How do Native Hawaiians dress – SSLR

How do Native Hawaiians dress

by Bruce Conor on March 15, 2023

Native Hawaiians have a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in their traditional dress. Today, many Native Hawaiians blend traditional and modern styles to create unique and meaningful fashion statements. In this blog, we'll explore the history of Native Hawaiian dress and how it has evolved over time.

History of Native Hawaiian Dress

Before the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th century, Native Hawaiians wore clothing made from natural fibers such as kapa, a fabric made from pounded bark. Kapa was decorated with intricate patterns and designs using natural dyes made from plants and minerals. Men wore malo, a loincloth, while women wore pa'u, a skirt made from kapa.

After the arrival of Europeans, Native Hawaiians began to incorporate Western clothing into their wardrobe. This included dresses, shirts, and pants made from cotton and other imported fabrics. However, many Native Hawaiians continued to wear traditional clothing for ceremonial occasions and to assert their cultural identity.

In the 20th century, Native Hawaiian dress began to change as the culture adapted to modern life. Hawaiian shirts, also known as Aloha shirts, became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. These shirts featured colorful tropical prints and became a symbol of the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle. Today, Hawaiian shirts are worn by people all over the world and are often associated with vacation and relaxation.

Traditional Native Hawaiian Dress Today

Today, traditional Native Hawaiian dress is still worn for ceremonial occasions such as hula performances and other cultural events. Women often wear a holoku, a long, flowing dress that is usually made from cotton or silk. The holoku is typically decorated with floral or geometric patterns and can be worn with a lei, a necklace made from flowers or shells.

Men may wear a malo or a kikepa, a cloth worn over the shoulders. Both garments are made from natural fibers and are typically decorated with traditional designs. Men may also wear a lei, although the types of flowers and materials used may differ from those worn by women.

In addition to traditional dress, many Native Hawaiians incorporate elements of their culture into modern fashion. For example, a Hawaiian shirt may be worn with a pair of jeans for a casual look, or a floral skirt may be paired with a solid-color blouse for a more formal outfit.

Hawaiian print fabrics are also popular in fashion design, with many designers incorporating tropical patterns and motifs into their collections. These designs often feature bright colors and bold patterns inspired by nature, such as hibiscus flowers, palm trees, and ocean waves.

How to Incorporate Native Hawaiian Dress into Your Wardrobe

If you're interested in incorporating Native Hawaiian dress into your wardrobe, there are many options to choose from. Here are some ideas:

  1. Hawaiian Shirts: Hawaiian shirts are a fun and colorful addition to any wardrobe. Look for shirts with bold tropical prints or traditional designs.

  2. Floral Dresses: Floral dresses are a staple of Hawaiian fashion. Look for dresses with bold prints and flowing silhouettes.

  3. Accessories: Accessories can be a subtle way to incorporate Native Hawaiian style into your outfit. Look for jewelry made from natural materials such as shells or coral, or add a lei to your outfit for a pop of color.

  4. Sarongs and Pareos: Sarongs and pareos are versatile garments that can be worn as a skirt, dress, or cover-up. Look for bright colors and bold prints.

  5. Traditional Dress: If you're attending a cultural event or ceremony, consider wearing traditional Native Hawaiian dress such as a holoku or malo.


In conclusion, Native Hawaiian dress is an important part of Hawaiian culture and history. While traditional dress is still worn for ceremonial occasions, many Native Hawaiians incorporate elements of their culture into modern fashion.