Hawaiian Holoku Gowns|
The Hawaiian Islands were originally Monarchies. Before the missionaries arrived men and women only covered their lower torso. In the early 19th century Queen Kaahumanu initiated the movement of bark cloth garments to woven cloth garments. When the missionaries arrived in 1820 Queen Kamamalu with the expert assistance of Mrs. Asa Thurston and Mrs. Hiram Bingham adopted a similar fashion of European dress and called it the Holoku. Originally it was tight fitting but because of the full figured Hawaiian women and the climate the waist was made fuller. The first Holokus were very plain in design. Royalty used brocades, silks, and other luxury fabrics that were in storage from past trade of sandalwood. Between 1850 and 1875, Queen Emma and Queen Kalama influenced low necklines, short sleeves, ruffles, trims, sweeping trains. But high necklines, long sleeves remained proper for street wear. In the late 1880, Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani returned from London with Parisian fashions. They adapted a tight fitting Holoku for court. Economics and social status permitting, Hawaiian women worked in cotton, floor length holokus and were married in regal fabric holokus with sweeping trains. The Mu’umu’u was used as an undergarment until the 1940’s when the introduction of prints made it acceptable to wear it in public. Today the Holoku is worn for special events such as weddings and the Annual Holoku Ball.
Aloha Attire, Linda B. Arthur, Schiffer Publishing, 2000, pp.9 – 11, 16.
Mahalo to the Bailey House Museum, Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii for the access of the following materials:
Development of the Holoku.
The story of the Holoku, by F.H. Wills.
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