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Different Types of Tribal Print & Pattern Trends

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by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

If you’ve been online at all this year, you’ve probably noticed that the current tribal trend is on fire. You can find all kinds of tribal print clothing, jewelry, and accessories. But, there is more than one kind of ethnic tribal fashion. Designers get inspiration from indigenous people from Africa, Asia, the Southwest, and more. Here are some of the different types of tribal prints and patterns.

Is the Word "Tribal" Politically Correct?

how to wear tribal patternsOkay, lots of politically correct people seem to take offense when fashion writers use the word "tribal." And, I understand where they are coming from, however I don’t believe that the word always has a negative connotation. If you are using the word “tribe” to describe a group of “inferior” people, well I see your point. However, when I think of tribal peoples, I think of them more as a spiritual group of humans with a cultural bond, so lighten up. Sheesh. I’m not trying to offend you. I’m trying to explain pattern and fashion.

different types of tribal printsDifferent Types of Tribal Fashion

If you are a Baby Boomer woman, you may be familiar with many of the indigenous styles from around the world. Yep. Lots of these trendy types of clothing and jewelry were worn back when we were hippies… ummm… I mean when we were boho-chic-freaks. You say you missed the tribal trend the first time around because you lived in Ohio during the 70s. Well, fear not. I’ll walk you through them.

The most important thing to know about tribal fashion is that you can mix and match different types of ethnic prints and accessories. In fact, it’s better if you do because you want a global boho feel. And, once you develop a good mix-and-match eye for prints, you will be mixing tribal with animal prints, Baroque boho glam, and digital-print tops and dresses. Heckaroonie, you might even wear your tribal print T-shirts and beaded bangles to work… to jazz up your boring pantsuits.


Native American Tribal Prints & Jewelry

I come from Washington State (an area with real, live Indians), so let’s start with American-Indian “tribal” fashions. If you have tons of money, you should buy real, high quality, indigenous-American pieces, such as handmade Navajo Squash Blossom necklaces and beautiful Zuni earrings and other types of jewelry.

aztec navajo skirt for older women over 50 60However, if your bank account is still reeling from all those bubbles, you might want something cheaper… that will still give your wardrobe a cheap thrill. So, I’ll try to explain the tribal-trend jigsaw puzzle of current fashions.

Note: For Native Americans - I’m just an average white woman from the Seattle suburbs. So, correct me if I’m wrong about any of this.

Aztec Print Fabric: When I google Aztec patterned fabric or Aztec print trend, I come up with tons of different kinds of clothing with patterns that look like the pattern in the Aztec link, however the pattern in the link looks like it’s Navajo or "Navajo inspired."

Lots of designers call their fashion and jewelry “Aztec,” even when they’re not using Aztec patterns. And, because the Aztecs were pretty much wiped out, we don’t really know what Aztec textiles actually looked like. All that remains of Aztec designs are stone carvings and pyramids. (Either designers love the sound of the word Aztec or they’re afraid to call anything Navajo after the Urban Outfitters fiasco. You tell me. See Resources.)


Guatemalan Fabric: I’m no expert in textiles of indigenous peoples, but I am an artist, so I can pick up the “feel” of a pattern fairly quickly. And, I think the designs found on the handwoven fabrics of Guatemala (Andean textiles) would be closer to Aztec style, because Guatemalan patterns often have a rounder design as seen in Aztec patterns.

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Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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