History museum

History museum celebrates aloha shirt

The exhibition Aloha Shirt Art: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51 open July 1 Washington State History Museum in Tacoma and will be visible until September 11. Aloha shirt art explores the history, art, and production of Hawaii’s sustainable fashion statement. The exhibition of 60 objects, including original textile artwork, production sketches and samples, advertisements and vintage shirts, tells the story of an early innovator, John “Keoni” Meigs, in an industry that has left an indelible mark on fashion in the United States. states and the world.

“Aloha shirts have been popular for decades. They’re a sign of Pacific Islander influence in the Pacific Northwest, and something everyone can relate to,” said Mary Mikel Stump, Director exhibits and programs at the Washington State Historical Society. “We are thrilled to present this exhibit. It is a fun way to learn more about Aloha shirt design, the textile industry and fashion history.

Although many claim authorship, the exact origin of the Aloha shirt remains unclear. The patterns of Polynesian tapa cloth, the colorful and bold floral patterns of Tahitian pareau, and the sheer Japanese fabric used to make kimonos are often cited as some of the earliest stylistic influences on the shirt. Between the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Hawaii’s economy began to shift from an agricultural to a service-oriented economy and tourists began to fly to Hawaii in ever-increasing numbers , the focus of the island apparel industry has shifted from the production of workwear to sports and leisure. Combining the young islander’s love of colorful clothing with the tourist’s desire to bring home memories of their vacation on the islands, the Aloha shirt enjoyed enormous popularity, especially after the end of World War II.

In the history of the Aloha shirt, there has not been a more innovative merchandiser or better self-promoter than “Keoni of Hawaii”. John “Keoni” Meigs (“Keoni” is Hawaiian for John) was a self-taught painter whose talent became known to early shirtmakers in Honolulu. In 1938 he created his first designs, focusing on Polynesian tapa designs inspired by the originals. he had studied at the local Bishop Museum.

One of the most innovative fabric artists on the island, Keoni is credited with creating up to 300 Aloha shirt designs. In Meigs’ words, “In a way, Aloha shirts put Hawaii on the map. The first thing people did when they arrived was head to a department store to buy one. been designed, but I’ve always tried to be a purist when it comes to using designs from Hawaiian sources.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, the History Museum will host a free event with special guests to celebrate the exhibition. Dr. Linda A. Bradley, Professor Emeritus at Washington State University, will lead a fun and quick tour of the gallery. She will share insight into the roots of Aloha attire and provide insight into the broader cultural and historical significance of this style. Local collector David Bader will share examples of aloha shirts from his extensive collection, while giving attendees a better understanding of how the style has changed over time. And cocktail historian Rene Cebula will present “The origins of the Tiki: the drinks behind the shirts”. Guests can enjoy a Hawaiian-inspired mocktail while hearing the stories of this event, held on the third Thursday with free admission from 3-8 p.m.

Aloha shirt art is hosted by Dale Hope, a second-generation Hawaiian apparel industry veteran who wrote the definitive book on the subject, The Aloha shirt: the spirit of the islandsin 2000. Much of the work draws inspiration from Dan Eskenazi’s collection, which offers viewers the opportunity to see Aloha shirts from a designer’s perspective, as well as great vintage examples of the finished product. Aloha shirt art is organized by ExhibitionsUSAa program of Central American Arts Alliance.

Bring your friends and family to enjoy this colorful exhibit and learn about the history of the vibrant shirts that so many love to wear. You can also see IN THE SPIRIT Contemporary Indigenous Arts in the adjacent gallery. The Washington State History Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See www.WashingtonHistory.org for more details.

Exposure: Aloha Shirt Art: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51

Location: Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, WA, 98402

Works: From July 1 to September 11, 2022

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Free admission for active duty military and up to 5 family members until September 4!

Adult (18 and over) $14

Senior (65 and over) $11

Student (6-18 years old) $11

Child (5 and under) FREE