Friday, July 26, 2013

Designs From Paradise - Part Three - Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts

Designs from Paradise – Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts

This is the third episode of Designs from Paradise.  The first was Tori Richard LTD, the second was the story of Dale Hope.

Last year my husband and I visited Hawaii to celebrate a family member’s birthday.  Just before leaving home I saw an old episode of Anthony Bourdain when his adventures took him to HNL.  One of his tours was a visit to Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts. He highlighted the amazing collection of vintage textiles, with an emphasis on Aloha shirts,  David Bailey had on display in his shop (more of a museum in reality). You can see a part of his visit on a video at  Naturally, I took this as an invitation from the “gods of textiles, old and new,” and made the required shopping experience.


The shop is located at 517 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, a short city bus ride into the suburbs and a 2 block walk. Established in 1980, it was, at first, located on Waikiki Beach, but moved to its present location to accommodate the growing inventory of vintage textiles and island memorabilia. We were very impressed with the knowledgeable staff and their friendly assistance, which included permission to photograph within the shop.  Before we left (after much time browsing, examining the shirts and taking notes) David Bailey spent time explaining his love of island textiles and the history of his collection of over 15,000 shirts which were arranged into categories: used, new, vintage and specialty.

Shirts are displayed on racks, folded on shelves and even hung from the ceiling.

Even Santa Claus can go Hawaiian

This is a reproduction of Tiger-Tiger Thousand Tigers
The original of this shirt sold at a California auction for $25,000!!!

The original shirt is on the top, priced at $990.99
The reproduction shirt beneath is $54.99

If you are ever in Honolulu and in the mood for a most dramatic vintage textile experience, I highly recommend a stop at Bailey’s.  If travel is not in your immediate future you can visit the website or pose an email question to

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More reference books on Hawaiian shirts

I hope you enjoyed our 3 brief excursions into textiles from paradise. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Swim Suits

“It was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini”
                  Brian Hyland, 1960

We are well into summer so I suppose I should tackle a problem garment that has plagued women for decades: a fashionable and comfortable and flattering swim suit (I was going to add affordable, but that may be way too much to ask for).

Women before our time had the right idea about swim wear.  The suits covered all those not-so perfect figure flaws and protected delicate skin from those awful damaging solar rays. I’m not sure how much water action those suits saw, seems as if one might actually sink into the briny when the suits got wet, but it was the right idea.

Standard Mail Order Co.
423-439 West 55th Street
New York City
July-August 1915

Every season fashion magazines publish articles on the chore of selecting a bathing suit.  Usually, they advocate certain styles that would flatter various body types, for instance “if you are pear- shaped choose this type of garment, whereas if you are apple-shaped here is one for you”.  Perhaps that has been my problem.  All along I thought I was a pear, in reality I guess I am an apple.  It seems as if there is no other garment that has caused more frustration to a potential buyer.  You only have to pass by the outer door of the fitting room to hear the moans and cries of despair.

I have had only one totally satisfactory suit.  I was 16 and had a navy blue two-piece suit with a “little boy leg bottom” and very modest top that buttoned in the back.  Made of cotton, it was cool and comfortable and I loved, loved, loved that suit.  I felt like Annette frolicking on the beach with Bobby Darren (only his name was Ken).

Now for some bikini trivia.  According to Real Simple Magazine (July 2013) the bikini first appeared at a Paris swimming pool on July 5, 1946.  The designer was Louis Reard and was, supposedly, named after the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific that was the site of  atomic tests (go figure!)  That first suit contained a whopping total of 30 square inches of fabric.  One can only imagine.  This type of suit was not particularly popular until a decade later.  Today’s suit now covers 150 square inches of fabric (still that doesn’t cover very much).

So until this dilemma is solved I will continue to take my summer vacation at the mountains, not the beach.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Designs from Paradise - Dale Hope

Designs from Paradise- Part two- Aloha Shirts and Dale Hope

In my June 21st blog I wrote that I have had 3 terrific textile experiences while visiting Honolulu, the first at the offices of Tori Richard Ltd, and now the story of Dale Hope, designer and author.

Hawaiian shirts are everywhere on the islands.  I never gave them too much notice beyond their bright designs and thought of them as essential tourist purchases.  My visit to the studio of Dale Hope some years ago changed that view.

Aloha shirts are found everywhere 
Small child Hawaiian shirt and shorts

They even come in size xxxl
Dale Hope was born in Honolulu and grew up with his parents garment business. When he inherited his family’s clothing industry in 1986 he purchased the well-known Kahala label and became the creative director for Kahala Sportswear.  But it is his passion for the iconic Aloha Shirt that is today’s story.  At his studio and archives I, and a group from the Textile Society of America were shown an array of vintage shirts which Kahala was reintroducing.  The process of selecting appropriate designs and color-ways as well as partnering with well-known printing facilities in Japan indicated the attention to detail that was so important to Hope.  Of course, there were also new lines to design and produce.  Since that visit Hope has made many changes to his career.  He has collaborated with Lucky Brand, a line of casual wear known to many of you (Lucky Brand is owned by Fifth and Pacific).   Kahala Sportswear is now a subsidiary of  Tori Richards Ltd. He has traveled the world with his family searching new designs and he has written the most fascinating history of the Aloha Shirt with Gregory Tozian : The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands.

Dale Hope

This volume includes everything an enthusiast would want to know about this classic garment: history, designers, textile print-makers, manufacturers, down to buttons and labels. Photographs of garments and designs are stunning and included are many, many paper memorabilia and biographies of early Hawaiian textile designers.

Reading through this volume again on this hot summer day, I can almost hear the surf of the Pacific Ocean (nearly, as I am in a desert).  Or maybe it is this second tropical drink I am enjoying that reminds me of my visits.