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The Little Black Dress and how it has been Translated through the eyes of African Designers

By Eyram Rafael

Every woman they say needs a little black dress, but that wasn’t a thing really until the 1920s when French designer Coco Chanel brought it to life. The little black dress; usually a knee-length black cocktail dress, gained notoriety for its simplicity and elegance thanks to influential women like Audrey Hepburn, who wore Givenchy’s version of the little black dress; a satin sheath dress worn with gloves in the iconic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

The little black dress offered women a slimming and flattering look at different social events. It eventually became a staple in the closet for many, including African women. This led to the re-imagination of the little black dress into different iterations to reflect the African style essence without losing the flair of Channel’s original design.

Here are some African designers that have tweaked Chanel’s little black dress into something more African;


Ghanaian designer Seraban channelled the romantic figure-hugging silhouette for their version of the little black dress. The brand fashioned the little black dress as a black knee-length pencil skirted dress featuring a wax print bust insert and off the shoulder puffed sleeves.


African ready to wear brand D’Iyanu added to the little black dress bit of African extravaganza with colour blocking and African prints. They reimagined the little black dress as a sleeveless dress with a sweetheart neckline and an eclectic contrasting wax print front panel.

Doussou Traore

Italy based Malian designer Doussou transformed the little black dress into a pinafore-Esque knee-length cocktail dress hemmed with yellow and orange embroidery. Doussou Traore’s little black dress is sustainably chic as its hand-painted with mineral mud dye from her Mali; that also pays homage to her heritage.

Pistis Ghana

For their Khifahari collection, Pistis reimagined the little black dress as a knee-length black dress with a corseted bodice, a full pleated skirt with floral wax print detailing. With so much attention to detail, the Pistis version of the little black dress features a ruffled Chinese collar and buttons that do not only fasten but complete the dress.


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