Mother Hubbard dress
A Mother Hubbard dress is a long, wide, loose-fitting gown with long sleeves and a high neck. Intended to cover as much skin as possible, it was introduced by missionaries in Polynesia to "civilise" those whom they considered half-naked savages of the South Seas islands.
Although this Victorian remnant has disappeared elsewhere in the world, it is still worn by Pacific women, who have altered it into a gayer and lighter (less hot) garment, using cotton sheets, often printed in brightly coloured floral patterns.
In Samoa and Tonga, the design has taken on a two-piece form, with classic mother hubbard blouses (long, wide, loose-fitting with puffy sleeves) over ankle-length skirts, called "puletasi" and "puletaha," respectively.
In India and much of South Asia, these dresses are referred to as Housecoats. Indian women wear these dresses as a convenient apparel at home, particularly around only the family members when they are not expecting company. In the 1960s and 1970s many local women in Tarawa, Kiribati and a few i-matang women wore a garment which was referred to as a Mother Hubbard. Whilst the lower half of the body was covered with a wap-around (Lava-lava) or a skirt, the top half was worn a very loose low- necked blouse short enough to expose a band of flesh at the waist. The latter was usually worn without underclothes.
The author W. Somerset Maugham refers to this dress many times in his novels and short stories about the Pacific.
- The Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary with a Concise Hawaiian Grammar by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert, and Esther T. Mookini (1975), p 30. ISBN 0-8248-0307-8
- The Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary with a Concise Hawaiian Grammar by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert, and Esther T. Mookini (1975), p 111. ISBN 0-8248-0307-8
- Marshallese-English Dictionary: wau
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