‘Reading’ Wax fabric


‘Reading’ Wax fabric

On a previous article, we were talking about the origins and meanings of ‘Wax’, a fabric traditionally related to African fashion.

Let’s focus today on the meaning of some famous patterns of Wax fabric, which gained a name in African cultures and especially Ivorian culture. Some of you will sure recognize fabrics worn by their mothers or grand-mothers. But did you know the message behind it?

  • 1. ‘My husband can!



The fabric was created in 1953 by Vlisco, with Lips patterns. It represents the love and worship a husband has for his wife. Firstly manufactured in Holland, it was very expensive for the African customer, so the man that offers it to his woman ‘could!’, as to say he was able to afford it.

Every man should be proud to give it as a present to his wife and this fabric could be used as peace offering in case of marital crisis.

The fabric is nowadays also manufactured by UNIWAX Ivory Coast. So it is less expensive but still out of reach for some women.

It must be worn with pride because the fabric proclaims: Hey, my husband loves me and it shows!

So some women mischievously buy it themselves to bring problems in their rival or co-wife’s marriage.

It is also believed that the girl who wears it will have many children. Who knows?

  • 2. If you go out, I will go out



When a woman wears this particular fabric, the message is clear.

She says to her husband I will not be the one waiting for you in this marriage or this house if you go out of our matrimonial home, for no reason.This fabric symbolizes, right or wrongly, equality of the sexes and emancipation of women.

  • 3. My rival’s eye


Woman shows a clear message to her rival: Things won’t be easy with me!

“My rival’s eye” shows that there are tensions within the family and is about the existence of a rival, whether she is a co-wife or the mistress. It is a very provocative fabric, saying: ‘I will do all and everything to protect my couple’.

Same but more provocative, there is the fabric ‘I spray this in my rival’s eye’: The pattern is a hand holding an aerosol and spraying it. A clear warning!

  • 4. ‘The swallows’
Let’s end with the fabric ‘The swallows’


The swallows represent freedom, happiness and fecondity. They foreshadow happy events so women are excited to wear it. The fabric is very commonly used nowadays. Some designers use it as central pieces of their collection, like French designer ‘Maison Chateau Rouge’.

There are many others patterns of wax fabric with popular names and special meanings. So if you know them, fell free to let us know!


Raoul Germain Blé, « Le pagne », Communication [En ligne], Vol. 30/1 | 2012, mis en ligne le 29 novembre 2012, URL : http://communication.revues.org/3026 ; DOI : 10.4000/communication.3026

Auteur/Author: Aissatou GAYE

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