Style Guide: How to Style African Clothing for Women

As shocking as it might seem, we believe that African-inspired clothing is not worn nearly enough, not even close. Maybe it's actually not that shocking coming from us at Advance Apparels, but it's something that we stand by and believe wholeheartedly. African clothing for women is beautiful but does not get the love and attention it deserves. We firmly believe that our runways, streets, offices, and parties would all look much better if there was more of a healthy sprinkling of African-inspired fashion mixed in there. African clothing for women and men alike seem to appear less in the mainstream fashion world than it should. Some people think of this type of clothing as being too bold for them or too niche to wear in lots of different ways. That simply is not the case though.

African clothing came to be underutilized for a complex variety of reasons, but one of those reasons is the perceived wearability. While we cannot control every aspect of the use of African-inspired clothing, we can at least do our part to show that it is in fact easy to wear and style for any sort of event or occasion. In order to show you very clearly how African clothing for women can fit into your life easily and naturally, we decided to break things down into a style guide of sorts. This is a little rundown of advice for those wondering how they could style their pieces and wear African fabrics on a regular basis without feeling out of place or out of character. If you can figure out the basics of how to pull together a look, then you are in the clear for getting dressed in that style of clothing from that point on. So you can see this as a little bit of style advice or inspiration to get the ball rolling so that you will be able to style your own high-quality African print clothing without having to think too much about it as you go. Let’s work our way down the list piece by piece and pull together some outfits.

Wearing African Prints

One thing that African clothing for women is known for is having bright, bold prints. While some people love this and find it makes getting dressed easier for them, others actually find it more intimidating and challenging. Not everyone feels very comfortable wearing loud, printed fabrics and we understand that. If you find bold prints to be too distracting in an outfit, but wouldn't mind trying, then we certainly have some recommendations for how to dress down your prints or dress them up, so that you feel comfortable in your clothing in a way that makes you feel like you are grabbing attention but in a good way.

Printed Blouses

Casual

Blouses are fairly versatile and flexible as garments since they are so easy to layer with. An easy way to tone down a bold graphic print is to wear a cardigan or a jacket on top, especially if the weather is cooler. Look for a jacket in a neutral color or a solid color that is in the design of the blouse itself to tie everything together smoothly. An off-the-shoulder blouse isn’t too bad as a starting point since so many people are already used to wearing colorful designs on their blouses anyway, even if they aren’t big fans of prints. You can also tone down the print by wearing it with something simple on the bottoms like a pair of jeans or jean shorts for the summer. The warmer weather months are a good time to wear colorful prints anyway, so shorts seem like a good call. A blouse/skirt duo is especially fun to wear in the summer. After that, a pair of sandals and a good sun hat will do. Your outfit will look easy but still cute, like something you normally wear but with a little more oomph to it since you are exploring prints a little bit more. Something as simple as that can make a huge difference in how you are seen.

Dressy

Moving on from a casual, comfortable outfit featuring an African printed blouse, we have a more dressy, formal style with the same garment. And we do mean the exact same garment because you could probably take that one blouse from day to night or from streetwear to workwear just by changing the things you wear it with. You can get away with wearing prints at work as long as your outfit itself is appropriate. So wearing your normal silhouettes but with a printed blouse should be the same as any other outfit you would wear. You may want to look for something not off the shoulder and with tapered sleeves, since many have full, bell-shaped sleeves. The same bit of advice comes through in this case of toning down your outfit with a jacket. This could help in the evenings if the weather cools down. A dressy printed blouse with a simple pencil shirt is a nice, classic combination that would treat you well from morning at work until evening at dinner.

African Print Pants

Casual

Unlike blouses, people seem to have a bit of an aversion to wearing printed pants casually. While blouses are easy to wear with other pieces layered on top, pants really stand out on their own with little to hide behind but the fact that people tend to look down at pantsless. Blouses get more of an immediate reaction because they are right next to the face and eyes. You don’t have to worry so much about people noticing your pants in a bad way though. Honestly, we are more likely to be critical of what we are wearing than anyone else is. Just put on a nice outfit for the day and feel good about it. If you are just going out with your friends for the day, then African printed pants with a plain tank top or T-shirt is enough. We love a good palazzo pant and know that it is a full shape that can call attention. Choose a fun daytime-friendly print and just go for that as your statement for the day. A cute matching headwrap though is a nice touch to add.

