Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The everyday dress for a Samoan in a village is a t-shirt and an ie (pronounced e-a). An ie is nothing more than a few yards of brightly colored, patterned cloth. Ies can have turtles, kava bowls (wooden bowl used for mixing ava), flowers, or other designs on them and sometimes are hand painted. There are many different ways to tie and ie as well. Most of the time, the men will twist the ends around each other and tie in front or wrap the ie around the body and roll the top down as a sort of belt, while women usually wrap the ie around the body and tuck the ends in on the sides or tie a knot on the side. For more formal occasions, there is the ie faitaga and puletasi. Men wear the ie faitaga, a solid colored kilt made of higher quality material than a regular ie, has pockets, and also ties differently than a regular ie. This is worn with a button down shirt, usually patterned and bright. The puletasi is the Samoan woman’s dress. The top is fitted and the bottom is an ie lavalava, or long skirt you tie on. Again, it is brightly colored and patterned. I have one with turtles, one with breadfruit, one with flowers, and one with a more traditional Samoan pattern. I wear a white puletasi, complete with a really cute hat (pic to come later…it’s something you want to see, trust me), to church every Sunday. To me, the puletasi is really hot and uncomfortable. This is mostly because the lavalava is really long and goes from my ankles up to my chest. I usually roll it down some and that helps a bit, but it is still uncomfortable to me. Most villages have strict rules on clothing in the village. Most villages do not allow women to wear shorts while in the village center, an ie must be worn. Shoulders must also be covered for women. Men have more freedom in clothing, they can wear whatever. Villages have strict rules on hair as well. Most of the time, men are not allowed to have long hair or long beards. Women must have their hair in a single braid or in a bun. They let me wear my hair in a ponytail except when I am with the choir. Most of the dress requirements go back to the days of the Christian missionaries who came to Samoa and saw a bunch of people with basically no clothes on. Kinda funny how now palagi are the ones with little clothes on, wearing short shorts which cover not much more than the rear end, tank tops, and bikinis. Oh how times have changed in the palagi world! Apia is much more relaxed than the villages; I wear shorts there all the time. At first I didn’t, but when I see some Samoans in really short shorts, I think no one would take offence at my normal length shorts.

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