There is a particular, traditional way of wearing cloth among the men of Ashanti that my dad really doesn’t like. It involves taking a large yardage of wax print or kente and carefully wrapping it around the body, draping over one shoulder and gathering over an arm. Always worn over shorts. My dad says he feels exposed in it, but often has to wear one to funerals or fancy occasions in Ghana.
I wanted to capture something of this garment in my show stopper outfit for Ankara appreciation week this year. I chose to make the Paloma dress, a new pattern from Emporia Patterns. They gave me the pattern in exchange for some feedback. The dress is a halter-neck which can be made as a maxi or knee length dress. I wanted the drama of a maxi and I think I got that! It has a belt that gives more shape to the dress.
It is a very simple pattern and it came together quickly. I made a straight size 14 but I feel I could have got away with a 12. I didn’t toile-tut tut. I chose a gorgeous wax print from Ankara Shop UK, an earthy, muted version of the popular traditional Kente cloth. Kente is the cloth of the Ashanti people of Ghana and is made of woven silk strips stitched together. It’s a work of art and is expensive thus making it the original cloth of royalty. It is a celebratory cloth often worn at weddings. Printed, wax print versions make it affordable. And I felt this was the perfect cloth for a showstopper piece. Ankara always comes in a narrow width and this dress with its full circle skirt used up almost the whole 6 yards of fabric.The maxi length combined with the stunning fabric elevates this halterneck from glam beachy vibes to grand gala vibes I think.
I made a couple of small changes to mine. I added in seam pockets instead of the patch, hip pockets. And I doubled the length of the neck ties because I like a bigger bow and longer ties hanging down.
Like my dad in his traditional garment, I feel a bit exposed in this dress, it certainly steps out of my comfort zone. It shows more back and arms than I’m used to showing. Also the dramatic length, fulness of skirt and beautiful print mean that this dress stands out, I cannot be a wallflower in this!
Also like my dad, I am quite introverted, even though I enjoy being with people in small doses. But both my dad and I were teachers used to putting on a show in the classroom for the sake of the children. So I am hoping that I will pull off wearing this dress. That I’ll put it on and step out confidently, pretending I have somewhere great to be. Because it is a beautiful dress and I felt really special in it taking pictures at the Horniman museum gardens. It doesn’t deserve to languish in my wardrobe.
I don’t really sew showstopper pieces, I like the everyday garments because I want my clothes to work for the life I lead, which sadly isn’t very glamorous. But a couple of special me-mades in the wardrobe for dressing up can’t be bad. I’d like to make another Paloma in a chambray maybe and see how I feel in that.