Adding a little African style to your Monday-to-Friday look is a great way to boost your confidence and express your personality. Don't be afraid to experiment, but keep in mind the atmosphere in your workplace. If your office is creative and casual, you can choose bolder and brighter pieces and more fluid looks. A more conservative office environment, such as banking or insurance, may require a more subtle approach.
- Add some bold jewelry. A wide metal cuff or an armful of wood bangles display an African influence, or wear an over-sized amulet as an accent piece. Interesting African-made jewelry is an inexpensive and fun way to add style to your work looks. Explore www.tenthousandvillages.com for some great authentic pieces.
- Choose earrings made of cowrie shells and a triple-strand beaded necklace instead of the more expected pearls. A simple Ankh ring looks modern and bold, while paying homage to its Egyptian origin [source: Moore].
- Tie on a bold printed scarf to add some pizzazz to a simple sweater or blouse. It's a great way to add flair to your outfit in a conservative office.
- Beautiful tops with bold or mixed prints can look pretty and polished paired with black (or another neutral) pants or skirt, or dark jeans on a casual day. For a more daring look, try a pop of kente (a striped cloth woven in Ghana) paired with a solid.
- Try mixing a skirt with a pattern like ikat or batik with a tailored blazer or trench coat.
- Pair a cardigan featuring a bold print with a brightly colored skirt.
- A dress in a colorful print (that hints of a traditional boubou or caftan) is office-ready when paired with sophisticated pumps or sandals. (Look to Diane von Furstenberg for "westernized" interpretations.)
- Even aprons or large scarves can be work-appropriate; tie on a lightweight version that hits mid-thigh over your basics for a look that's culturally inspired and emulated on the runways.
- To look your best in bold patterns, make sure the print is in scale with your body (smaller figures call for smaller prints, and vice versa), mix and match prints in the same color family, and always emphasize your waist.
- Handbags, belts and shoes are another great way to punctuate your look. Choose for animal prints, beadwork, fringe or other distinctive embellishment.
- Natural African hairstyles have found their place in the professional world, and women have many options from relaxed to natural. Curls, braids, rolls, combs, and pulled-back buns are beautiful ways to celebrate your natural beauty.
Whatever pieces you choose, have fun with African-inspired fashion; a little cultural flair can be professional and pretty!
- Burgess, Lynecia. "Black Style Now: African Designers." Essence.com. August 31, 2011. (July 2, 2012) http://www.essence.com/2011/08/30/black-style-now-african-designers/.
- Chua, Jasmin Malik. "is the African-inspired Fashion Trend a form of Cultural Imperialism?" Ecouterre.com. May 21, 2012. (July 2, 2012) http://www.ecouterre.com/is-the-african-inspired-fashion-trend-a-form-of-cultural-appropriation/.
- Moore, Booth. "Coloring Outside the Lines." Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1998. (July 2, 2012) http://articles.latimes.com/1998/may/14/news/ls-49482.
- Oliver, Simone. "Designers Take a Fresh Look at Africa." The New York Times. December 7, 2011. (July 2, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/fashion/africas-new-fashion-influence.html.
- "Tory Burch's Spring Line." Oprah.com. April 4, 2005. (July 2, 2012) http://www.oprah.com/style/Tory-Burchs-Spring-Line/1.
- "African Inspired Fashion on a Budget." The Budget Fashionista.com. April 14, 2010. (July 2, 2012.) http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/archive/african-inspired-fashion-on-a-budget/.
- "Style: Let's Work!" Essence.com. (July 2, 2012) http://photos.essence.com/galleries/style_lets_work.