Style Guide

Gone Tiki: Aloha Fashion Through The Ages

Half the fun of the new tiki revival is dressing the part. Here's how to find the paradise-inspired outfit that's right for you.

By Brittanie Shey July 24, 2015

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Hawaiian labels. Photo courtesy Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White. 

Texas Tiki Week starts August 2, and even though all the events so-far announced are taking place in Austin, that doesn't mean you can't celebrate at Lei Low, Double Trouble or any of the other Houston bars serving Polynesian-inspired punches.

Part of the fun of tiki is dressing up. And one of the best things about Polynesian Pop fashion is that there is a style for every era and body type, whether you're into the bombshell look of the 1950s or the boho look of the '70s. You don't even have to scour vintage stores—many small clothiers are making vintage-inspired reproductions to capitalize on the tiki revival.

Here's your guide to finding an island style that fits your own. [Note: When possible, we've listed Texas sellers of awesome vintage and vintage-inspired clothing.]

1950s: The Original Tiki Look


Look for tropical prints in the following styles:

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    Elvis in Alfred Shaheen

    Full circle skirts or wiggle dresses. Check out My Flaming Heart for options.
  • Halter tops are almost universally flattering.
  • If you're looking for less fabric (because Texas summers), sarong-inspired styles were popular, as were playsuits. Here's a gorgeous (but pricey) sarong dress from Etsy. Here's a more modest shirtdress with an interesting neckline.
  • Hair, makeup and accessories: Victory rolls, pompadours and ponytails, red lipstick, cat-eye. Any kind of jewelry made of Bakelite.


  • Bowling- or guayabera-inspired button-up shirts. Remember, we were still friends with Cuba in the 1950s.
  • Pair a guayabera with linen pants for a cool summer look. For men, the 1950s look was slightly more toned down, with only one or two graphical elements.
  • Look for anything made by Alfred Shaheen, who made famously designed the shirt Elvis wore in Blue Hawaii.
  • Some mens' shirts were made with coconut-shell buttons.
  • Hair and accessories: Clean-shaven with a Panama hat. Old-fashioned Ray-Bans.
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1960s shift dress via Etsy

1960s: Tiki Goes Mod


  • Tropical patterns transition into more geometric designs with acid colors.
  • Skirts get shorter, more A-line as opposed to flared. Bikinis get smaller. Basically, everyone uses less fabric, except for waterfall backs. Because what's paradise without a waterfall?
  • Bell sleeves, empire waists and boatnecks take the place of shirtdresses and halters.
  • Hair, makeup and accesories: Pixies, bobs or boufants. Baby pink lipstick. The cat-eye never goes out of style though. Jewelry gets bigger, more architectural.


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Same rules apply as for women.

  • The aloha shirt enters peak awesomeness. The uglier the colors and the bigger the pattern, the better. Go for psychedelic.
  • Barkcloth also enters peak awesomeness.
  • Two words: cabana suit.
  • Hair and accessories: Hair can be a little longer, but don't start growing those sideburns out just yet.

1970s: Tiki Goes Boho

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Floral caftan via Etsy.


Everything old is new again.

  • Halter tops are back, this time with plunging necklines instead of sweethearts.
  • Hemlines get longer as maxi dresses come into style. Polyester replaces cotton and rayon. Pantsuits aren't out of the question.
  • Caftans hide a multitude of sins.
  • Hair, makeup and accessories: Fake tans, fake ponytails, fake nails.


  • Sleeves get shorter (3/4s) while collars get bigger.
  • Sears sold a line of men's clothing in their catalog that was made in Hawaii, called Iolani Executive. Here's an awesome baby-blue Iolani short with lace panels and an embroidered tiki that harkens back to the 1950s styles.
  • Or maybe you'll get lucky and find a tapa cloth-inspired blazer.
  • Hair and accessories: Sideburns, white polyester pants, white shoes. Basically, you want to look like Jack Lord.

1980s: The Dark Ages of Tiki

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Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.


  • Tribal patterns and batik take over from florals, unfortunately.
  • Dress designs get more simple. Think muumuus, sack dresses and sundresses.
  • Shorts and button-up shirt sets take the place of dresses.
  • Hair, makeup and accessories: Feathered hair, pastel makeup.


  • Polyester gets thinner. Mustaches get thicker.
  • Pastels. For the love of God.
  • Everything was a bad copy of what was popular in the '40s and '50s.
  • Hair and accessories: Body hair and lots of it. Either on the chest or on the lip.
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