Dressy

We know that African clothing for women is not the most subdued and subtle. It is typically bold and fun and good at calling focus. The way that you can play off of that trait is to create a sense of balance so that even something as noticeable as a wide-legged trouser in a printed fabric can come across as chic and refined for a dressier look. Find a pair of pants that you feel has a more sophisticated print; it could be something more simple in design or in richer, deeper colors. Balance out the full silhouette at the bottom with a fitted top in a neutral color like white or black. Add metallic jewelry in gold or silver to make the outfit more expensive and elegant looking without shifting the color story you have. At that point, you should have a chic ensemble that tells people you are not afraid of prints but know how to make them do what you want for any given look. For added drama, you can then layer on a long, lightweight kimono-style jacket to play with the silhouette without weighing down the look.

African Print Skirts  

Casual

Skirts are in a pretty similar situation as pants are. They are separate pieces with a good bit of volume that can look very different based on what you wear with them. A skirt at least is pretty easy to style since it lends itself well to warm weather just as prints do. An easy way to wear an African print skirt casually is to keep it really fresh with a simple T-shirt or strappy tank top tucked into the hem of a short skirt. You could also pull off a crop with the look by coordinating it with a longer skirt so that you have a little bit of your midriff exposed, but still feel like you are not showing much skin overall. It is a very easy, summer-ready outfit that does not look too made up, so you can wear an outfit like this for quite a few different occasions and moods. You do not have to do too much to feel great about yourself and what you are wearing.

Dressy

A dressier take on this kind of outfit really does not involve too many differences compared to the more casual version. Instead of putting on a tank top or T-shirt, you could put on a sleeveless blouse with lightweight fabric so you will stay cool. If you wanted to, you could probably manage to wear a crop top as well when creating a dressier look. Pass on a loose short sleeve top and get a fitted, long sleeve shirt or bodysuit that you can tuck smoothly into your skirt. The shape of the skirt is very forgiving, so you do not have to feel uncomfortable and stuffy even if you are dressed to the nines. You can also change up your look by picking out the right print. A simple, black and white print will go a long way for you in terms of elegance as well as versatility in styling.

African Dresses

Casual

A loose-fitting dress has got to be a staple in any woman's closet for the summer. No doubt about it. The loose lightweight fabric floating around your body is truly a gift when you are out under the summer sun. That combined with the fact that pullover dresses are so easy to throw on over your head, makes summer dresses feel like a dream. The summer is also the biggest time out of the year for people to show up and show off in bright colors and bold prints since the weather just calls for nothing less. This type of outfit so so noticeably effortless, that there really is not too much to say about dressing these down. You really can just get away with throwing one on over your head and matching it with some comfortable shoes and big sunglasses.

Dressy

As effortless as this garment is to style and wear any hour of the day, you can manage to add a little bit to the look and still make it feel completely effortless. Like you just threw a few things on without thinking about it, and it just so happened to look stunning. To make this easy one-piece outfit look a little bit more polished and dressed up, you can start with a maxi dress and very sparingly accessorize it from there. A black and white dress will play well for any event or time of day. Wear a pair of strappy heels or wedges, so that the shoes play off of the easy nature of the dress. You can add a few pieces of simple jewelry to level up the elegance and make it fitter for evening use. Much like how you wear it during the day, a major draw to this style is emphasizing how easy and effortless it feels, so a few well-thought-out details will do much more for you than overloading on accessories. That’s it.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we love African clothing for women and want to see more of it. We try to make sure that we provide a diverse range of styles and designs at Advance Apparels so that you will be able to find something that works with your style, but also so you can feel like you can create lots of different outfits, dressy or casual that are flattering and fun. If you are ever feeling stumped, then you can come here and visit our site to hopefully find some inspiration and ideas for what to wear and how to style your African fashions. We are always happy to help and to make sure you love what you wear.