African dresses and patterns and prints—oh my!

African dresses and patterns and prints—oh my!

*Sorry for the delay in this post everyone.  Had trouble accessing the internet all weekend.     

          You know the feeling you get when you walk into the department store, go through aisles and aisles of clothes, see a dress you love and absolutely have to have?  Then you start looking through the different sizes, and when you find the the dress in your size and it’s the last one on the rack, you look to heaven and say, “Yes, I knew this was waiting on me!”  Finding a new piece to add to the old wardrobe is one of the best feelings in the world.  But, let me tell you, until you have had an African print dress designed just for you, you haven’t had the full shopping experience!  The highlight for me last week was meeting up with my seamstress, Sylvia, to try on some amazing fashions that she and her sister, Thelma, sewed just for me!  Here’s a look at my experience in African fashion.

Fun polished cotton dress made just for me!  October 24, 2014

A past Rotary Scholar had put me in touch with her seamstresses once I arrived in Ghana.  She said they do fabulous work and could sew anything I would like in any style.  When she told me this, I could hardly wait to connect with Sylvia and Thelma to get some clothes made.  Clothing, like transportation, has been an interesting to say the least!  Ghanaians wear the most beautiful African prints—some of the most vibrant colors and patterns I’ve ever seen in my life.  As I saw people walk by on campus and in the grocery store sporting these lovely pieces, I knew I had to have some of my very own.  So when I met up with Sylvia, we began by going to her house to look at some different patterns and styles.  She and her sister had books and books of styles of clothing they could make for me and just as many African prints to choose from, if not more!  I’ve had clothes altered for me, but never a whole outfit tailored, so the I found the whole process fascinating.  

My favorite of all the pieces made.  Navy takes center stage, my favorite color!  October 31, 2014

Amazing detail on this dress, October 31, 2014

  Shortly after looking through some of the books, I started to wonder about the quality of the fabric; what was this and what was that.  As Thelma began explaining names like High Target and Vlisco and how many yards you get with Nu Style and so on and so on, my head began spinning pretty quickly.  I finally said, “Okay, what can I get with this much money?”  (That always makes the process of elimination easier!)  Pretty soon I had chosen the patterns I wanted in the styles of my choice.  I had also brought along some of my own clothes so they could make some familiar styles I wanted in the African fabrics.  We felt that two weeks would be sufficient time for them to make the clothing.  I left their home that afternoon feeling really good about the patterns I had chosen.

More beautiful prints, October 24, 2014

About four weeks later, after power outages and schedule conflicts, Sylvia and I met up for the first fitting.  When I saw the beautiful clothes they had made for me, I couldn’t stop smiling.  Sylvia seemed very surprised at how happy I was with her work.  I explained to her that I had never had anything made, but she still seemed amused that I was so excited.  They had designed for me three dresses, two blouses, two pairs of pants, one romper, and one skirt.  Everything fit like a glove except for the blouses and pants!  This past Thursday we met again for the second fitting.  The blouses were a great fit, but the pants were still lacking in the hip department!  She took the pants back to make another alteration…hopefully the last!

So far I’ve worn the romper to class and have received numerous compliments!  As simple as clothes may seem (to some), there’s something about style that is so much a part of the culture.  Even when I asked Sylvia to make the patterns in American styles, she said to me, “You don’t like our styles?”  I laughed and told her this was the first round of clothing; perhaps I’d be braver on the second pair.  

I can’t wait to wear all of these beautiful clothes.   Later this week, I’ll share my experience in the Volta Region!

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