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Johanna’s Modern African Top & Shorts

Modern African outfit in South Africa

My most recent project is a custom outfit in South Africa for a fellow university client. I’ve been dying to start a project in African print for ages now, so when a client approached me for these fun shorts and T-shirt I leapt at the opportunity! Johanna has great style, and knew exactly what she was looking for.

Here’s the inspiration behind the project:

Dashiki outfit from romwe

The Brief

Shorts pattern: McCall’s Easy Stitch ‘n Save 5911 Misses shorts pattern, heavily modified

Top pattern: self-drafted

Fabric: Dashiki-style cotton

You can see more examples of the inspiration here. Johanna managed to find an exact fabric match in bold pink instead of orange. The fabric is 100% cotton, made in Thailand. So while it is not strictly African, the border edges, bold colours and overall appearance of the fabric are very reminiscient of African style prints, particularly the Dashiki worn predominantly in West Africa.

Modern African outfit in South Africa

The Construction Story

Lining up the pattern pieces was tricky, because of the directional print. Luckily I didn’t really have to worry about cutting on the bias with this one! The pattern is self-drafted to fit Johanna’s tiny waist, but I used McCall’s Easy Stitch ‘n Save 5911 Misses shorts pattern as a base and downsized it. The shirt pattern I made from scratch.

The Shorts

The border pattern on the fabric was my favourite part. I lined up the shorts pattern piece so that the border would fall on the hem of the shorts. This positioned the blue dots at the seat of the pants, and in the same position on the front. I cut the pocket pieces from off-cuts after the main pieces had been cut. The waist was sewn by double folding the edge over 1cm wide elastic and a simple zigzag stitch.

The Shirt

The shirt was a little trickier, since we wanted to line the curve of the printed pattern along the neckline. The fabric needed to be folded in half along the centre pattern to trace the front and back pattern pieces. It just so happened that the length of the top perfectly matched the available width of the fabric, with the border pattern aligning with the top’s hem, same as the shorts.

Modern African outfit in South Africa

Originally I wanted the sleeves to line up so that the print continued from the shoulder seams down the sleeves, but there just wasn’t enough space. This is where I deviated most from the source photo. I cut the sleeves so that the front half of each was plain pink, but the back was patterned. This makes the shoulders look a bit broader and neater from the back view, but doesn’t overwhelm the eye with a mass of pink and print from the front.

The fabric, being cotton, had no stretch and I didn’t fancy doing a curved hem around the neckline. So I cut an inch wide strip from the leftover fabric and used it as bias tape for an invisible bias to finish off the neckline. All other hems were turned over twice and straight stitched.

The Final Product

Johanna wore her new oufit to a social function at varsity. As a testament to her tiny waist, I had to take the shorts in further even after sizing down the orginal pattern piece. Luckily the shirt fit perfectly first time around. During the initial consultation and fitting she wore her hair differently, so I was bowled over by how well her afro suited her new outfit! Paired with a pair of black heeled ankle boots, she was a vision of modern African style.

If you liked this Creation Chronicle, contact us to find out how to arrange your own Studio Brinnjal custom modern African outfit in South Africa.

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