I think that I was maybe nine years old or so. We came home from school, and my dad proudly announced:
“NO TV TODAY.”
He let us know that for the next week or so, when we came home from school, before we cut on cartoons, went outside to play, or did anything remotely fun, we were going to watch 30 minutes of the 5 part VCR series he’d purchased that told the story of the African Slave Trade.
“OH JOY.” I remember thinking.
And just as commanded, every day, for what stretched out to be close to two weeks, we’d come home from school, sit down, and watch these videos, some of which were mostly black and white. At first it was boring. We hated it. After all, this was getting in the way of us watching cartoons. But soon, we became engrossed, and somewhat horrified, with the entire story. We watched out of curiosity and disbelief. I will be honest in saying that after the series was complete, we were happy to resume our normal freedoms. But the impressions remained.
My nine year old mind couldn’t quite process all of the information given. But I'd fully taken in the images. The images stuck with me in the worst, and best of ways. The gruesomeness made me feel horrified and unsafe. It was a lot to digest and try to understand the ugliness of humanity. But the beauty of African people, with their high cheek bones, full noses, lean physique, and varying hair textures all wrapped in African attire presented such regal royalty.
During that time of taking in photo after photo, I formed a love for African attire that stayed with me. Of all of the many ways that I love to dress and express my creativity, I have always loved African print most. It's distinctive and unique designs are the perfect pairing for my creative nature.
Over the years I’ve worn it in many ways, often with compliments and inquiries by many people of other nationalities. African fabric makers have expanded their designs to reflect many styles and choices, that it is not always easily identifiable as being African print fabric. Some of this is also the result of the growing popularity of African and cultural prints becoming a part of main stream and high end designers incorporating these prints and designs into their fashion lines without giving credit or mention of its inspired source. They rarely, if ever, state that the inspiration for their prints, designs, shapes, and color pairings originated in African print fabric and design. And whenever anything becomes main stream, it somehow loses the depth of what it carries and its distinctive qualities.
Having said all of that, this year I decided to honor Black History Month by showing African print fabric in a very modern way. The common misconception surrounding African attire is either that it can only be worn one way, or that it does not carry versatility. Some people do not like the idea of it appearing "too ethnic". (This is something I've heard said.) Sure, there is a very traditional way to wear African print fabric. But there are also many modern possibilities and ways to wear and pair African print.
It really is all about the power of the print, paired with the right design, and occasion that makes African attire glorious and eye catching. You can dress it up or down. You can make it traditional or edgy. You can wear it to just about anywhere that you go and million different ways. It’s boundless.
I’ve created 28 looks for 28 days of Black History Month that shine light on the beauty of our heritage. All of these items came directly from my own closet. As you can see in the preview pics below, I've been incorporating African print into my varying wardrobe choices for many years now, and have a deep love for its beauty and versatility.
This was a major labor of love that took more time and focus than I could have ever imagined when committing to it. But I hope that you enjoy this expression of creativity, and that it will inspire you in some way, creating an appreciation for African and African American culture in a month meant to celebrate our culture, accomplishments, and individuality.
Happy Black History Month Everyone.
House of Izzi is an African Design company based in Africa that I discovered on Etsy. They've made many designs for me, most of which they allowed me to design myself by sending my design requests and fabric choices. (All featured below) They are always professional, easy to work with, and deliver excellence.
#1 - My custom design jacket paired with mixed prints
#2 - My custom designed kimono, paired with modern accessories
#3 - My custom designed blazer dress.
It's a little shorter than I'd like. But it can be paired with leggings, jeans, or over the knee boots.
#4 - My custom designed shirt. This print is an example of a more subtle African print.
#5 - Corsets and Bustiers are a really popular item in African print. I was on the fence about showing this look, because it's visually a little all over the place in pairing and styling. But I wanted to show that there is more than one way to wear a bustier that don't always include your boobs spilling over which creates constant adjusting when wearing.
There is this really cool kimono floating around the internet that is red and white, with a really cool looking black chick with big hair grinning, and wearing it so effortlessly. This kimono style, along with others has been stolen and replicated by so many fraudulent sites, for a fraction of the originators price, and also a fraction of the quality. The originator is a company called Midget Giraffe that not only embodies modern day African prints, but how to style them in such an edgy and relevant way. I purchased a few of their kimonos, and love them endlessly.
*Please Note: I'm 5'2". Most of kimonos shown were shortened to fit my height and frame.
