In Hawaii almost all women wear pareus or sarongs at the beach and for comfort hanging around the house. In some parts of the South Pacific, like Fiji and Tahiti, the pareu is customary day and night clothing. It was the 'uniform' at the upscale resort where I worked in Qamea, Fiji. The owner wanted to maintain the 'Fijian' feel.....we weren't allowed to wear shoes on site either. I'll never forget walking from our bungalow over to the main kitchen and dining room in pouring tropical rainfalls at night barefoot, squishing frogs all along the way. There were millions of them, and it was particularly icky. Oops, I digressed.
Men also wear a version of the pareu, called a lava lava. My husband Jim believed "all men should be required to wear lava lavas; the world would be a happier place." In Samoa, Tonga and Fiji men wear formal lava lavas. The Customs Officials who greeted us as we docked our sailboat in Apia, Western Samoa, wore wrap-around belted style lava lavas made of trouser fabric. We had to laugh when a gust of wind blew their 'skirts' up! They were embarrassed and declined to step down into our boat, since there was a female aboard. They just signed us approved and let us out of quarantine so we could run for a cold beverage and ice.
I don't wear pareus outside the house unless I'm at the beach. But I practically live in them inside the house. Every now and again I find the below-pictured suggestions for pareu fashion. Before I lose them again, I'm immortalizing them here and wanted to share these tropical tips with you.
(To get a larger view, click on the photos and they'll enlarge full screen.)
a. This is an easy tie but to me it feels like it's pulling me from the shoulder. It looks pretty good though, and is one you don't have to worry will fall off you at an inappropriate time.
b. Most inexperienced sarong wearers only try the first part of 'tie b'. If you gather up enough fabric you can make the first tie or twist and then it becomes a more formed dress, with the sarong tied in the back.
c. This is my favorite tie. You need a large sarong (some are made of fabric not wide enough for some of these ties, those are used mainly as a skirt wraparound). After you have it folded in half width-wise, holding yourself directly in the middle, it helps to grab the bit just below your chin and use your chin to hold the center in place. Then bring the ends together and make a knot. The part you were guarding with your chin can be folded over the knot and looks like a bit of a collar or decorative neckline in front. What's great about this tie is that a pleat is formed in the middle, giving you excellent freedom of movement with plenty of security that this will hold. This is a formal Fijian dress.
d. I've tried this tie and it always looks like I have on a saggy diaper. I think if I were 20 and partying it up in Cancun I might have the nerve to go out like this, but I don't find it attractive or recommendable.
e. This wrap doesn't appeal to me, I'm not much into the caped look. Still, it looks ok. Not one of my faves tho.
The ties below are Tahitian. I've never tried this one, but I think you need a large sarong for it. You use it lengthwise, and all those little ties take away from your usable fabric. I think it looks like a beautiful little sundress, and I'll let you know how it works out if I try this one.
Tahitian pareus are often larger compared to Hawaiian or Samoan pareus.. I remember the pareus my husband brought me from Tahiti were a much wider fabric and larger. I've been practicing this tie below, I think it looks great, but it's hard to pull the fabric and tie those knots just so, making the item appear more to be a sun dress than a piece of fabric I frantically tied.
Ok, don't laugh! I made a little video of myself putting on a lava lava, skirt style, which is how I wear mine around the house most of the time. Hold one tightly to your side, and wrap the skirt all the way around until you're out of fabric. Take the fabric you are holding and roll it into the part of the lava lava already sitting on your hips. After you do several rolls, it's going to stay pretty well. (With a larger pareu you can often tie the ends together and you'll never fall out of that one!). The last step is to grab the part of the pareu you left under the wrapping, pull it up a little and fold it over. This is the same tie for men.
The pareu, sarong, lava lava, whatever you want to call it gets my vote for coolest, most practical tropical wear. You simply have to wear it in the right place at the right time to pull it off.