LAWAI — There were ladies of all ages and different walks of life gathered at Warehouse 3540 in Lawai, Monday morning. They all had one thing in common — the ladies were all wearing mu‘umu‘u.
“I don’t know where they all came from,” said Shannon Hiramoto of MachineMachine. “I just put it out on social media, and they’re here.”
Hiramoto was the recipient of gubernatorial and mayoral proclamations celebrating the sixth anniversary of January being Mu‘uMu‘u Month, and was joined by a group of mu‘umu‘u clad women celebrating the comfortable wear.
“Six years ago, I was all alone,” Hiramoto said. “My dad kept asking me, ‘Are you sure about this?’”
Since then, the observance has grown to where a lot of women are aware of mu‘umu‘u and the comfort it affords in wearing the gown that was introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century following the arrival of Protestant missionaries.
“Mu‘uMu‘u Month is now celebrated by enthusiasts throughout the state and has become part of a ‘mu‘umu‘u movement’ throughout the Hawaiian Islands,” states a message from Gov. David Ige that was delivered by his Kauai liason Carrice Gardner. “2020 marks the Sixth Annual Mu‘uMu‘u Month, recognizing the incredible fashion history of Hawaii, the booming Made-in-Hawaii garment manufacturing industry and the perennial appeal of the mu‘umu‘u.”
The mu‘umu‘u, which means “cut off” in Hawaiian, is considered a shorter, more informal version of the holoku, a seamed dress that often had a high collar and train, and was patterned after the Mother Hubbard dresses worn by the missionaries in the 1820s.
Due to its modest, comfortable, and loose form, the mu‘umu‘u was soon adopted for everyday wear in Hawai‘i, and many still enjoy wearing this flowing garment which has endured several stylistic variations among the Hawaiian people and fashion designers around the world.
“I just picked out something from the racks at MachineMachine,” said Joelle Souza, a Western fashion influencer who recently opened The Prickly Pineapple in Warehouse 3540. “I worked with Shannon and between us, it’s now got the Western look.”
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami also lent his support to the movement.
“Many of us remember our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and neighbors donning these beautiful garments that are truly unique to our culture,” said Kawakami through his representation by Kealoha Takahashi who loved the idea of being able to wear a mu‘umu‘u to the event. “Thanks to Kauai-born fashion designer Shannon Hiramoto, the mu‘umu‘u won’t be going out of style any time soon.”
Hiramoto is partnering with the Kauai Historical Society in the month-long celebration of the mu‘umu‘u.
“We have several different events planned, like a beach cleanup, and others,” Hiramoto said. “But the big one is a brunch on Jan. 26 at the new lanai at Kilohana. We’ll have a florist demonstrating making corsages that everyone can wear, a photographer Linda Miller doing portraits, and a silent auction benefiting the Kauai Historical Society. The mu‘umu‘i is so fascinating — the stories it has somehow gets unlocked from the people who wear them.”
Registration for the brunch will soon be available through a website, or contacting Hiramoto at MachineMachine.
Ige said Mu‘uMu‘u Month is an invitation to honor Hawaii’s fashion history by wearing mu‘umu‘u throughout the month of January and celebrate the mu‘umu‘u as part of Hawaii’s cultural and unique fashion history.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.