#6 - Hip Hop meets The 70's, meets The Black Panthers, meets Angela Davis, meets a girl from Detroit
#7 - Easily one of my most favorite pieces in my closet to date
#8 - Kimonos and Overalls.....Don't knock it till you try it.
If you really love African print clothing, chances are you've either heard of, or have patronized Grass-Fields. It is easily is one of THE most popular, and widely recognized online sources of stylish, and beautiful African print attire. I've purchased many beautiful items from them over the years, and when they announced their closure last month, it was such a sad occasion. The store's owners and originators are twin sisters, one of who has fallen ill, and has decided to take this time to focus on her health. I ask that you pray for her healing and recovery as fervently as you can. In the meantime, please enjoy some of the beauty that their creative minds have brought to many women as shown below.
#9 - Edgy yet feminine is a real thing.
#10 - Pockets, High-Low, Oversized, Carefree, Easy to Wear.....It's a hard YES.
#11 - This would be considered more of a traditional way to wear African prints. The deep, rich colors paired with a headwrap are synonymous with traditional African attire for women. I also accessorized minimally, keeping out any really modern and American pieces.
#12 - Mixed Prints are a fun way to wear African prints. Fabric makers often incorporate the same colors in multiple fabric options, making it easy for you to spot the same color scheme and put them together. The key to making it work is to have one dominant piece paired with another minimal piece.
#13 - Kente Print fabric comes in multiple shades. This is one of the brightest.
#14 - This is a good example of "The Power of the Print, and playing with options of wear.
#15 - Wearing African attire boils down to 80% print choice, and 20% design. The same way that you can't workout enough to cancel out the effects of a bad diet, you can't out-design an ugly print. This print would work with just about any design because its amazing.
#16 - See what I mean?.....LOVELY print.
#17 - This is my version of an African Pinup Girl.
Demestik is a high fashion, modern and edgy label based in the US that pairs African print fabric with modern day designs. The designer and originator of the label is Reuben Reuel, and his designs have been worn by many celebrities in news and entertainment.
#18 - This dress came from his very first fashion line. I've had it shortened twice. Don't be afraid to re-invent the wheel.
Incorporating African prints into your look does not always have to include a full head to toe ensemble, or dominant centerpieces. Sometimes its really cool to just sprinkle in a piece here and there.
Accessorizing is a really fun way to do it.
#19 - Ear Candy Flare
#20 - Color blocking two favorite solid colors and tying it all together with a headwrap to make it all make sense
#21 - The easiest way to transform a basic white tee, and a basic bun into something really cool? ADD COLOR.
#22 - Headwraps are the easiest way to transform a basic black dress, cover a bad hair day, and keep it moving.
#23 - Black and White prints are an obsession of mine. This dress used to have long sleeves, and felt like a lot of fabric swallowing me up. Something as simple as cutting the sleeves elbow length made a big change.
#24 - This used to be a dress. It felt a little too short for my taste. So I made it a top, and used the extra fabric as a headwrap. No fabric left behind.
#25 - I purchased this from a well-known boutique here in Detroit. It was a one-size fits all zip up jumpsuit. It fit very oddly on my frame. So I cut it up and made it a jacket.
#26 - Sometimes you see something online, and it looks fabulous. It arrives in the mail, and doesn't have the same appeal. But it has pockets. So you keep it.
#27 - Pants that look like a skirt, with an elastic waist, that are free flowing and effortless....TO DIE FOR. I found them on E-Bay for $40. They are sold by multiple sources online in various colors.
#28 - Don't you just love?!
I'm a recognized Brand Ambassador for Elle Factor Jewelry, and incorporated some of their pieces in my photos. All of their items are quality, versatile, and attractive. Please follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and subscribe to their website to stay up to date on sales and new releases. They've expanded their line to include both jewelry and fedoras, with more additions to come.
Though not a Brand Ambassador for this particular company, I know that I will be asked about the lip colors that I wore in many of the looks. Please follow PGS Cosmetics on Instagram, Facebook, and subscribe to their website to stay up to date on any new releases and sales that they are having. They have a wide array of colors that are unique, eye catching, and lasts throughout the day.
Thank you for stopping by and checking out my spread!
If you don't mind, please share with someone.
And by all means, PLEASE leave me a comment!
I'd love to know your favorite looks.
God Bless You All Sincerely,
I share the details of the designers and creators of most of the garments that you will see. If I did not share the details, it is either because the designer is no longer in business, I cannot remember the source, or that particular purchase was not a good experience and I cannot in good conscience recommend patronage of their business. However, please feel free to contact me with any inquires.