Tiki Tuesday: History of the Muumuu

Posted by Meagan Kyla on

Mrs. Roper Muumuu blog history of the muumuu

Often when people hear the word 'muumuu' they think of large unflattering dresses or have found memories of giggling at Mrs. Roper's muumuu's on the 1970s TV show, Three's Company. The fact is, a muumuu is so much more than the goofy the image it has been portrayed by TV and pop culture. A muumuu dress or mu'umu'u, is a loose dress of Hawaiian origin that has quite an interesting history.

 Vintage Hawaiian women wearing

(Tahitian women wearing examples of Mother Hubbard dresses, in which Hawaiian women would be wearing at the same time period)

In the 1820s British Protestant missionaries introduced the Holoku (Hawaiian word for the Mother Hubbard dresses) to the people of Polynesia to try and 'civilize' them and to cover up as much skin as possible. Well, it's hot in the South Pacific and even though the holoku dresses were made of lighter weight materials, they were loose to the body with long sleeves and had a high neck yoke collars. These dresses were not exactly comfortable in hot weather. 

Women wearing traditional holoku dress

The Holoku would evolve into a more fitted, (often) collarless dress with shortened sleeves. Some holoku's have beautiful trains with intricate details and fabric. The holoku had become a more formal traditional dress that would be worn for weddings, formal dinners, etc. It was the more shortened version with beautiful bright colors that was for casual day-to-day wear that became the mu'umu'u. Mu'umu'u actually means 'cut off' in Hawaiian and would be the style of dress you most often see today. 

Hawaiian Women in muumuu's

There is so much more history to the hokolu and the muumuu, but I just wanted to share a little insight into a type of dress that gets playfully gets poked fun at, yet has quite an interesting (and beautiful) history.

Meagan in a barkcloth vintage muumuu

I proudly wear my muumuu's knowing they are a part of the Hawaiian culture and have become a part of Amercia's Polynesian Pop culture. I also can't deny that the dresses (often) bright colors and comfortable design make for a very fun and relaxing way to dress. Aloha!

-Meagan Kyla


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