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Introduction to the Dress of the Pacific Islands

Adrienne L. Kaeppler

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth’s surface and is inhabited by hundreds of cultural groups. Some twenty-five thousand islands, ranging from tiny specks of coral to the large island of New Guinea, are occupied by physically diverse peoples, many of whom have mixed and intermixed. Environments range from snowy mountains to raging volcanoes, from steaming rain forests to parched deserts, from coral atolls to volcanic outcrops. These Pacific Islands are usually divided into three histo

The Social World of Cloth in the Pacific Islands

Susanne Küchler and Graeme Were

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Portable, malleable, absorbent, and textured, often with colored patterns that attract or repel the mind, cloth the world over is essential for all manner of fastenings and constructions that give form to the social relations that are conceived as dependent upon the actions of the body. Pacific societies are unique in expressing, perhaps more fervently than observed elsewhere, the centrality of cloth to identities of kinship and political authority, as cloth is harnessed and transformed into surf

Ta’ovala and Kiekie of Tonga

Fanny Wonu Veys

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands 2010

Encyclopedia entry

The wearing of waist wrappings such as t’ovala and kiekie in modern daily life distinguishes Tongan dress from that of its neighboring Pacific archipelagos. Indeed, the basic working dress of civil servants and the school uniforms of students consist of tailored clothing termed vala faka-palangi (foreigners-style clothing), complemented for both sexes by a ta’ovala or for women by a kiekie. Compared to barkcloth production, both ta’ovala and kiekie can be made by a woman on her own, as the materi

Barkcloth Body Wrapping in Tonga

Fanny Wonu Veys

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands 2010

Encyclopedia entry

Barkcloth, or ngatu, made by women from the paper mulberry tree, occupies a prominent position in the life of the twenty-first-century inhabitants of the Western Polynesian kingdom of Tonga. It is presented, worn, and displayed during first birthdays, weddings, investitures of chiefs, and funerals. Barkcloth as wrapped clothing evolved from a small piece of barkcloth in front of the pubic area to clothing that covers the lower part of the body, a style that initially characterized chiefly dress.

Pacific Patterns

Graeme Were and Susanne Küchler

Source: Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Global Perspectives 2010

Encyclopedia entry

For many, pattern and decoration express an ideology of visual pleasure, but the often-ostentatious designs fashioned by Pacific Islanders from fragile leaf fronds and imported fabrics tell a different story. Stamped or stenciled, plaited or bound, pattern making in the Pacific is concerned with making relations to identity and to land tangible in the most striking ways and the most economic fashion. Though trivialized and hence overlooked—especially for those patterns created by women on the sur

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