3 Tips to Keep Your African Print Dress Looking Amazing

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African female models posing in dresses.

If you’re looking for a truly unique statement piece to wear this summer, you can’t go wrong with an African print dress. These are dresses that tell a story, not just through the colours paying homage to the African content, but all the hidden symbols hidden within their patterns that speak of old traditions and cultural ideals. Recently, African print dresses have gained popularity with famous celebrities such as Beyoncé, Rhianna and even former First Lady, Michelle Obama, showing up to events in Ankara print dresses and garments designed by African designers such as Duro Olowu. If you feel it’s time to celebrate your African roots with a statement piece from Grass-Fields, there are a few tips on how to care for your dress to ensure that it will survive many a fashion-season looking as good as new!

How to Soften African Print Fabric

Upon purchasing your dress, you will notice that the fabric initially feels somewhat stiff – don’t worry, this is due to a specific kind of wax coating used on 100% cotton, which is usually a lot stiffer than other fabrics, and there is a simple solution to this problem. The garment will soften after regular washing cycles but if you can’t wait to wear your dress immediately upon purchase, there are a few ways to soften your African print dress. You can soak it in a bucket of cold or lukewarm water with around 60ml of added fabric conditioner. You can also use your washing machine: add a bit of fabric softener and ensure your machine is running on a cold or lukewarm cycle. Once the machine starts its rinse cycle, pause it and allow the garment to sit for a few hours – all hail the modern-day rinse-hold option – before finishing the cycle.

Note: Avoid washing your African print fabrics on spin cycles! Also, be aware of the fact cotton is prone to shrink; never wash your dress on a setting higher than 30° C as these temperatures could be cause for extreme shrinking.

How to Preserve the Colours of Your African Print Dress

As is usual for handmade garments, one should always be sure to hand-wash, or at the very least, cold-wash these beautiful creations. It is widely known that regular wash cycles can contribute to fading colours, even if you are careful to always wash your garments cold. There is a simple trick, however, that can help you preserve the colours of your favourite African print dress. All you need is one standard ingredient you can find in any home and supermarket: salt! The chloride present in salt keeps your clothes bright and vibrant by sealing the colour even across repeated wash cycles. Treat your African print garments to a spoon of salt during every wash cycle and you will be dazzling onlookers with their colours for years to come.

How to Dry and Iron Your Garments Properly

Just as spin cycles are a no-no, you should never tumble dry your African print dresses either – it will only compromise the richness of the colours and will contribute to a shorter lifecycle, particularly where colours are concerned. The ideal way to dry your dresses is by hanging them or laying them out to dry, just be sure to avoid direct sunlight, especially if they will be laying out for a long time as this could bleach the fabric. To iron your dress, always do so on the inside to preserve the colours. Use the cotton setting of your iron and double check settings should you be using attachments for linen or other delicate fabrics, as these may follow a higher setting that could damage your dress.


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Written by Lola McQuenzie

Lola is one of our busiest writer. She has worked for Catwalk Yourself since 2007. Lola started working with us after she graduating from Central St Martins

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