Life (‘Fashion’) Goes On”

Revitalizing Ghana’s Grassroots Fashion System with New Digital Media Technologies

Suzanne Gott


For Ghana’s style-conscious women, life—in the form of African-print fashion—”goes on” despite three decades of economic decline caused by the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programs, which ended many women’s ability to wear and stockpile assets in costly “Holland” wax-print cloth. In the early years of the twenty-first century, Ghana’s struggling commission-based grassroots fashion system has been reinvigorated by the advent of affordable Chinese- manufactured African prints and new digitally produced fashion “calendars,” displaying a profusion of new exuberant African-print styles.

By the late 1990s, inexpensive fashion calendars featuring the latest African-print styles began to appear on workshop walls of Ghanaian seamstresses and tailors who specialized in women’s fashion. The photographic realism achieved by new digital publishing technologies proved especially valuable for conveying the intricate stylistic details and inventive combinations of African prints, solid-color cottons, and lace that express Ghanaian women’s African-print fashion aesthetic.

Importantly, the twenty-first-century infusion of energy from the youth-driven boom in “fanciful” African-print kaba-and-slit styles, seen in 2007 and 2010 fashion calendars, attests to the enduring vitality of African-print fashion. By 2013, youthful African-print “straight dresses” also began appearing in fashion calendars with titles such as New Generation, Living Young and Free, and Lady Gaga, further expanding the innovative scope of grassroots African-print style.

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