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WoWasis book review: ‘Aloha Attire,’ a handsome history of Hawaii’s fashion trade

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jan• 18•15

AlohaAttireBookCoverHawaii’s apparel industry encompasses more than aloha shirts, and the whole story, including women’s fashion, is told informatively by Linda B. Arthur, in her highly informative Aloha Attire: Hawaiian Dress in the Twentieth Century (2000, ISBN 0-7643-1015-1). We here at WoWasis loved the book.

The author focuses on four traditional garment types worn in Hawaii, the holoku, muumuu, and holomuu, worn by women, and the aloha shirt worn by men. There’s a lot of history in the book, richly illustrated by dozens of color photographs of historical garments dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Arthur is a clothing scholar and includes important historical information as to the cultural importance of these garments, along with insightful information on how they were manufactured, distributed, and sold. In addition to the dazzling garments, a final chapter includes photos of clothing labels, a boon for historians and collectors. For those wishing to begin or add to a collection of Hawaiian clothing, she offers a then-current (2000) market price, adding additional value for scholarship purposes as well.

Kahehameha swimsuit, 1960s

Kahehameha swimsuit, 1960s

What could the book have done better? Only a couple of things. We would have liked to have seen a bit more qualitative commentary on some of the more marginal designs. Some of the garments, particularly those made in the latter century, were hideous, and are included without any critical commentary. Perhaps this is understandable in light of the fact that the author is a friend of the industry, and ruffling feathers in such a fashion certainly wouldn’t make her any new friends in that very small but fascinating world.

Overall, the book is an important one, as valuable as ever despite the fact that it’s 15 years old. It’s published by Schiffer, a company known for publishing handsome historical books with an eye to scholarship. This book has annotated footnotes and leads the interested reader to further resources.

AsiaPromoBannerIt’s highly recommended for clothing historians, people interested in Hawaiian culture, and anyone who has at least one Hawaiian garment in his or her collection. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

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