The history of the sarong: the origin of the typical Polynesian summer wear

Born in Polynesia and arrived in the West in the 1930s. The sarong has always been a symbol of style associated with the sea. Sanctified by the divas of the 60s and revived by the supermodels of the 90s, this skirt unisex it positions itself as light and sensual summer wear. Its history, how to choose it and how to wear the most fashionable models of the moment.

Life&People magazine

Typical clothes of Polynesia

The history of this garment originates in the golden sands of the Pacific seas. Islands such as Polynesia and all the archipelagos adjacent to it are the cradle where pareo originated and established itself as typical clothing and everyday use by the local population. Worn by both men and women, and characterized by natural materials such as cotton fiber or viscose derived from cellulose, the sarong is a rectangle of fabric of very bright hues and colors that is tied at the waist in a knot, usually at the side, from the opening more or less deep lateral slit. Flowers, plants, geometric textures symbolizing the local flora and fauna are just some of the typical embroideries of these clothes, embroidery and patterns that are still present on the sarongs we wear on the beach.

Life&People Magazine The sarong, given the extremely lightweight materials it was and still is made from, is a garment that can be worn in the water as well. Although it came into Western culture as a “cover-up”, the original Polynesian pareo was worn by indigenous men as comfortable clothing for fishing in shallow water or on rafts.

Boom 80s

West discovered it skirt unisex In the late 1930s, when John Ford’s The Hurricane, set on an island in the South Pacific, starred actress Dorothy Lamour as the beautiful Marama, a local woman with exotic charm. About twenty years later, after a real boom in exotic musical comedies, the sarong was cleared through customs, and in the 60s, movie stars wore it during luxurious holidays in the most exclusive seaside resorts. The high fashion initiation came in the early 80s when Yves Saint Laurent immortalized Somali supermodel Iman in a long rectangle of fabric worn like a sarong.

pareo sea history \ Life&People Magazine From that moment on, the twenties 80-90 recorded a real boom, so much so that it became a must-have beach accessory for men and women. In the 90s, the success of this summer clothing was supported by celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Cameron Diaz, clearly influenced, in turn, by Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni and Cindy Crawford, supermodels discovered and made cult thanks to Gianni Versace in the golden years on the catwalks. Even actors like Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt are fans of the sarong, demonstrating that the garment is completely genderless.

Summer models: long and sensual

Today, among the most beloved and sought-after models, of course, is the long sarong. This is a skirt of important sizes, which falls smoothly and sensually on the legs, reaching just above the ankle. The long, sensual (and modular) slit leaves room for jeweled sandals and wedges. Paired with flat sandals or Friulian shoes, the long sarong is as versatile as a skirt, yet modular; classic beach sarong.

If you choose pastel and summer shades such as blue, green, white and pink, it goes perfectly with any tank top. For a more nautical look, you can opt for a fringed sarong. The sinuous movement of the fringe at the legs and ankles will make the look extremely sensual, making this garment also suitable for events such as sunset parties and beach parties.


More structured fabrics, sandblasted colors and floral textures are typical of ethnic-inspired sarongs. Inspired perhaps more by African than Polynesian culture, the ethnic pareo is a mat that pairs well with casual or elegant occasions. Paired with tone-on-tone raffia sandals and exotic design jewels, possibly handcrafted, this piece of clothing has the power to transform a simple look into an outfit with ethno-chic appeal that will certainly not go unnoticed.

pareo sea history \ Life&People Magazine


For those who don’t want to wear too long skirts and want to show off their legs and tan instead, the midi pareo is the right compromise between midi length and sophisticated elegance. This knotted skirt in full prints, from animalic to floral or abstract textures, requires minimal footwear and perhaps a matching linen shirt worn unbuttoned with a monochrome top, or a crochet sweater in soft tones like ivory or light brown.

pareo sea history \ Life&People Magazine

Super short

2000s-inspired super short pareo in chiffon and veil: a real icon of summer. Made in any color shades, it is worn exclusively in seaside areas, on beaches and beaches. Long or short, with or without fringes, sarong skirt it is a bold choice, able to perfectly combine style and originality in accordance with summer trends.

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