Cotton Sarongs in the world are well-known in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands, but they have been prevalent in numerous countries over the centuries. This is the case in India, the Arab world, parts of Europe such as Greece and Rome (togas), and North America. In North America is where they are mostly sold as cotton garments. Currently, the majority of the world's sarongs are exported from Indonesia, but sarongs are made in other places, including North America, Canada and China.
Most commonly, a sarong is a length of fabric that women and sometimes men wrap around the waist as a skirt, a shawl, shirt, dress, baby carrier or sling. They are easy to wash and preferred for warm and hot climates where they can dry quickly if they become wet from rain or bodies of water. The practice of wearing a simple length of fabric tied around the waist or under the arms has been around for over 1,000 years, and was not brought to North America until the 19th century.
Modern day sarongs have many uses, including a bathing suit cover-up, curtains, a table or couch cover, a turban or a beach blanket. They are now considered as a fashion statement, especially where tropical and beach weather occur, so the patterns on sarongs are often inspired by the tropics. Sarongs are usually brightly colored with tie-dye or other patterns, such as animals, plants, shapes or swirls. They can be very intricate, or just one solid bold color.
The African sarong, or Kanga as it was originally called, was first worn by slaves in Zanzibar at the end of the nineteenth century. These slaves were compelled to wear kaniki (black dyed cotton cloth) that reflected their indentured status, but when the slaves got freed, they chose to wear sarongs. The original garments were made of cotton, which was considered to be an expensive fabric in those days, affordable only by the rich. Wearing a garment made of cotton helped these slaves establish a new found identity of being free.
Traditionally, Kangas are purchased in pairs, where one is wrapped around the waist or over the entire body, and the other is draped over the head. Moreover, an African sarong can also be worn while dancing, sleeping or doing household work. Apart from being a garment, the African sarong can also be used as a bedspread, apron, curtain, towel, seat cover, table cloth, rug, belt, knot, just to name some of its many uses.
taken from eHow