The idea of hosting a fashion show came about after I heard a PIU student extolling the beauty of "the latest" Chuukese skirts. I couldn't see what the fuss was about. At first glance, the skirts looked the same as they always had--same floral cut-outs, same tea-length, and same cotton or nylon fabric. As the students attempted to explain last year's fashion, the fashion of four years ago, and the latest fashion, I suggested we have a night where they could bring the skirts and actually demonstrate the differences for me. I also asked them to explain to me the rules around what they could wear and when. Well, one thing led to another, and eventually we decided we'd have a fashion show in the large classroom at PIU. I'd bring the dessert and drinks, and they'd do the rest. As seems to be consistently true of our Micronesian students, they amazed me with their creativity and ability to provide quality entertainment. Undoubtedly, the students more than took care of "the rest." They had arranged the chairs so there was a long runway proceeding from a set of double doors, they located some special colored spotlights, and hooked up a sound system so that the entire event was narrated by an emcee. Additionally, they had music coordinated throughout the entire show. Not only did they show the latest in Chuukese skirts, they paraded mu mus, "sports-wear," and traditional wear from the Chuuk State islands of Satawal, Puluwat, Faichuuk, Weno, and Bafeng. It was during the showing of traditional clothing that I understood the need for locked doors and attentive sentinels! (Think styles similar to what Adam and Eve would have worn!)
Below I have posted some select photos. I had to be quite discriminating because I didn't want to inadvertently expose a student's knee, a part of the body that most our students are not comfortable publicly revealing. Guess you should have been present to get the full showing! :-)
How Chuukese fashion-astute are you? Below is a picture of Chuukese skirts in various levels of fashionableness. Can you arrange them in order from least to most fashionable? (The answer is at the bottom of this article).
The picture below is what females wear while playing sports! It is a skirt (worn with an underskirt so as to ensure no chance of it being seen through). Then comes a t-shirt. Over the t-shirt is a skirt tucked into itself forming a type of "tube top." Just imagine how hot this must be! (Remember Chuuk is about 7 degrees above the equator and thus ALWAYS blistering hot.)
Mu mus are worn to church and all other formal events.
Skirts are "every day wear" and are worn while cleaning, fishing, playing sports, bathing, swimming, etc. They are considered casual--no matter how "fancy," and therefore not appropriate for church or special occasions.
Traditionally, and even now on many of the islands, women go topless. But, showing one's leg (Knee and above) is taboo! This picture is of a traditional skirt woven and currently worn for special events (e.g. an inauguration) on the island of Puluwat. (It felt like the heavy weaving found in Mexican serapes. Unfortunately, the student was unable to explain the materials used to make it). It is worn as a wrap around and, therefore, it must be very hot to wear. However, when you wear this skirt, you do not wear a top so perhaps that compensates?!
* Answer to the order of which skirts are most stylish: The most sylish are on the left, moving to the least stylish on the far right.