Prepare your eyeballs, my friends, because this is a whole lot of skirt! It actually took about 5m of the 6m cut of wax print that I bought – and here I was thinking I could get a pair of pyajama pants out of the extras!
If you read Oonaballona, you won’t be surprised that this skirt came out of a conversation I had with Marcy about if white women can pull off African wax print respectfully. The overwhelming message from Marcy and the broader community was “Go for it!” I don’t need to be told twice to buy rainbow-riffic fabric, so I headed to Etsy and picked up this beauty.
A few things I learned along the way:
- Ankara/African wax print fabric is not cheap. A 6m cut of the good stuff from Vlisco costs $92 Canadian, before tax and shipping. A friend was in Ghana this summer, and she reports that it isn’t cheap there either!
- There are lots of fakes. There’s a good chance what I bought is fake because it was “only” $60 on Etsy… but it came with a Vlisco sticker on it, so who knows. I”m not actually bothered either way. $60 is still an expensive skirt for me!
- There are lots of shops on Etsy selling full 6m cuts or by the metre… the one I bought from is shut for a few months right now. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in London or somewhere that wax prints are carried in shops, then I think being able to order just what you need online makes sense.
- The colour palette of lots of wax prints are perfect for a warm-toned or brown skin. Most of the prints I’ve seen have warm colours, like ochre yellow, acid green, and deep orange. I’d put those colours in the category of “amazing on someone else” and not so flattering on my particular shade of pale pink. Jasika had a good discussion of this topic in her recent post, if you are interested. When I chose a print, I picked a more modern design in slightly cooler colours that I thoughts would fit my wardrobe best!
- It’s actually waxy! (I know, that sounds so obvious!) When the fabric arrived, it had a light layer of wax all over it. I chose to wash it first, because I wanted to have an easy-care garment, but traditionally I think the wax gives it structure and an elegant sheen.
On to the sewing! Can you guess the pattern? It’s a Cashmerette Upton skirt, which I knew would fit well. (One of the reasons I love being pattern tester is that I end up with a stash of patterns that eventually come in handy, even if I’m not in love initially!)
I wanted the drama of a maxi, but without any bulk at the waist from pleats or gathers. I cut a bit of extra ease in the back and inserted an elastic waistband, as several people suggested on Instagram. The end result is a pull on skirt with no zipper that is comfortable to wear! I don’t think the elastication is even noticeable.
By time I sewed this, the weather was cooling off, and the season for an epic summer maxi had passed. I asked on Instagram for styling advice, and everyone suggested keeping it simple with neutral colours. I’m not sure the proportions of my denim jacket are quite right, but I think the idea works! I’ve packed the skirt away until the summer, but I’m excited to wear it then.
Now that I’ve incorporated African wax prints, I’m looking around for more fabric diversity to add into my wardrobe. It’s that fine line between cultural appropriation and a loving tribute that I’m trying to watch. I’ve got a great piece of Indian border print with scenes of courtly life that I’d like to make into a tank – if I don’t just dig straight into my stash of sari fabrics and cotton from when I studied in India, that is! I’m also hoping to stop by the local rural fabric store when my Mennonite students buy the polyester florals for their dresses, and wondering what I could make myself that would be fun for them to see me wearing. I talk with the older girls a lot about their clothes and mine – they are fascinated that I sew, but in a very different way to their moms. Every once in a while, I spot someone wearing Fabricland prints that I recognise!
(On the flip side, I have refused for years to buy any fabrics labelled “tribal” or “Aztec” etc, because that sort of generalised cultural appropriation upsets me. When the fabric is specific and authentic, then I’m excited to use it!)
Have you sewn with African wax prints, or other fabrics associated with specific cultures/parts of the world? And what do you think of my maxi skirt?