LIHUE — Elegant, graceful, traditional, the story of the holoku can be traced to nearly 200 years ago when the missionaries arrived in the Hawaiian islands.
“The Hawaiian royalty women in Kona were enthralled by their dresses,” said Helen Wong Smith, Kauai Historical Society executive director. “The Hawaiian women asked to have the missionary women make them dresses. The missionary wives said the dresses will not fit them.”
But the missionaries modified the dress to fit the ladies of Hawaiian royalty, and that’s when the holoku was born, Smith said.
Made from imported fabrics and worn at royal balls, parties, and special events, the holoku will be the featured centerpiece of the Kauai Historical Society’s fall fundraiser at Smith’s Tropical Paradise from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Oct. 15.
Though anyone who owns a holoku is encouraged to wear theirs at the Hoike Holoku Gala, Wong Smith said she encourages anyone and everyone to attend the Kauai Historical Society’s premiere fundraising event of the year.
“The main thing I want people to know is that you don’t have to wear a holoku to attend the gala,” she said. “They can come in and wear aloha attire or anything really.”
During the hoike session — which means to show — participants will explain the background behind their holoku.
“For the people who do own a holoku, we’re encouraging them to write a history of their holoku — if they’re buying their tickets online,” she said.
For instance, holoku made by the late Kauai dressmaker Guadalupe Bulatao will be worn at the gala.
“Her daughter brought over a couple of her dresses,” Wong Smith said. “We’re going to have models showing them that night. This is the historical society’s effort to have everything with a historical context.”
Funds from the gala will support more staff positions as well as to expand resources for the Kauai Historical Society’s vast number of items.
“I don’t have enough room, and I don’t have the staff to process the collection, so we can make those lovely little finding aides that are online and searchable,” Wong Smith said. “All that takes trained effort.”
The event will also include heavy pupus, drawing for prizes and music by Kauai musicians Polei Palmeira, Kirby Keogh, Edward Punua, Michael Keale and Mark Rossi.
Tickets are $35 for students through high school, $55 for KHS members and $65 for non-members. They may be purchased at the KHS office or online at www.kauaihistoricalsociety.org. Reservations are recommended.