What to Wear at a Hawaiian Luau

What to Wear at a Hawaiian Luau
Choosing the perfect party outfit can be a serious challenge. You don't want to underdress, overdress, dress like a mess or wear the same dress as another guest. Theme parties take some of the mystery out of the equation, though, and Hawaiian luaus are no exception---though there are variations on the theme, a few staple accessories and tropical traditions make this outfit a no-brainer.


One of the most iconic accessories of Hawaiian culture is the lei---a string of colorful flowers, nuts, shells and seeds draped around your neck. Though Hawaiians have worn lei much longer, in the early 1900s, they began the tradition of adorning visitors to the Hawaiian islands with lei upon their arrival. That tradition continues today, as many tourists and travelers opt to be draped with a lei when they arrive in Hawaii. For a luau, you don't necessarily need to spring for an authentic Hawaiian lei---many party stores carry lei made with fabric flowers, or if you prefer, you can easily make your own with a collection of colorful flowers or palm leaves. For the authentic look, drape it over your shoulders instead of hanging it off your neck like a necklace.

Hawaiian Shirts

Hawaiian shirts---or "Aloha Shirts"---are marked by their distinctive, colorful floral prints and short-sleeved, button-down design. Originally created in the 1930s using fabric from other Pacific islands like Japan, these shirts became a favorite among both natives and visitors to the Hawaiian islands. The shirts became a true fashion trend as celebrities like John Wayne and Elvis Presley began wearing them, and they are still widely available. Though the garish, colorful designs may make them a bit too loud for everyday wear, the Hawaiian theme and laid-back nature of a luau make these shirts an ideal fit.

Grass Skirts

If you plan on participating in a hula dance at the luau, consider a grass skirt. Both women and men can wear a festive grass skirt to the luau, and you can dress it up or down with accessories. When the tradition of hula costumes was born, men and women often went topless with the grass skirt---unless you and your friends are quite comfortable with your bodies, however, you may opt for a simple tube top or Hawaiian shirt to go with the skirt. Though they are called grass skirts, they are also made of dried leaves---if you don't want to bother with an authentic skirt, you can also find costume versions made of thin plastic strips. Accessorize the skirt with natural jewelry like bracelets made of bone, shells and leaves for your wrists and ankles. Undergarments may be traditional or contemporary---though hula dancers once wore loincloths and cloth wrappings under their grass skirts, you may prefer the modern comfort of some briefs.

Article Written By Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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