How To Make a Dashiki

Daishiki is a West African word meaning shirt. With the first African-American president in history now in the White House, there is increased interest in all things African, including fashion. The dashiki is a loose-fitting comfortable man's style of pullover shirt featuring a v-neck and embroidered or decorated sleeves and neckline. Its female counterpart is the kaftan, also a garment designed for freedom of movement.

Use colorful African fabrics to create your own dashiki. Africans traditionally use the body to measure the amount of fabric necessary, doubling the length of the distance between the shoulders and the knees, and measuring the width of the shirt as the space between the crook of one elbow to the crook of the other. Most dashikis measure approximately 72 inches long by 36 inches wide.

Although the most popular neckline for a Dashiki is the v-neck, this shirt style can also feature a simple slit as a hole for the head to pass through or a slit with a notch. Make sure you make the slit large enough so that the wearer will not rip the stiff fabric.  If you are planning to showcase a v-neck, be sure that the design of the fabric flatters this position on the shirt.

  • Lay your fabric on a flat cutting board or surface with the fabric folded cut ends together. Cut the fabric to create a rectangular shape, then cut six inches parallel, about 10 inches below the top fold on either side, to ultimately create a T-shape which will accommodate both your arms and your body.
  • In the center of the top fold of the fabric, cut a slit as your neckline or cut a v-shape that can be finished with a seam, whether facing or taped down. You can leave the bottom of your shirt unhemmed as well as the sleeves, because the dashiki is designed to catch even the slightest movement of air in order to keep the wearer cool and unhemmed fabric is much more fluid.
  • Animal and safari prints are very attractive fabric choices for making into dashikis and need little additional embellishmen once your shirt is completed.  Striped fabrics in vibrant colors showing every shade of the rainbow are also favored for this style of casual shirt.
  • If you opt to create a dashiki out of plain fabric, you can create a fashion work of art by adding embroidery in a dramatic contrasting color around the neckline and at the bottom of the sleeves. Many dashiki makers also like to add fabric appliqués in a variety of shapes to dress up plain fabric dashikis.


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