Monday, September 27, 2010

Samoan Attire 101: The Puletasi

I’ve accumulated a Samoan style wardrobe over the past year, and, recently, I’ve been dramatically adding to the number of puletasis that I own. I thought I would take a picture each time I wear one to show you the latest and greatest in Samoan fashions. It will be like our own fashion week runway show (but instead of leggy 5’ 11’ models you get me :) 
1. a woman’s formal wear outfit in the traditional Samoan culture. It consists of a top and long skirt. 
The first step to obtaining a puletasi is the acquisition of fabric. If you want to fit in, you should choose a loud, colorful print that makes you stand out in the crowd. 
If possible, try and find something that is not stiff and uncomfortable. Completing this step is highly unlikely so just go with what looks pretty.   
After you’ve picked up your fabric from the likes of Forsgrens or the Tuttu’ila store, make your way to your favorite sewing shop. There are about 40,000 on the island with a population of 65,000...okay, okay, an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Basically, sewing shops are like the mainland Starbucks- there is one on every corner. I prefer Athena’s Boutique which is not nearly as posh as it sounds. Athena’s is tucked into a corner of Steven & Sons (picture a ghetto convenient store, reduce the brand options, throw in some chicken in the parking lot). But don’t let it’s drab look fool you, this 2 seamstress enterprise is quite the quality place. A puletasi will cost you $27($2 higher than the going rate elsewhere but the end result is worth it). 
Explain to the seamstress what you would like (or draw it out if your like me). Samoan’s get all sort of fancy necklines and trim that you would typically only see on tacky version of Project Runway. Ugly you may think....I did too when I first arrived...but the peculiars of the Samoan fashion will go on you after a few cold coconuts. 
The seamstress will then measure you, and let you identify all the particulars: the width of the neck, the length of the skirt, the length of the sleeve. One week later and badda boom, badda bag: you have a puletasi!
The bottom is a simple wrap skirt, and they are usually floor length. I mean who wants to stay cool in this tropical weather?! Traditionally the sleeve reach to mid upper-arm, but if your a palagi like me and like a bit of comfort, you would have a cap sleeve. The top zips up the back (unlike any US construction), and if you are a Samoan woman you would order it to fit 3 sizes too small so you basically bust out the seams. Ladies have you every heard of flattering your figure? 
Despite the usually stiff and uncomfortable fabric, I’ve come to love the puletasi. Samoans love to see me embracing the culture, and if I dawn the garb I usually get enough compliments to inflate the ego a bit. The best thing? They rave about how skinny I am! Me? Skinny? Not usually the description I get. I’m petite and certainly not fat, but I definitely can’t wear a bandaid for a belt. Oh, how I will miss Samoa when I return to the land of 6’ 100lbs models. I really prefer the preferences of Samoan beauty :) 
And without further ado, I present to you today’s puletasi... Stay tuned for your next Samoan Attire lesson! 


  1. Very nice - most of what I've seen you wear has the floral bottom and a plain top. Your latest creation is nice as it blends both top and bottom. You can wear this to Thai Cottage when you come home.

  2. i love this! everyone can be a fashion designer on that island :)

  3. I like the pulatasi, looking good.

    I think your next one should be pink, green, and yellow with glitter in the print and have the big poofy shoulders. Those ones are the coolest.

  4. Jubilee! I miss you! And, yes, EVERYONE can be a fashion designer in Samoa! :)

    Kate.. this was actually the puletasi Taylor left behind! You recognize?
    I think I will get the pink, green, yellow glitter number made! It sounds FANTABULOUS! With the poofs everyone will think I'm a Matai's wife! tee hee

  5. That is a beautiful outfit, and your beauty dazzles in this outfit. Truly lovely!

  6. go to steven and son cause they have a good seamstress named rowena gutierrez ! ! !

  7. Just an FYI. The ie or skirt, should be a little longer. but all in all...pretty =0)

  8. where did you get the beautiful fabric used for the puletasi?

  9. awesome stuff 10/10

  10. The top looks very nice on you but the skirt should not pucker and should come to the top of your feet. With these changes it would be a very nice puletasi. I wasn't too happy with the condescending and judgmental comments though.