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The Beauty of Ankara Fabric

Hey KapFam! Let’s talk about the history and significance of Ankara and why it’s an amazing fabric to use for tailoring. If you’re new to African wax print, this article will give you a brief insight into the beauty of Ankara African fabric.

What is Ankara?

Ankara is simply the common term for 100% cotton fabric with vibrant colors and patterns. Ankara was originally manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market, which is why it was known as Dutch wax print. The trading market in Africa increased the spread and accessibility of wax prints. The prints gained significantly more interest and popularity in West African Countries because of the elaborate tribal patterns and intricate designs.

A large number of Ankara fabric folded neatly with some displayed in the background

Ankara fabrics have bright colors, idiosyncratic designs, and patterns that are hand-made; which gives a sense of rich cultural meaning.  African women used the fabrics as a method of nonverbal communication and expression among themselves. It was a way to send a message to the world through clothing. Certain patterns were used as a shared language, with widely understood meanings. Many patterns received catchy names and were named after famous personalities, cities, buildings, sayings, or occasions. By the mid-twentieth century, the prints became more African-inspired, and African-owned. They began to be used as distinguished outfits by leaders, diplomats, and the wealthy population. The wax fabrics represented important goods for African women and were collected depending on financial means.

5 different black women dressed in colorful Ankara dresses

How is Ankara Fabric Made?

The process to make wax print was originally influenced by batik. Batik is an Indonesian (Javanese) method of dyeing cloth by using wax-resistant techniques. During batik, wax is melted and then patterned across a blank cloth. From there, the cloth is soaked in dye, which is prevented from covering the entire cloth by the wax. If additional colors are required, the wax-and-soak process is repeated with new patterns. A unique feature from this manufacturing process is the lack of color difference between the front and back sides. The Ankara fabric will look exactly the same on both sides of the material. This is how to determine if it is authentic, high-quality Ankara fabric.

Depiction of a person drawing flowers with dye on a white fabric

Ankara in the Diaspora

It is clear that Ankara has deep roots in West Africa as a cultural norm. When Africans wear clothing or accessories made with Ankara fabric, they feel connected to the culture and way of life; even if they are far removed from the Continent. Ankara is becoming widely popular among the younger generations of West Africans in the diaspora. It allows the youth to relate to their ancestors and achieve a sense of cultural identity with their roots. Ankara fabric also encourages a connection with Africa through creative expression. Additionally, It is a way to support Africa’s economy by purchasing authentic fabrics that are made and sold in Africa.

4 different black women dressed in Ankara outfits

The wide array of patterns, colors, and designs makes Ankara fabric a great choice for custom tailoring any outfit. Any style you can imagine can be made with Ankara fabric and it would look unique and beautiful.

4 pictures of children dressed in Ankara fabric

Ankara Fabric for Surgical Caps

So what makes Ankara a great fabric to use for surgical caps? The main reason is because there are tons of amazing designs, colors, and patterns to choose from that will add eccentric personality to your scrub style. Another reason is that wax print fabric is innately resistant to fading due to its unique processing methods. Not only will you have vibrant colors, you will be able to keep them looking fabulous for much longer than your usual cotton fabrics. The last reason is simply to represent an elaborate culture in a world of uniformity.

Representation matters, and being able to identify with a larger cultural group brings a sense of kinship and pride as you navigate your role in the workplace. As a woman of color, I feel very strongly that we encounter unique situations and challenges at work and in our personal lives. My hope in creating Kultural Kaps with Ankara fabric is to foster joy, confidence, and incredible style to every woman who puts on our crown! Click here to shop our selection of AfriKaps!

What do you love most about Ankara fabric? Let me know in the comments below!

As always, stay royal my friends!

Kayo, the KAP Queen

One Comment

  1. […] we have the Afrikap which is a custom kap made with high-quality Ankara fabric (check out our post “Ankara 101). The Afrikap is our most versatile kap because you can use them in the operating room as dedicated […]

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