Marisole Monday: Inspired by Africa

Way back in June, I did a paper doll set roughly based on some Asian costumes and mostly based on what I draw when I’m bored in class. Lindsey asked if I would consider doing an African inspired set in the same style. Now, I wasn’t against the idea, but I didn’t know anything about African dress. After several months of looking at pictures, many books borrowed from the library and a fair bit of internet searching, I can now say I know a little bit about African dress.


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To give credit where it is due, the dress with the blue sash on the cream is based on a dress in the South African Fashion Week show of Amanda Laird Cherry. You can see a picture of the original garment here. The trousers are based on this design by the African designer Janice Morrison. I used a considerably more subdued color pallet for my paper doll based on the colors of mud cloth and traditional bead work.

The black dress with the gold is based on a dresses worn in Tunisia, usually over white blouses and loose trousers. I have included a white dress to wear under it. The two poncho like robes (the cream one and the blue one) are based on robes worn by men in Nigeria made up of strips of cloth. Mine are much shorter and slightly more fitted. As I said, it was a fantasy interpretation of African costume. The book I adapted these costumes from is called African Costumes and Textiles: From the Berbers to the Zulus. It’s a wonderful look at original garments. This paper doll set is an utterly inauthentic collection of fantasy garments. Enjoy. 🙂

Edit: It has come to my attention that some sites are linking this post as actual African traditional dress. It is NOT. Please don’t pro-port that it is. 

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  1. The brown dresses are my favorite, but the dress with the blue sash is very nicely done as well. I also like the triangular necklace. I am going to have to spend more time looking over your resources too because they seem really intriguing.

  2. Oh SNAP! I love these! I want to wear all of them! You should do more culturally inspired sets of awesomeness. Not that all of your stuff isn’t like that… just look at you sky-pirates dolls.

    I wonder if I could get away with wearing the Tunisia dress….

  3. The brown dress is perhaps my favorite as well, Corissia with the turban being a close second since I had never drawn one before and I think it came out pretty well. 🙂

    I don’t know if it is perfect, Lindsey, but I must thank you for giving me a good idea, even if it took me a few months to actually… well… do it. I hope it was worth the wait.

    The problem, Sara, with wearing the Tunisia style dress is that the actual dress (of which I couldn’t find a good photo online… anyone who does, I’d love the link) has an extremely low neckline which is fine as long as you wear it over something else. My major regret with the Tunisia dress is that I wasn’t able to really capture the shine of the gold on the black… oh well… that’s what happens when you refuse to shade things.

  4. Well, low neck lines aren’t a problem if you have loose morals or live in Hollywood (neither of which is me, so I’ll be wearing it over something).

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen dresses like that though… are they made with gold coins around the neck?

  5. your Marisol dolls just get better and better! love the beautiful details on the jewelry and feet. and your colors continue to be just amazing!

    : D

  6. I love doing research too. Though I can’t claim anything here is very authentic, I did learn a lot about the various dress traditions in Africa. I think I just scratched the surface of this amazing continent.

    1. Most of my readers are, according to my tracking program, from the United States (about 50%), but I have a few from other parts of the world including the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, South Africa, and elsewhere. According to my stats, last month I had 3 visitors from Nigeria.

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