Hot! The “Ankara Peplum” Dress

The Facts
Fabric: about 2 1/2 yards Dutch super wax print cotton fabric from
Pattern: Simplicity 2282 (Project Runway)
Year: 2010
Notions: invisible zip
Time to complete: about 8 hours (+ more to do)
First worn: just for photos
Wear again: yes
Total cost: about $35

My VIP fabric hasn’t been in the stash long.  I’d been seeing these African prints around, but before Kazz’s awesome jacket, I never knew they were called ankara.  Inspired by Kazz and pleased with myself for working through the stash lately, I ignored my ban on buying new fabric and actively searched for ankara.  Oh well, rules were meant to be broken. I’m sure I could have hunted down ankara in the Garment District, but I was seduced by the e-commerce experience at Vlisco. Even though I had some concerns– why is a Dutch company making African prints? Would it really get here in 2 to 3 weeks?– I splurged on six yards.  All  their fabric is sold only in six-yard lengths.  Factoring in international shipping, my VIP fabric cost about $13 a yard.

All along I had this peplum dress pattern in mind to show off the print. I like how the front piece is cut full-length (no waist seam in the center) so the pattern can continue unbroken. However, it made for some tricky sewing at the corners where the side pieces join the front and peplum, and with pleats in there as well.  The center panel across the waist doesn’t quite lie flat as it should.  Luckily the print is good camouflage.  Since I just made a princess-seamed Simplicity dress a couple weeks ago, I compared the measurements on the pattern envelopes and basically made the same changes to this flat pattern. For the most part, that worked out. I had a scare when I thought I cut the back way too small, but it turns out I still need to take in the zipper/center back in the lower back area.  And, as I discovered when we went to take these hasty photos– in the remaining daylight when my husband got home from work as I was making dinner and our daughter was having a spastic fit– I forgot to put the gathers in the second sleeve cap.  So I will be redoing that.

I have a lot of this fabric left!  I’d like to make a kimono style short robe and maybe a pair of shorts or a jacket lining, but I also don’t want to get tired of the print.  Anyone want to trade some ankara?



Lee is a highly educated stay at home mom with a lot of projects. She lives in New York City.


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  1. Wow! That’s really unusual fabric. Nice find and great execution on the dress. It looks fantastic.

  2. What a fun dress! Peplums are very in right now. Well done!

  3. Great choice in fabric. Looks great, like a modern couture dress.

  4. This pattern was perfect to show off that fabric! I love it!

  5. Wow, that is an awesome dress. The fabric is really unusual. Hey maybe we should organize a swap NYC meeting. The one out in SanFra sounded great.

  6. I love it! I have bookmarked that pattern now, it is too cute!

  7. Oh that’s lovely. I’ve got some African prints to use too and I must get them out now …

  8. Fantastic use of that print!

  9. I LOVE THIS!!! The fabric is amazing!! I would have been afraid to cut into this as well. But, good thing you did. Now you can wear it instead of only look at it!

  10. This dress is freakin awesome, bright abstract ethnic print LOVE IT.would you recommend the ptoject runwsy pattern,easy to read follow etc?

    • Natalie, thank you, the Project Runway patterns are pretty good, I think. You have to keep track of what design elements you’re using and not using and follow the directions accordingly. Or not, in my case. Sometimes the directions just screw me up and I have to do what makes sense to me.

  11. This looks awesome on you! Love it, Lee!

  12. fabulous fabric and I just love that peplum! just an awesome dress on you! would love to trade with you, but the only dutch wax prints I have I have in short yardages. BUT there are several stores in the Brooklyn Fulton Mall that sell wax prints (not sure of quality level, they feel rather stiff) for $4.50/yard … Jay Fabrics and Fulton Fabrics.

    • Mikhaela, thanks! I haven’t explored the fabric offerings at the Fulton Mall, a much more economical option. The ankara from Vlisco has a kind of weird coating/texture/hand too, from the dye process I guess, but definitely good quality. It might be cool to mix prints with short yardages in one garment.

  13. Oh wow Lee that fabric is the business LOVE IT!!!! the cut of the dress complements the fabric just perfectly. Just gorgeous, I may just have to go shopping at

  14. Lee! This is another winner! I’m still thinking about those shorts you made. I love the fabric! I love the dress! You look great!

  15. it’s a wonderfully vibrant print. You have done a great job. A short robe would be very mood lifting first thing in the morning.

  16. Nice going trying that peplum! I’m so scared of it. You went for it and it looks really good!

  17. Gorgeous. Such a bold pattern–and you wear it really well.