Mu'u Mu'u

Published: Mar. 12, 2003 at 10:17 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 12, 2011 at 6:51 PM HST
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It was once used as a cover up. No, it's not a political scandal. Like the aloha shirt we featured several months ago, our Lucky You Live Hawaii report is on the mu'u mu'u.

For almost two centuries it's been a symbol of Hawaii. But the muu muu wasn't always a fashion statement. The missionaries forced women to wear them when they arrived here in the 1800s.

"They didn't think that it was very Christian that us Hawaiians were running around, not completely clothed and so they figured that we needed to put something on our Hawaiian women. And because Hawaiian women come in various shapes and sizes, they figured that the mu'u mu'u would be the best bet because one size fits most," says Star-Nani Peralta of Hilo Hattie.

The mu'u's of today are mass produced. This is the Hilo Hattie garment factory on Nimitz Highway where they crank out more than 36,000 mu'u mu'u's a year.

What used to all be done by hand is now done by machine. Dozens of layers of fabric are precision cut at one time. The pieces to be stitched together into a new muu. Even the patterns are laid out by computer to ensure that almost every inch of material is used. But with all of this high tech equipment, the final product can only be put together by the hands and keen eyes of a human.

A far cry from what the missionaries forced on women 180 years ago, the mu'u has become a part of our culture.

"When a local woman would be going to a wedding she will make sure that she's in a very nice and dressy muu muu or perhaps if she's celebrating her anniversary or perhaps the baptism of one of her grandchild, she'll be sure she's in a white mu'u mu'u," says  Peralta.

It's the mu'u mu'u, a unique part of our history and just one more reason you are so Lucky You Live Hawaii.

If you know of a person, place, or thing that makes us lucky we live Hawaii, we'd like to share them with our viewers. E-mail your suggestions to Lyle Galdeira.

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