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How Hawaiian Dresses & Shirts are Made

At AlohaFunWear.com, we are proud of to sell authentic Hawaiian clothing that is made in Hawaii. Despite relentless pressure from foreign manufactures, most of our Hawaiian shirts and dresses are still made in Hawaii just as they have been since the 1930s. By understanding the effort that goes into making each item of clothing, we hope you gain a new appreciation for your new Hawaiian dress or shirt.

"Made in Hawaii" Hawaiian clothing manufacturing process in Hawaii today

The process starts with the Hawaiian shirt pattern. The pattern consists of precisely cut cardstock cutouts of the different pieces of the shirt such as the sleeves, collar, pocket, and the main body. At a glance, most Hawaiian shirts look pretty much the same, but in reality, each manufacturer has different dimensions and features such as the number of buttons, collar size, sleeve length, overall shirt length, and many other parameters.

Another other key component to the Hawaiian shirt is the fabric. Graphic artists specializing in shirt designs often start by doing rough sketches on a computer (sometimes even on a sheet of paper) before refining them for presentation to a prospective customer. The skill and experience of the artist is especially important in making sure the beginning and end of a design is not distinguishable as the pattern repeats. This is crucial for border design and engineered shirts. 

There are two kinds of prints, confined and open. Confined prints are typically owned exclusively by each shirt or dress manufacturer. Open prints are usually owned by the fabric manufacturer or importer and are available for any shirt maker. It is not uncommon for one manufacturer to copy another's designs with just enough difference to be legal. The successful shirt manufacturers invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in their own confined prints, sometimes much more, and are naturally fiercely protective of their intellectual property.

Once a print is approved, it is printed and delivered on rolls to the manufacturer for cutting. Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of layers of different prints are rolled out onto a long cutting table. The different pattern pieces are laid out on top of a sheet of paper and traced. A technician carefully cuts layers simultaneously with an extremely sharp electric knife. A slight mistake in this step could render the entire batch useless, resulting in a loss worth thousands of dollars. Needless to say, it pays to have a very skilled operator.

Once all the sections are cut, they are bundled together and sent out to sewing companies. After a few days or weeks, depending on the time of the year and the productivity of the contractor, the nearly completed Hawaiian shirts and dresses  are returned to the manufacturer for a few final steps. Some sewing companies will deliver finished and ironed shirts to the manufacturer, while others deliver semi-finished shirts without buttons. A special machine resembling a sewing machine is used to create the holes and apply the buttons to the shirt. 

Once these freshly made Aloha shirts are complete, they are ready to begin the journey to the customers. Some manufacturers send their shirts to stores in Waikiki or other tourist destinations in Hawaii, while others send them to different department stores. In our case, the shirts are prepped in our facility and shipped out to our waiting customer around the world. 

Most of our Hawaiian clothing is made this way right here in Hawaii. Although the local manufacturers are facing strong pricing pressure from foreign-made shirts, we believe there is something special about a genuine Hawaiian shirt with the "Made in Hawaii" label. A healthy dose of Aloha goes into each and every shirt we sell and it is this Aloha spirit that we want to share with all of you. So the next time you put on your Hawaiian shirt from us, you will know the story of how that shirt was made.


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hawaiian dress patters
Hawaiian dress pattern

hawaiian fabric layers rolled out
Rolling out layers of fabric for cutting

cutting hawaiian shirt parts
Electric knife cutting through dozens of layers of fabric

hawaiian shirt button machine
Hawaiian shirt button sewing machine