Sulu (skirt)

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Guard at the Fiji presidential palace

A sulu is a kilt-like garment worn by men and women in Fiji since colonisation in the nineteenth century. It was originally imported by missionaries coming from Tonga in this time period and was worn by Fijians to indicate their conversion to Christianity. It is now regarded as Fiji's national dress[1] even though pre-colonial Fijian traditional clothing consisted of clothing such as the malo and the liku.[2]

It consists of a rectangle of cloth of varying length, between below-knee and ankle-length, wrapped around the hips and legs and traditionally fastened by tying at the waist. Modern men's sulus may be fastened with buckles.[3]

Women's casual or everyday sulus are known as sulu-i-ra, and more elegant full-length ones for dressy occasions as sulu jaba.[4] Men's sulus are known as sulu vakataga.

Tailored sulus with pockets are commonly worn as part of Fijian men's business and formal wear,[4][5][6] with shirt and sandals and optionally western-style jacket and tie. In certain situations, such as entering a church, wearing a sulu is seen as respectful.[7] Tailored sulus also feature in police and military uniforms.[8] Official uniform sulus come to below the knees and feature a distinctive zigzag hem.

In Fiji the sulu is seen as an expression of ethnic Fijian identity. While wearing a sulu is often mandatory for Fijians in certain settings,[9][10] members of other ethnicities are sometimes discouraged from wearing it.[11]


  1. ^ "Clothing and dress in Fiji". Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  2. ^ Brewster, Adolph (1922). The Hill Tribes of Fiji. London: Seeley. p. 25.
  3. ^ Sitiveni Rabuka (2007-05-27). "Sukuna and native land". Fiji Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  4. ^ a b "Skirts for men, or everything you always wanted to know about the sulu". 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  5. ^ Frederica Elbourne (2012-10-05). "Get ready for the sale". Fiji Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  6. ^ "People & Culture of Fiji Islands". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  7. ^ Tamara McLean (2009-08-18). "Tiny Fijian island bans men's pants on Sundays". Perth Now. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  8. ^ Nicholas D. Kristof (1987-05-23). "Fiji army returns to barracks in political accord". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  9. ^ "Media dress code mooted". Fiji Times. 2007-04-12. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  10. ^ Serafina Silaitoga (2010-10-15). "T-shirt ban on women". Fiji Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  11. ^ Theresa Ralogaivau (2010-02-06). "Sulu uproar". Fiji Times. Retrieved 2013-11-01.