What is a Dashiki Dress? – Its Meaning History and Origin?

Typically the culture of people is defined by their dressing style, the language they speak or it may be determined by their food habits. When it comes to Africa, the continent is popular for its rich and cheerful cultural nature along with its traditions and customs. Coming to its cultural attire, you may come across the term African Dashiki Dress for women while you have checked out any stories related to African culture or tradition.

So, what is the meaning of this dress? See this guide for its history and some interesting information.

The Origins of Dashiki Dress For Women – Its History and Meaning



The words Dashiki – ‘dan-ciki’ or ‘dan-shiki’, which stands for the meaning of shirt – are derived from the languages Hausa and Yoruba respectively. And these are the languages spoken by groups of people who can be found in Nigeria.

Clothes Made Suitable For Hot African Climate

When you look for the trace of the origin of this attire, it is best suitable for the West African climate that is majorly characterized as more humid accompanied with intense heat. Hence it seems that a garment that is loose fitting and made of fabric like brocade has the nature of lightness perfect fit for the climate. If you look into the West African region, the African Dashiki Dress is mostly worn in countries such as Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, and Benin.

Some Distinctive Features of Dashiki Pattern

This unisex garment having its origin in West Africa covers the top part of the body and is quite popular and recognizable for the vibrant colors on it. Moreover, the ornaments, embroidered nature, combined with matching trousers are well-known among people to wear on occasions.

Ancient Traces of Dashiki

Carrying a rich history in its background, this garment had been made from hand-woven strip cloth with deep-cut armholes with pockets. Similar clothing was also found in the place of Dogon burial caves in Mali and the period is the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Symbolism of Dashikis in America

Though the origins of dashikis seemed to be in Africa, the deep roots of its symbolism lies in the United States. At the times of political and cultural struggles of the Black Americans in the 1960s, this was the garment used for protests. As the African Americans protested for civil rights, the garment was worn by many African Americans. By wearing this garment, it exhibited the symbol of the statement that black is equal.

African Dashiki Dress – A Detailed Overview Key Notes

  • The versatility of dashiki is seen by its various colors, designs, and shapes. They take different forms as pullover shirts or caftan and come in numerous sleeve sizes that include shorter or longer.
  • Each color of the dress has its meaning. Gold symbolizes fertility and wealth. Green speaks for prosperity and life.
  • The informal version of the dress appeals with traditional prints or embroidered dashiki
  • Whereas the formal versions of dashiki have Sokoto (drawstring trousers), and kufi and they are mentioned as dashiki suits And these are worn by grooms for wedding ceremonies.
  • Another version of formal dress comes in a robe or Senegalese kaftan. It includes an ankle-length shirt, matched with a kufi, and Sokoto.
  • Still more a style from the dress is worn by Tribal chiefs, Muslims, or Nigerians and has the name of Grand boubou.
  • Grand boubou is characterized by dashiki and matching trousers and a flowing gown will be worn over these.

Fabric and Pattern of Dashiki Key Notes

  • It is usually made of cotton blend.
  • The extremely and complexly detailed fabric designs are done by saturating the colors of the fabric.
  • African prints in the garment typically align with the braid of the hair worn by the people. So, it is pretty easy to guess and conceptualize the patterns of the dress by the people and especially during decorations.
  • There are two types of African patterns – geometric and symbolic.

Some interesting info about the African cultural Dress

  • The Dashiki attire is very similar to the Ethiopian suit. The only exception is that it doesn’t have a collar.
  • The Dashiki suit is made up of vibrant Dashiki fiber and contains an African dashiki shirt, Skoto pants, and a brimless cap.
  • The Dashiki robe carries another name as Senegalese kaftan. This robe has long bell sleeves and regarding the length, it lies up to the ankle.
  • Dashiki has its roots as an outfit that rebels against government policies in western culture. In later stages, an industry that was established in the US started manufacturing African Dashiki shirts. This created opportunities for the American community to wear the widespread print dresses of the Africans.
  • As being worn by people right from Europe to Asia and also the Americas to throughout Africa, the dashiki garment seems to be a global Taking the shapes from an oversized shirt to a full-length dress, the dress comes in numerous styles.
  • The dashiki shirt is often termed as a “trend” or the new “it-item” by some people. And this print is widely prevalent amongst black communities for decades around the world. For many, this is the attire that represents a deep culture of the African continent and also a joint declaration of pride for their roots. The surprising thing here is most dashiki-style shirts being sold out in today’s market today are largely made in Asia.

The cultural Dashiki of West Africa is cool again

Looking into recent years, the dashiki dress is becoming essential streetwear attire. And the dress has indeed captured the hearts of celebrities too for its lovely prints. Although dashiki clothing is being made from various fabric types, the most recognizable fabric as ‘dashiki’ is Angelina print. This is made by a Vlisco textile designer named Toon van de Manakker. The designer has the inspiration from the 19th-century Ethiopian tunic of the noblewoman.

In today’s modern world, the garment has been worn by both men and women all around the world during Black History Month and Kwanzaa celebrations. Even if it is popular as casual streetwear and on wearing this dress, people tend to show their pride in African roots.

Influence of Dashiki on Celebrities

It was the period from 2012 to 2016, the popularity of the garment was at its peak and it was the trendiest casual wear for African people. Shortly after, celebrities were also inspired by this symbolizing garment and joined in on celebrating their heritage and culture oby wearing dashiki themed dresses.

Right from Amandla Stenberg, to Beyonce, and so many that include the famous personalities like – Drake, Chris Brown, French Montana, Rihanna, Jhené Aiko, Wale, and Zendaya, each had their role in displaying the fashion statement with the dashiki.

Since these celebrities were wearing the garment, the popularity of this Dashiki clothing drastically increased all over the world. This made many designers o design alluring clothing that was made up of the Angelina fabric which arrived on the market in a range of vibrant colors. It’s a dun to wear this African style dress.


Dashikis are considered as very comfortable to wear, especially in warm climates it is favored by the wearer due to its loose fit. The free size and vast chest size make the attire easy to wear for all. Are you looking to exhibit a vintage look? Or trying to build a connection of heritage? Then choosing African Dashiki Dress is an amazing choice. Let your hot days be chilled out with this rich culture dress!

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