Kitenge: Origin and ways one can rock the Kitenge

Kitenge: Origin and ways one can rock the Kitenge


African wax print clothing has grown in popularity over the years due to its versatile nature and the colourful designs on offer. They can be worn to festivals, parties, holidays, workplaces and various formal occasions no matter where you are in the world.

In this blog, we discover what kitenge is, where it originates from and how you can bring colour into your life by wearing kitenge.

Kitenge, an East African Heritage

Kitenge is the Kiswahili word for African wax print fabric that is commonly used in East Africa. However, did you know that the fabrics actually originate from Indonesia? The colourful fabrics were imported by African soldiers working in the country at the time and now are produced in countries across the world.

African women often use the fabric to wrap round their chest or waist or use it as a headscarf or baby sling however is increasingly used to make stylish pieces of clothing.

The versatile fabric is 100% cotton, which means you stay cool in hot climates and warm in cold climates whilst the fabrics have become associated with African culture due to their vibrancy, patterns and hidden meanings. Wearers often wear the beautiful wax fabric to convey meaning and social status or as a symbol during local traditions such as marriage.

The Many Uses and Meanings of Kitenge

The fabric can be used to make various types of African print clothing including dresses, shirts, skirts and trousers. The clothing and fabric can be used for many occasions either symbolically or for practical reasons. Here are just a few of the uses and reasons;

  1. In Malawi, Kitenge is customary for women at funerals.
  2. In Kenya, the Kitenge festival is a popular event held periodically and is meant to highlight the varied uses of Kitenge fabric.
  3. They are used as a sling to hold a baby across the back of a mother. They can hold the baby at the front as well, particularly when breastfeeding.
  4. Vitenge (pl) are given as gifts to young women by friends and relatives.
  5. They are sometimes tied together and used as decorative pieces at dinner tables.
  6. When women go to the beach, often the Kitenge is wrapped around the bathing suit for modesty or to shield cold air. They are also useful when getting changed and can be used as a towel and blanket to sit on.
  7. Women often wear kitenge wrapped around their waist like an apron when cooking, washing clothes and cleaning.
  8. Women also wear kitenge wrapped around their body when they go to the bathroom to have a shower and for sleeping in.

Express Your Style in Kitenge

African Wax Print Fabrics come in a range of vibrant colours and any clothing you wear which has been designed using this fabric is sure to attract the right sort of attention in a crowd.

Not only will Kitenge brighten up your life but wearing Kitenge can say a lot about your style and who you are as a person through the bold and funky designs.

There are quite a number of ways that you can rock your kitenge. However, this all depends on what you want to tell the world about you. For the sassy divas that would lose a fingure for a sexy look, kitenge is the way to go! Below are a few things to assist in accentuating your kitenge look.

  • Mix up your kitenge with another fabric; this could be chiffon, denim, less,velvet etc
  • Once in a while, while befitting the occasion use a head wrap, this can look better while you a wearing a pair of kitenge shorts to match your head wrap.
  • The tailor is also very important as the cloth should e fitting in the right places.
  • For the ladies who are blessed with gorgeous cleavages, don’t fear to show it with the kitenge as it will deliver you a sexy outcome.
  • The pair of heels you wear with your kitenge matters a lot. And mind you this will also depend on the occasion. You can wear a pair of moccasins, pumps, old schools etc but not sandals.
  • For the sassy lady out there, try a plain dress with a matching kitenge jacket. This can even be worn in office.
  • While selecting the kitenge be sure to choose colours according to your skin complexion. If your light-skinned then the calm/dull colours are much preferred and if your dark skinned the brighter colours would be a better option.
  • The kitenge also allows cut-ways for the gorgeous ladies who are bold enough. You can do kitenge trousers and a crop top to show off your flat belly but mix it up with another fabric to look out standing.
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