African Wax Print Fabric: 10 Facts and 10 Myths

African Wax Print Fabric: 10 Facts and 10 Myths

African wax print fabric is a captivating textile that has found its way into the hearts and wardrobes of people around the world. Known for its bold colours, intricate designs, and cultural significance, this fabric carries a rich history that has been woven into the tapestry of many African communities. However, like any beloved and enigmatic art form, African wax print fabric has collected its fair share of myths and misconceptions over the years. In this blog, we embark on a journey to dispel these myths and unveil the hidden truths about this remarkable fabric.

Myth 1: There is Wax on African Wax Print Fabric

One of the most persistent myths is the belief that African wax print fabric contains wax. This misconception likely stems from the name "wax print." In reality, there is no actual wax on African wax print fabric.

Fact 1: No Wax, But a Dyeing Technique

African wax print fabric gets its name from the wax-resist dyeing technique used in its production. Instead of actual wax, a substance like resin or starch is applied to the fabric in specific patterns. These areas, where the wax-like substance is applied, resist the dye during the colouring process. Afterward, the fabric is treated to remove the wax-resist substance, revealing the brilliantly dyed patterns underneath. So, while wax plays a role in the creation of these fabrics, it is not present in the final product. The term "wax" refers to the dye-resist process, not the fabric itself, which is made from 100% soft cotton.

a person drawing on a cloth

Myth 2: All African Wax Print Fabric is the Same

Another prevalent myth is the assumption that all African wax print fabric is uniform and lacks variation in quality, design, or origin.

Fact 2: A World of Diversity

African wax print fabric is as diverse as the continent itself. Various regions in Africa have developed their distinct styles, motifs, and colour palettes. For example, fabrics from West Africa, particularly Ghana, are celebrated for their bold geometric designs, while East African fabrics, such as those from Tanzania, often feature intricate and nature-inspired patterns. The level of craftsmanship also varies, with some fabrics being mass-produced and others meticulously handmade using traditional methods. Each piece of African wax print fabric is a testament to its region's heritage and storytelling traditions. So, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these extraordinary textiles.

Myth 3: African Wax Print Fabric is Only for Clothing

There's a common misconception that African wax print fabric is exclusively meant for clothing, with no room for versatility.


Fact 3: Beyond Fashion

While African wax print fabric is frequently used in clothing, it's not limited to just apparel. Its vibrant patterns and colours can be applied to a broad range of items, including accessories, home decor, and various crafting projects. In addition to dresses, skirts, and head wraps, African wax print fabric can be used to create stylish bags, scarves, quilts, and upholstery. This fabric knows no bounds when it comes to creative applications.


Myth 4: African Wax Print Fabric is Not Durable

Some may wrongly believe that African wax print fabric lacks the durability needed for everyday use.

Fact 4: Sturdy and Resilient

African wax print fabric is crafted from 100% soft cotton, making it robust and capable of withstanding the rigours of daily life. This fabric is an excellent choice for creating long-lasting clothing and accessories, and it can even be utilised for upholstery and home decor projects. With proper care and maintenance, your African wax print fabric pieces can remain vibrant and beautiful for years to come.

Myth 5: African Wax Print Fabric is Exclusively for Africans

A common myth is that African wax print fabric is intended only for individuals of African descent.

Fact 5: A Global Fashion Phenomenon

African wax print fabric has transcended cultural borders to become a global fashion trend. People from diverse backgrounds admire the beauty and craftsmanship of these textiles. Designers and fashion enthusiasts from all over the world incorporate African wax print fabric into their creations. Its versatility, unique designs, and vibrant colours make it a cherished choice for fashion and style, irrespective of cultural background.

a person wearing a black shirt and yellow pants
Take a loot at the ways you can incorporate your African Wax Print Fabric into diverse ways like the Claudette Wide Leg Trousers. Shop here.


Myth 6: African Wax Print Fabric is Always Expensive

A popular misconception is that African wax print fabric is expensive and beyond the reach of many. In fact, Dovetailed invites you to take advantage of our fantastic selection of fabrics, with prices starting as low as £4 for fat quarters.

Fact 6: Affordable Options

While high-end African wax print fabrics designed by renowned fashion houses do exist, there are also more affordable options available to suit a variety of budgets. Mass-produced fabrics are often budget-friendly, making this stunning textile accessible to a wide range of individuals. The affordability of African wax print fabric has played a crucial role in its growing popularity in the fashion world.

Myth 7: African Wax Print Fabric is a Recent Trend

Some believe that African wax print fabric has only recently gained recognition and popularity.

Fact 7: Centuries of Heritage

African wax print fabric boasts a deep-rooted history that stretches back for centuries. As early as the 17th century, Dutch and English traders introduced printed textiles to West Africa. These textiles were then interwoven into African cultures and traditions, with designs often reflecting local folklore, proverbs, and social status. African wax print fabric is a testament to the enduring legacy of these textiles and the diverse cultures that have embraced them.

Myth 8: All African Wax Print Fabric is Ankara

There is a common myth that all African wax print fabrics are Ankara fabrics. Among the diverse array of African wax print fabrics, Ankara stands out as one of the most well-known and cherished. Originating from West Africa, particularly Nigeria, Ankara fabrics possess a unique identity that has captured the global fashion stage. While often used interchangeably with the term "African wax print fabric," Ankara fabrics have their specific characteristics.

Fact 8: Ankara is a Subset

Ankara is a subset of African wax print fabrics. These fabrics are typically made from 100% soft cotton and are renowned for their vibrant, eye-catching colours and bold patterns. What distinguishes Ankara fabrics is their association with Nigerian culture, where they are an integral part of traditional and contemporary fashion. They are often characterised by intricate and nature-inspired designs, and they hold immense cultural significance. However, it's essential to understand that African wax print fabrics include a broader range of textiles, each with its distinct history and styles.


Myth 9: African Wax Fabrics Cannot Be Washed

There's a common misconception that African wax fabrics cannot be washed due to their vibrant colours and intricate patterns. However, the truth is that you can and should wash these fabrics to maintain their beauty. 

Fact 9: Caring for Vibrancy

You can place the fabric in a washing machine and launder them at temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees. By following the right care instructions, you can preserve their vividness and extend their lifespan. Discover the proper ways to care for your African wax prints and enjoy their brilliance for years.


Myth 10: All African Wax Fabrics Are Machine-Printed

Many believe that African wax print fabrics are exclusively mass-produced using machines. However, the truth unveils the artistry of African craftsmen and women. These fabrics also feature hand-printed versions, where skilled artisans meticulously create unique designs using traditional techniques.


Fact 10: Handcrafted Excellence

Handcrafted African wax prints are cherished for their individuality and the cultural significance they carry.

a collage of a person wearing a blue dress, a yellow dress, an orange dress
Explore the exquisite African wax prints featured at Dovetailed (showcased by our owner, Adaku)

Explore the world of handcrafted excellence within African wax print fabrics here.

Whether you take joy in crafting personalised gifts or fashioning your own stylish garments, Dovetailed has something for everyone. 

Our exquisite selection of sewing patterns is designed to help you create the perfect dress for yourself or your loved ones, unleashing your creative spirit. Shop here!

If you prefer ready-made clothing, our collection has you covered with a variety of fashion pieces to suit different styles and preferences. Explore here!

And as the holiday season approaches, be sure to check out our Christmas Collection for the perfect holiday gift here.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that moving forward, you can find our complete range of fabrics and pattern books exclusively on our Etsy store. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation during this transition period. Should you have any questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out to our dedicated customer support team. 

Shop our fabrics on Etsy here.

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