I’ve mentioned before how frustrated I am with western clothing and its lack of flexibility. To that end I’ve been exploring draped clothing, starting with saris and dhotis, the draped clothes native to India. However, Chantal Boulanger’s Institute of Draped Clothing offers links to other countries’ draped clothing styles as well. I don’t know what the cultural misappropriation rules would be here–in India they’re generally happy to share the local dress and customs behind them, but not all countries have the same attitude–but I’m quite taken with the kanga, a 66″ by 40″ (approximately) piece of fabric with a border and a swahili saying, meant to make all kinds of draped clothing. Unlike most draped styles, this one is fairly recent, having (apparently) originated in the 19th century on the East African coast. More research is definitely in order. I can’t find much on the internet, except that these cloths may have been printed in India and probably have an origin connected to Portugal. According to this website, you can do all kinds of things with them, from halter tops to turbans to dresses. I am continually amazed by how much is possible without sewing. Why did we ever take up stitched clothing? One has to wonder.

update: some internet research has turned up a few websites about kanga, but none more interesting than this one which actually touches on cultural appropriation and domination. It is interesting to note that the article seems to be interested in having Westerners adopt African fashions as long as Africa and Africans benefit–that is, not African imitations created by Europeans or Americans, but real African fashions, created and marketed by African designers and manufacturers. I can see the logic in that. I do wonder how a diaspora dovetails with that kind of cultural claim. It is also becoming apparent that the saying, either a proverb or just a statement, is a key part of what makes a kanga’s function. They are a form of nonverbal communication in a culture that seems to value discretion and nonconfrontation. I’m intrigued, although I can’t imagine doing that myself. I guess bumper stickers are a similar thing here in the States. I’m still interested in the ways they can be tied, though. Like sari drapes, the more I look the more I find.

Advertisements