R6129/14 Wax Print Suit

Woman's skirt suit in two contrasting patterns in ellow black and white wax print

Women’s Wax-print Jacket and Skirt, (Museum Accession Number R6129/14)

This suit belonged to African American fashion enthusiast Saundra Lang, who purchased it from an Ivorian friend living in Los Angeles. This demonstrates the enduring popularity of wax print fabric (also called Dutch wax or ankara) across the African diaspora. As Saundra explains: ‘[My friend] commissioned a tailor in Abidjan to make several items of clothing to sell in Los Angeles. This is one of them and I really enjoyed wearing it. It had very large shoulder pads which I removed at some point to try to update the look.’

‘Dutch’ wax is a classic West African fabric with a global history. It was originally inspired by Javanese batik designs from Dutch colonies in Indonesia. In the late 1800s manufacturers began mass producing printed textiles which mimicked the look of batik. Around the same time, West African soldiers who had been recruited to serve in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army returned from Indonesia and introduced the batik prints to West Africa. The Dutch manufacturers were then able to sell their wax print fabrics to this new market. They were so popular that other European countries began producing wax print designs to meet demand. The postcolonial period changed this dynamic, and most wax print fabrics are now manufactured in Africa. Collected as part of the Fashioning Africa project.

Creator: unknown

Place: Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, Africa

Date: 1985

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