Ladies, especially those in Europe and America, have you ever tried buying African fabrics? They never seem to come with instructions! How frustrating is that? What do you do with them. Where is the back, where is the front? Should they be dry cleaned or machine washed? An online search generally comes up with scare information on just the basics of African fabrics. Well, I’m tired of the lack of the information! This is going to be an ongoing series on how to choose and care for mostly trendy African fabrics [East/West/North and South Africa]. Ankara is the current trend, especially in Africa, so it is only appropriate we begin with Ankara.
Ankara, truly a Cinderella story: Ankara was never liked. She was always at home, usually in the kitchen or village, while the wicked step sisters like silk, cashmere, wool, aso oke and their cousins enjoyed the big parties at the French Riveria and across the globe. One day, some young African designers stumbled on Ankara while attempting to grab some food from the kitchen. “Wow! What do we have here!!!” They exclaimed. “Darling, you are gorgeous!!!!” With excitment and a twinkle in their eyes, they said, “we will make you the most favored!” “Me?” asked Ankara in disbelief. “Yes, you!” they replied. “When we are done, your wicked step sisters will have nothing on YA!
WHAT A STORY! CAN WE MEET ANKARA? YOU SURE CAN!
WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF ANKARA?
- For the most part she is made out of 100% very fine cotton. [However, the trend these days is to print Ankara patterns/designs on silk, satin, jersey and all kinds of fabrics. For our purposes, we are going with cotton since it is still the most commonly used].
- Her weave type is a plain weave i.e. tightly woven.
- She is able to resist abrasions caused by her wicked step sisters.
- She has good strength.
- She has a soft hand i.e. smooth to the touch.
- Ankara is like fish in water, very hydrophillic. Because she is made out of cotton, she absorbs moisture quicky and dries just as fast. Her ability to dry quickly gives her a cooling effect and makes her perfect for the hot sun in Africa and summer time in the USA and Europe.
LADYBRILLE TELL US MORE! ALRIGHT, SINCE YOU INSIST!
She is mostly found in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and other West African countries. In Ghana, her sister “Woodin” is very famous and in fact her fame extends to other West African countries. Also famous in Ghana is the wax printing process which allegedly stretches over 40years.
LADYBRILLE, HOW FLEXIBLE IS ANKARA? Hmmm. . . let’s see. She is SEXY!
~Photo description: Sika designs
SHE IS REGAL!
[True Love Magazine, West Africa. Blue patterned/print skirt is Ankara. First seen on Bellanaija]
SHE IS APPEALING!
Photocredit: Sika designs
SHE CAN BE YOUR ACCESSORY . . .sounds like what some women say about men . . .
WHAT ARE THE FAVORABLE PROPERTIES OF ANKARA?
- She is made out of a screen or wax printing process. As a result, she has a smooth hand and luster.
- She hugs and drapes every womanly curve especially when cut on a bias [45 degree angle].
- You can handwash her or machine wash her with warm water and hang dry.
When ironing, iron the back which is the white part/without the designs. The face has the designs.
- She is affordable, a $1.00 a yard–could be a bit higher.
LADYBRILLE, ANKARA SOUNDS TOO PERFECT. WHAT ARE HER UNFAVORABLE QUALITIES?
Darn! Almost had the guys think there is a perfect woman [I laugh and ladies you do too!] Okay. I’ll tell but shhhhh. . . don’t let the fellas in on our secret.
- Since she is usually printed mostly on cotton fabrics, she tends to have little luster/sheen, poor elasticity and poor resiliency.
- Also if her creators do not do a good job, she tends to color bleed when you soak her in water.
- She also can experience some crocking i.e. her color rubs off easily. In fact, some fashionistas buy ankara, wear it once and never wear it again. Finding good quality is critical.
- Also, once ankara starts to kick it with the silks/cashmere or other fabrics, it is best to take her to the dry cleaners.
WHERE CAN WE BUY ANKARA?
Right now, word of mouth, online, or local African Fabric stores–not many out there, or have one of your West African friends bring it for you when they travel to Africa. If you are unhappy with that answer, then join the Ladybrille movement as we figure out ways to support Africa’s fashion industry and designers.
Special thanks to Sheila Sanford, Fashion Professor, Fabric Science and Textile at Delta College; New York’s Fashion Insitute of Technology Professors, Arthur Price, Allen C. Cohen & Ingrid Johnson for their wonderful book on Fabric Science.
~by Uduak Oduok