Tropic of Awesome


Joining Netflix has randomly resulted in a fixation on Hawaiian-print
summer dresses. Let me explain.

You see, it started when I innocently rented the documentary Home
by Chris Smith (who made American Movie in 1999). The
film visits several eccentric types in their very eccentric homes. One
of the subjects is Linda Beech, an American who starred in a Japanese
sitcom in the ’60s and now lives in a tree house in a remote Hawaiian
jungle and speaks to the trees and river in Hawaiian. Ms. Beech, who
might be the coolest person ever, is wearing a green-on-green
ensemble—graphic lime green flower silhouettes on a jade
background. This is the sort of Hawaiian I’m talking about—large
printed hibiscuses with no detail, just big, bright solids.

Out of nostalgia, I had also added Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, my
favorite show from childhood, to my “queue.” My Hawaiian concept for the
summer really took shape when I got to episode four, in which Pee-Wee
wins two tickets to a Hawaiian restaurant and can’t decide who to take.
When the big night rolls around, all of his (non-puppet) friends show up
decked out in luau costume, falling all over poor Pee-Wee to get the
invite. This includes Pee-Wee’s hunky pool-boy, who looks like he might
be Hawaiian, in short, flower-printed swim trunks and a lei. Most
inspired, though, was the fat lady, who wore a fantastic multicolored
muumuu. Really, it was her time to shine.

This summer, one can see a similar aesthetic, shape-wise (did you hear?
It’s OK to wear a muumuu, especially if you’re not a fat lady),
and textile-wise—a subgroup of the overwhelming Bohemian trend, it
seems. A.P.C. made a
killing on flower
printed frocks and tunics
in brown, purple, or yellow, on white
(the remaining few are now on sale). And Eres did
bikinis with bold palm leaves and flowers on solid backgrounds. Of
course, so did Old Navy.

They have gotten it perfectly right, too, with white hibiscuses, some
only outlines and others solid, on a red or black background. The first
step in realizing my Hawaii dream was to spend 40 minutes ravaging the
shelves for two parts in my size (each about $12). For boys, Quiksilver
has board shorts in a print called “Air Hawaii” which have
hibiscuses sprinkled on a very plain background. Better is the “Private Eyes” print,
which has heavily-stylized, over-sized palm leaves and hibiscuses

Beyond beachwear, I learned quickly that one’s best bet is vintage. Last
week, at the opening party for 6 Centre
Market Place
, a brand new
vintage store in Nolita, partners Morgan Yakus and Karin Bereson had a
few drool-worthy luau looks for sale. It was almost too much to decide:
a red-brown smocked sundress with white flowers and some orange detail,
or a grape-purple tent dress with huge pink flowers and bell sleeves?

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