African clothing history for kids

Clothing - Africa for Kids

masai cape
Masai leather cape with glass trade beads from India,
from north-eastern Africa (ca. 1000 AD)

When all the people of the world lived in Africa, in the Early Stone Age, at first they all went naked. But soon, about 180,000 years ago, there was an Ice Age, and people started to wear fur and feather capes to keep warm.

bark cloth
Bark cloth from the Congo, in central Africa

Furs and feathers were good enough for thousands of years, but then people began to make lighter, less sweaty kinds of clothes out of pounded bark fibers. You peel the bark off trees and pound it with a rock until the fibers get soft and the hard part breaks off. This makes small pieces of cloth which can be pounded or sewn together.

People dyed this bark cloth to make all kinds of patterns. The most important dye was indigo, which is the dye we use today to make blue jeans blue. Africans used tie-dyeing to make patterns on their cloth. In some parts of Africa, women did most of the fabric work, and in other parts of Africa, men did most of it. But early Africans also kept on wearing fur, and leather, and feather hats and headdresses, and jewelry made of ostrich shells, gold, feathers, and braided grass.

Advanced version from Quatr.us
More about sewing
More about feathers
Later African clothing

Bibliography and further reading about African cloth and clothing:

Traditional African Costumes Paper Dolls, by Yuko Green (1999).

African Girl and Boy Paper Dolls, by Yuko Green (1997).

African Textiles, by John Gillow (2003). Not for kids.

Later African clothing
Kidipede - History for Kids home


by Professor K.E. Carr, Portland State University
Kidipede logo
Instant day pass: no ads! $1.99
Thanks for subscribing to History for Kids!
Your support means everything to us.