butterflies or stars. Ankara fabrics sometimes combine a bunch of mishmash patterns together.


How Did They Become Popular?

Most of its popularity is because of international travelers who collect exotic styles. Plus, Ankara has also been seen in the high fashion world earlier in this decade. Burberry’s Spring Summer 2012 collection was inspired by Africa.

The collection showcased designs with modern silhouettes in the traditional Ankara print and was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Espana. The dresses were also worn by celebrities like Lady Gaga, Vogue US editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and actress Kate Bosworth.

How to Style an African Style Dress

The best way to style African print dresses is to mix and match them with western style accessories and outerwear.

1. If you want a subtle exotic look, pair an Anarka skirt with a solid-colored or striped shirt or cardigan.


2. If your want to choose a dress with all over Ankara print but want to give it a balanced look, pair it with Western accessories like pumps, a solid-colored scarf or a statement necklace, etc.


3. If you want an elegant look, take a cue from African designers. The modern collections have Ankara print dresses in modern silhouettes, paired with sleek shoes and minimalistic jewelry. The African makeup always puts emphasis on a fresh, glowy skin. Glowy equates younger skin, so make sure to use lotion with your foundation, and top it off with highlighter. And smokey eyes in a feminine color palette with a glossy lipstick.

4. For a bolder look, pair an African style dress with all-over Ankara print with bold statement necklace or earrings!


So, that’s it on my knowledge of the African style dress! Hope you liked the style ideas? If you have an Ankara print dress, lemme know how you style it!!  XOXO

Also check out: African Hair Braiding: Fascinating Styles & Different Types of Braids

1 thought on “Modern African Style Dress: How to Select and Style”

  1. So beautiful… I’m a beginner into fashion designs i am planning on making my own brand. Please a useful guidlines on how to start would be lovely


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