Instructions for Simple African Dresses

Updated November 21, 2016

Traditional African dresses, according to Africa Style, aren't known for their stylish shapes or complicated stitchery. The fabric and patterns are the important part of these dresses. In fact, if you want to create your own African dress, you need hardly any sewing skills at all. As long as you choose a traditional African brocade or aso oka (handmade cotton yarn cloth), your dress will look both traditional and beautiful. All that matters, after the cloth, is the drape, which complements most women's frames.

Measure around the fullest part of your chest. Double the measurement and add 13 inches to determine the width of your fabric. For instance, if you measure 36 inches around the chest, your final width measurement will be 85 inches wide, or a little over 7 feet. This seems excessive, but these wrapper dresses are traditionally flowing and full.

Determine the length of your dress by measuring from the nape of your neck to the backs of your heels and adding 2 inches. You may need a friend's help to determine this; you should stand still while she measures.

Place a yardstick on your cloth. You can find traditional African cloth in stores online or in nearby cultural shops, if you live in a diverse area. Draw a rectangle on the wrong side of your cloth that matches your measurements. Cut out the cloth with scissors.

Fold ½ inch of the edges of your cloth to create hems. Pin the hems in place and stitch them down with a sewing machine. Remove the pins as you go so you don't break your sewing machine needle.

Shake out your cloth and turn it so the wrong side of the cloth faces your body. Place the centre of the top hem against your body just below your breasts.

Wrap the cloth around the back of your body, cross the corners in the centre of your back, and bring them back to the front of your body.

Pull the corners up over your breasts and cross them again at your throat. From here, you may tie the corners together and tuck the knot against your sternum or tie the corners together at the nape of your neck.

Things You'll Need

  • Flexible measuring tape
  • Traditional African cloth
  • Yardstick
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Stick pins
  • Sewing machine
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