Wax Works

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Skirt: Anna Devine

Belt: Modcloth

Shoes: Comfortview via One Stop Plus

I’m a huge fan of the bold, and brightly coloured wax prints that are so synonymous with the fashion of of West Africa. The incongruous and irreverent patterns really speak to me, and I’ve been delighted to watch them start to hit the mainstream market. Where the saturated bright colours and big prints might overwhelm slight figures, they seem to particularly suit bigger bodies which provide a larger canvas to play with.

I’ve been a bit too anxious about cultural appropriation, and aware of my own ignorance about the political and sociological history of Ankara, or wax printed fabrics, to wear it before now. I didn’t want to be the (mostly) white girl wearing something in ignorance, like the people wearing Native American head-dresses to music festivals.

I was at the Finders Keepers Market in Melbourne a few months ago, and came across Anna Devine‘s stall of beautiful wax print skirts. I was stopped in my tracks, and meandered over to have a little fondle. Anna overheard me telling my friend why I couldn’t wear the prints, and she told me the revelationary news that “African” wax printed fabric is actually considerably more global than that.

The leading manufacturer of Ankara fabric is Vlisco, a Dutch company that started producing wax print fabrics in 1846, after being inspired by the Indonesian Batik brought back to Holland by the Dutch East India Trading Company. There’s a fascinating article on Slate about the history if you’re interested in reading more.

The fabrics usually have names – this one is called “Record” – most with stories behind them, which you can read on the Vlisco website (I got a giggle out of “You Fly, I Fly” which depicts a bird escaping an open cage  and is worn by newlywed women as a warning to their husbands!).

The skirt is very full, and the fabric is quite stiff, but I believe it softens with repeated wears and washes. It’s 100% cotton, and gorgeously bright. In all honesty I had a little trouble finding something to wear it with – Anna suggests a plain black tee, and I’ve often see the bold prints paired successfully with crisp white shirts, too. This plummy roll-sleeve t-shirt from Miss Shop works fine.

I was so glad to discover I could wear the big bold prints of Ankara fabric without offending anyone’s culture, or treading on anyone’s toes. I’ve since bought a second skirt (from Prodigal Daughter in Canberra) and I’ve got my eye on a few other pieces I’ve seen around the traps.

 

Cutie-Cat

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 Top: Country Road

Skirt: Asos

Khloe Ballet Pump: Comfortview via OneStopPlus

Necklace: Cat Rabbit

After the Great Famine of Horizontally Striped Shirts of the mid-noughties I seem to be incapable of not buying them when I see them in stores, and this ponte number from Country Road is a firm favourite. It’s the lovely, long, tapered sleeves that made it a winner when I tried it on a few weeks ago, and the lighter stripe makes it a good trans-seasonal number for spring.

Funny story about this outfit. I was waiting to use the bathroom in a shopping centre and two little girls – maybe 4 and 7 – were also waiting with their Mum. The younger gasped when she saw the hot pink shoes, and said “I like your shoes are you wearing tights?” and when I leant down to show her that, yes, I was wearing stockings my necklace swung and caught the old sister’s attention who grabbed it to take a closer look. Their poor mum was a bit mortified (“we don’t just GRAB strangers!”) but as far as I’m concerned it was officially a Very Successful Outfit.

The older sister dubbed my necklace “Katie The Cat”, so here she is in all her handmade, felted glory:

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Necklace: CatRabbit

I bought her when I visited the (wonderful) recent “Cat Market” with my equally crafty and cat-mad friend Fi from Fisha Designs. She’s been hand stitched and embroidered, with dainty little eyelids and a jangly bell around her neck that chimes when I move. And if you’re not a cat person (it’s OK, I won’t judge you) there’s an equally cute “LiBEARian” necklace on offer in Cat’s shop right now.