Sarong History

Sarongs and Pareos are best known as the traditional dress of Bali and Tahiti. Long straight pieces of cloth are worn wrapped around the waist.

What’s the difference between a sarong and a pareo? Just the name, some other lesser known names for the sarong are the pakome of Thailand, the lava lava of Samoa, the kain of Indonesia and the canga of Brazil.

Early Tahitians brought their pareos to the Hawaiian islands and many of the traditional Tahitian pareo designs are still seen in modern prints. The earliest wraps from Indonesia were made using the batik process, similar processes are still used today’s batik prints.

The sarong became popular in the 1940s as beach attire, a trend started by Dorothy Lamour, who wore tropical sarongs in her portrayals of many a island heroine. Look for Dorothy’s sarongs in the 1936 film The Jungle Princess and The Road to Singapore from 1940. They emerged again in the 1980s when the basic wrapped and knotted shape was adopted for summer fashion.

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