How to Make Ethnic African Style Work for Everyday Outfits

Ethnic African style has been trending in the fashion world for some time now, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. You have incredibly fashionable Black women such as Beyonce and her sister Solange, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tamron Hall, Kerry Washington, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Zendaya, and Rihanna serving as ambassadors and influencing other stylish people to rock this style.

But while there’s no doubt that Afro style is beautiful and colorful, and boasts exciting designs, it can be a little intimidating to approach. A lot of young women even find the most common pieces in a tribal clothing line too fancy or outrageous.

If this is your fashion concern, you’ll be glad to know that there are actually a lot of easy ways to make this style more casual and approachable. Here are seven helpful tips to follow.

1. You can’t go wrong with a basic T-shirt

For easy street fashion, pair an Afro retro or tribal piece with a basic T-shirt. Loose tribal trousers with ethnic prints always look great with a plain T-shirt, whether the shirt is oversized or fitted. Complete the look with some kicks just like Rihanna, and you’re comfy yet fiercely stylish.

However, if you want to look fiercely stylish even with a basic tee, opt for a T-shirt with a designer logo (Gucci, Dior, Celine, and Balenciaga, to name a few). This seems to be a strong preference among the young American and British fashion crowd.

2. Use the wraps as a focal piece for your clothing ensemble

African tribal or ethnic fashion doesn’t need to come in sweeps. Think small doses, such as wearing a heavily printed and colorful tribal wrap to tame your mane or puff.

You can wear whatever casual ensemble and give it a spicy African flavor by merely donning a head wrap, which you can style in several ways. If you need head-wrapping tricks, the gorgeous model Halima Aden has several up her sleeve.

But, if you are not keen on putting on a head wrap, you can just use the material as a scarf that you can loop around your neck or hang down from your shoulders. Don’t like a scarf, either? Tie it into a big bow around your waist as a statement accessory.

3. Use long tops as dresses

One of the most common pieces exhibiting Afro retro style is the kurta. Wear it as a dress to make it more casual instead of pairing it with the trousers it usually comes with. Layer it with a denim jacket and wear flats, sandals, or rubber shoes.

Another way to dress down a kurta is to wear it as a cover-up at the beach. Wear it over your swimsuit, and you’re good to go anywhere.

4. Try color blocking.

A simple way to tame the high-fashion appeal of tribal or ethnic dresses is to color block. Introduce a plain color to the ensemble and dress it down a tad. You can do this by wearing an obi sash or a structured sleeveless coat.

You can also go for a single-colored suit paired with an ethnic-style shirt for casual office attire. The third option is to pair a structural tribal top with plain biker shorts. Biker shorts seem to be a staple for a lot of stylish women’s street fashion outfits, and they will go perfectly with a big top that has a profusion of patterns and other prints.

5. Turn the printed trousers into athleisure wear

Pair those structured trousers with athletic pieces such as a sports bra or tank top, pullovers, and sneakers or hiking sandals. You could also wear your athletic pieces and top them with an ethnic style robe. This is a fabulous way to give athleisure wear a more spunky quality.

A lot of young people also like to pair such pants with flashy letter jackets. The jock top creates a true retro eighties vibe, which is also quite trendy these days.

6. Wear a robe as a coat

A tribal robe can work as a long cardigan, which you can then pair with any of your favorite basics such as shorts and a shirt, a mini dress, jeans and a blouse, and others.

The beautiful thing about wearing robes this way is that it will make your casual outfit more fashionable because it’s more colorful and voluminous. Still, it doesn’t really feel too different from a trench coat or a long cardigan. Plus, tribal robes can be transformed. With a sash or belt, you can turn it into a wraparound dress.

7. Invest in denim or chambray shirts

Finally, keep in mind that denim or chambray is a fool-proof partner for Afro retro-style pieces, be they pants, skirts, dresses, or even suits and gowns. This humble material is universally versatile — a total utilitarian piece, but one that’s quite fashionable.

You can wear it as a tie around the waist of your Afro style dress or as a top for your colorful, ruffled skirt. A denim or chambray shirt is also perfect to wear for a casual office outfit paired with Ankara print pants or a shirt for an African batik suit.

Extra Style Tips

Stylists recommend mixing up your collection with classic pieces in African prints if you simply love African-inspired clothing and want to wear them as often as possible. This is what a lot of Black celebrities do, especially if they want to look more professional than red-carpet-ready.

Therefore, invest in a suit in Ankara or batik patterns, as well as pencil dresses, wraparound dresses, kimono robes, maxi skirts, pantsuits, drawstring pants, and form-fitting asymmetrical skirts.

If you want to take tribal fashion up a notch in these pieces, you can always pay more attention to your accessories. Big and chunky necklaces, bangles, earrings, native handbags, and a head wrap will easily complete the look you’re going for.

But most importantly, learn to work it. Remember, it’s about you wearing the clothes, and not the other way around. For now, you may feel the need for a more casual approach with your African tribal fashion clothing, but slowly push the envelope with your choices. Eventually, you won’t have any issue looking glam with Afro retro styles.

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