Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii, 1885-1941

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University of Hawaii Press, Feb 1, 1995 - Social Science - 272 pages

Between 1886 and 1924 thousands of Japanese journeyed to Hawaii to work the sugarcane plantations. First the men came, followed by brides, known only from their pictures, for marriages arranged by brokers. This book tells the story of two generations of plantation workers as revealed by the clothing they brought with them and the adaptations they made to it to accommodate the harsh conditions of plantation labor. Barbara Kawakami has created a vivid picture highlighted by little-known facts gleaned from extensive interviews, from study of preserved pieces of clothing and how they were constructed, and from the literature. She shows that as the cloth preferred by the immigrants shifted from kasuri (tie-dyed fabric from Japan) to palaka (heavy cotton cloth woven in a white plaid pattern on a dark blue background) so too their outlooks shifted from those of foreigners to those of Japanese Americans.

Chapters on wedding and funeral attire present a cultural history of the life events at which they were worn, and the examination of work, casual, and children's clothing shows us the social fabric of the issei (first-generation Japanese). Changes that occurred in nisei (second-generation) tradition and clothing are also addressed.

The book is illustrated with rare photographs of the period from family collections.


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Wedding Attire
Mens Work Clothing
Womens Work Clothing
Work Accessories for Men and Women
Casual Wear
Funeral Attire
Preservation and Care of Clothing

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Page 241 - The fashion dictionary: fabric, sewing, and dress as expressed in the language of fashion.
Page xv - I interviewed for this book are listed in the Sources section at the end of the book.
Page xvi - I wish to express my deep appreciation to the staff of the University of...
Page xv - It is impossible to name all of the people who helped me in this limited space.
Page xv - I have benefited greatly from the advice and help of many, many people; without their assistance it would not have been possible to produce this book.

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About the author (1995)

Barbara F. Kawakami (nee Oyama) was born in Japan in 1921 and immigrated to Hawaii with her family when she was three months old. She learned to sew at a young age, and for thirty-eight years was a dressmaker a profession she continued after marriage while raising a family of three children. At age fifty-three, she entered college and earned a BS in fashion design and merchandising, and later an MA in Asian studies. Ms. Kawakami has been a researcher, writer, and consultant for a number of projects, including the film Picture Bride, released by Miramax Pictures in 1994. Her award-winning book, Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885 1941, was published in 1993.

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