Fash­ion That De­fines the Is­lands

Waikiki Magazine - - ISHOP - By Natalie Tarce

One of the most vis­i­ble sym­bols of Hawai‘i’s aloha spirit can be seen in con­tem­po­rary Hawai­ian fash­ion known as aloha wear.

Its roots can be traced back to 1820, when New Eng­land mis­sion­ar­ies ar­rived in Hawai‘i. Mis­sion­ary women adapted the lat­est fash­ion in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the large size of ali’i (roy­alty) women. The de­sign was then al­tered into a more com­fort­able fit, and the holoku— a loose, floor-length, long sleeved for­mal dress—was born. The mu’umu’u was ini­tially a chemise worn un­der the holoku and it wasn’t un­til the 1940s with the in­tro­duc­tion of Hawai­ian prints that it was con­sid­ered fit to be worn in pub­lic.

The aloha shirt that we know to­day did not come about un­til the mid-1930s. Shirt­maker Musa-Shiya first used the term in a 1935 ad­ver­tise­ment. How­ever, it was tai­lor Ellery Chun who trade­marked “aloha shirt” in 1936 as tourism in Hawai‘i grew. Af­ter World War II, bolder pat­terns with trop­i­cal im­ages emerged. Rayon shirts called “silkies” be­came pop­u­lar from 1945 to 1955. By the late 1970s, de­signs in­spired by the Hawai­ian cul­ture came about. Even­tu­ally, sub­dued look­ing “re­verse print” aloha shirts were in­tro­duced and are now worn daily in the work­place.

To­day, the shift to­wards is­land style re­sort wear gives aloha fash­ion a more cos­mopoli­tan feel. Some aloha shirts may not nec­es­sar­ily fea­ture Hawai­ian prints but have var­i­ous im­ages ar­ranged in a sim­i­lar pat­tern as a tra­di­tional aloha shirt. Visit any cloth­ing store in Waikiki and you will find not just tra­di­tional aloha at­tire but also a va­ri­ety of Hawai­ian print dresses, shorts and ac­ces­sories in­spired by the rich his­tory of a multi-cul­tural so­ci­ety that has made aloha wear a life­style.

The spirit of the aloha shirt goes well be­yond the wardrobe. From hav­ing a “Year of the Aloha Shirt” de­clared by Hawai‘i’s gov­er­nor a few years ago, to the term “Aloha Fri­day” stem­ming from the ap­proval of aloha at­tire be­ing worn in the work­place dur­ing the sum­mer months back in 1962 (and has since been a prac­tice that en­cour­ages men to sport aloha shirts on Fri­days, all year long), the im­pact of this beloved shirt con­tin­ues to evolve.



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