by Shannon Takahashi
“How have palaka and rice bag clothing shaped the people of Hawaiʻi?” This is the question Andy Reilly in the Dept. of Family and Consumer Sciences is hoping to answer in his upcoming research project about the history of fashion in in our state.
Like the iconic Aloha shirts and muʻumuʻu that are now worn by people in every corner of the globe, Professor Reilly believes that palaka and rice bag clothes could be next in line to becoming a worldwide phenomenon in fashion.
“I believe we are just at the beginning of seeing a major adoption trend in palaka and clothing inspired by rice bags – and the stories of the people who wore them before they were a fashion item will really impact that.”
Clothing made from rice bags by Japanese immigrants, as well as the nostalgic checkered print of the hardy palaka fabric, are embedded deeply in the stories of Hawaii’s history. What were once embraced as the unofficial uniform of plantation workers across the islands, palaka and rice bag clothing have resurged in popularity in Hawaiʻi and have even made their way onto the world stage in recent years.
Still, much remains to be learned about the significance of the fabrics to the people who wore them in the past. Andy wants to understand how palaka and rice bag clothes have transformed from being a type of clothing borne out of necessity to becoming a fashion statement and symbol of Hawaiʻi’s rich history.
Perhaps your story about palaka or rice bag clothing will help to inspire the next big trend in fashion? If you wore, remember, or have a story about palaka or rice bag clothing, Andy would like to hear from you! Get in touch at email@example.com or (808) 956-5061.