Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A 1970's Style Dashiki Dress

I bought the fabric for this dress a few months ago and made the dress in mid March, wanting to get in done in time for the spring equinox. While I did finish it by then, I didn't wear it for that particular occasion since it was a rather cold day and evening, so not terribly suitable for wearing a thin cotton dress. 

This gorgeous fabric was made in Kenya by a manufacturer specializing in these lovely cotton panels of fabric, which are traditionally made into shirts. I found the length at an antique mall in Cincinnati (the best finds at antique malls are often things that are not antique!) 😂 When I purchased the fabric it was boldly printed in red, black, white and gold. Once I decided I would make the material into a garment I overdyed the length in blue, to tone down the colors a bit so I could wear them. 

I did a little research on the material since I wanted to honor it by making it into something appropriate to wear. It is difficult, sometimes, when dealing with items crafted by another culture, to use those things in a way that honors their origin. I wavered between making a wrap skirt or a dress but decided on the dress as the best way to showcase this lovely material. My inspiration are the many extant late 60's/70's colorful dashiki dresses that were frequently worn by those in the counter culture of the time, embracing peace, tolerance and love and rejecting materialism, violence and inequality. While my own spiritual beliefs slightly vary from the stereotypical "hippie", I find a lot of similarities and it feels right to make and wear this kind of dress. 

Original 1970's Dashiki Dress from Etsy

Most extant dresses I have found appear to be cut in the same way, as a one or two piece design with cut on sleeves. This is a loose, flowing garment and does not require a lot of fitting or measurements to make a pattern. I actually just put my fabric on the floor, eyeballed it, and cut two pieces. These pieces were sewn together at the shoulders and the long under arm/side seam, to about mid-calf length. 

I used french seams for durability and tidiness. The neckline is bound with bias strips cut from the scraps of fabric left once the dress shapes were cut, and I made a few little eyelets along the front neck slit to lace a cotton cord through. The sleeves, utilizing the natural selvedge edge, are unhemmed and the skirt is hemmed with a narrow machine hem. I added ties made of leftover fabric at the high waist popular in the 70's, to give a little bit of shaping. 

It was a very simple project but I took my time to do each step well. There is a lot of love poured into this dress! I do not usually have a reason to make or wear a beautiful modern dress. To me, this dress is beautiful and I feel so happy when wearing it - full of joy and deep gratitude!

I do so love the sleeve shape on this dress!

I shall wear it tomorrow for May Day as we celebrate this wonderful season of planting and growing. I thank my son Malachi for taking these pictures for me last week when he and I, along with the littlest children, visited a sacred site near us to meditate and drum and just enjoy being outside in the greening world. 

My bodhran drum and I are still getting well acquainted 😂 but I am learning the deep connection that can exist between a person and a percussion instrument - so all my previous many years of bias against anything not string instrument related is quickly washing away!

Much love to you all!


1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful dress! You showcased the fabric perfectly.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!