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Hula Skirt

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hula skirt

Hula Skirt Information

From Ancient History to Modern Hawaiian Dress

The costumes worn for hula today are colorful. The grass skirts swirl around the dancers while they perform swaying dances to the rhythm of modern Hawaiian music. Leis, ankle bracelets and wrist bracelets and flowered shirts are worn along with the grass skirts. Men have recently begun wearing the traditional "malo" or trousers, but are usually topless for their dance. They may choose to wear a shirt. Grass skirts are not the only clothing worn by women who dance the hula and while coconut bras are worn for parties (usually non-Hawaiian attendees), they are not customarily worn. If you visit Hawaii you may see dancers wearing colorful, festive dresses or skirts and blouses made of all kinds of cloth for their performance. Skirts and dresses are worn as short as to the knee or as long as to the floor. They also make skirts out of cellophane, ti leaves, and lauhala (dried hala leaves).

Here are pictures of two traditional hula skirts...

hula skirthula skirt

In ancient times, the costumes were different. They had their leis and other accessories but their clothing was much different. Women wore a wrap called a "pau" made of tapa cloth (from bark) and men wore loincloths which are called "malos". Both genders are said to have gone topless. Their ankle and wrist bracelets, called "kupe`e" were purportedly made of whale bone and dog teeth as well as other items made from nature. You will see similar accessories today though they are often made from plants, shells and feathers to represent nature and specific deities. Some of these make music- shells and bone will rattle against each other while the dancers sway across the stage.  

In the latter part of the 1800's, after missionaries realized they could not stop the traditional dance from occurring no matter how hard they tried, they insisted that hula dancers wear extremely modest clothing when performing in public - dresses were high-necked and long-sleeved. This did not take as the "Merrie Monarch" insisted on old tradition being upheld. Still, it wasn't long before western influence crept in and hula dress did not escape it.

Unfortunately, the ancient way of dress is more of a guessing game because of all the changes and the lack of pictures showing ancient dancers in their ritual costume.

To see the beautiful costumes of the ha'a/hula, visit these sites:

Modern hula attire:

The skirts and dresses worn by the women in this year's Moanikeala Hula Festival are breathtaking! To see for yourself visit their gallery.

The Gallery at Moanikeala Hula Festival's website -

There is a picture of a hula troupe in the 1890's showing western influence on this page:

More traditional costume representations -

Would you like to know how to make a hula skirt? Here are a few sites that give instruction for women and children's skirts as well as a site that offers children a chance to make their own:

Visit these sites:

Kids or adults can make their own skirts out of crepe paper:

Not interested in making your own skirt? Buy one:  


by Hula Jack -

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