Things You Need to Know About Traditional Dress in Tahiti

Traditional Dress in Tahiti is a fascinating aspect of Polynesian culture that reflects the vibrant history and rich heritage of this paradise in the South Pacific. The traditional clothing of Tahiti is not just a form of attire; it’s a symbol of identity, history, and cultural significance. In this article, we will delve into the captivating world of Traditional Dress in Tahiti, exploring its history, styles, materials, and the cultural importance it holds for the Tahitian people.

Dress made of leaves-Traditional Dress in TahitiHistory of Traditional Dress in Tahiti

To truly appreciate Traditional Dress in Tahiti, one must understand its historical roots. Tahitian clothing has evolved over centuries, shaped by the influences of indigenous Polynesian culture and European colonialism. Before European contact, Tahitians primarily wore clothing made from natural materials such as bark cloth and leaves. These garments were not only functional but also intricately decorated with vibrant patterns, reflecting the island’s natural beauty.


However, with the arrival of European missionaries and traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, traditional Tahitian dress underwent significant changes. Missionaries encouraged modesty and introduced European-style clothing, which covered more of the body. Western fabrics like cotton and silk replaced traditional materials, and this transition marked a significant shift in Tahitian fashion.


Despite these changes, Tahitians have managed to preserve elements of their traditional dress. Today, Traditional Dress in Tahiti combines both ancient and modern influences, creating a unique and colorful tapestry of garments.

Styles of Traditional Dress in Tahiti

Traditional Dress in Tahiti includes a variety of styles, each with its own purpose and significance. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  • Pareo: The pareo is perhaps the most iconic Tahitian garment. It is a rectangular piece of fabric, similar to a sarong, that is wrapped and tied around the waist. Pareos come in a dazzling array of colors and patterns, often depicting local flora, fauna, or cultural motifs. They are versatile and can be worn as skirts, dresses, or even used as beach towels.
  • Tifaifai: Tifaifai is a form of quilting that is a vital part of Tahitian culture. Tifaifai quilts are meticulously handcrafted and feature intricate geometric patterns or floral designs. They are traditionally used as bedding or wall hangings but are also worn as clothing, especially during special ceremonies and celebrations.
  • Tapa Cloth: Tapa cloth is a traditional fabric made from the bark of certain trees. While it is not as commonly worn today, it holds significant cultural value. Tapa cloth is used for special occasions, ceremonies, and artistic displays. It is often adorned with symbolic motifs that tell stories of Tahitian mythology and history.
  • Hei: Hei refers to traditional adornments, such as flower crowns, shell necklaces, and other jewelry pieces made from natural materials like shells, pearls, and seeds. These accessories complement traditional attire and add a touch of elegance and authenticity to the overall look.
  • Tattoos: While not clothing per se, traditional Tahitian tattoos, known as tatau, play a vital role in Tahitian culture. Tattooing has been practiced for centuries in Tahiti and serves as a form of cultural expression and identity. Tattoos are often visible on various parts of the body, making them an integral part of the traditional aesthetic.

Materials Used in Traditional Dress

Traditional Dress in Tahiti relies on a variety of natural materials, reflecting the island’s lush environment. Some of the key materials used include:

  • Bark Cloth: Bark cloth, also known as tapa, is made from the inner bark of specific trees. It is softened, beaten, and decorated with pigments to create intricate designs. While less common today, it still holds cultural significance.
  • Natural Fibers: Traditional clothing often incorporates fibers from coconut husks, pandanus leaves, and hibiscus bark. These natural fibers are woven into fabrics and used for decorative purposes.
  • Cotton and Silk: With the influence of European colonialism, cotton and silk fabrics became more prevalent in Tahitian clothing. These materials offer comfort and durability while allowing for vibrant colors and patterns.

dance-Traditional Dress in TahitiCultural Significance

Traditional Dress in Tahiti is not merely about aesthetics; it carries deep cultural significance for the Tahitian people. It serves as a connection to their ancestors, a representation of their identity, and a symbol of their resilience in the face of colonialism. The garments and accessories worn during ceremonies, festivals, and dances tell stories of their history, mythology, and beliefs.


One of the most iconic uses of traditional attire is during Tahitian dance performances. The fast-paced, rhythmic dances showcase the beauty and grace of the dancers while highlighting the vibrant colors and patterns of their traditional dress. These dances are an integral part of Tahitian culture and are often performed at special occasions and cultural events.

Modern Adaptations

While Traditional Dress in Tahiti maintains its cultural significance, it has also adapted to modern times. Many Tahitians incorporate traditional elements into their daily attire, blending the old with the new. For example, a pareo may be worn casually with a T-shirt or tank top, and tifaifai quilts can be displayed as works of art in homes.


Furthermore, the tourism industry in Tahiti has led to an increased demand for traditional clothing as souvenirs. Visitors to the islands often purchase pareos, tifaifai quilts, and other traditional garments as mementos of their Tahitian experience. This has created economic opportunities for local artisans and craftspersons who continue to produce these items with care and skill.


Traditional Dress in Tahiti is a fascinating blend of history, culture, and artistry. From the iconic pareo to the intricate tifaifai quilts, these garments reflect the beauty and heritage of this tropical paradise. While modern influences have left their mark, traditional attire continues to hold deep cultural significance for the Tahitian people.


Exploring the world of Traditional Dress in Tahiti is a rewarding journey into the heart of Polynesian culture. Whether you’re planning a trip to Tahiti or simply want to appreciate the beauty of these garments, it’s an experience that will leave a lasting impression. So, embrace the vibrant colors, intricate designs, and cultural richness of Traditional Dress in Tahiti, and let it transport you to this enchanting destination.


If you’re eager to explore the wonders of Tahiti and experience its rich culture firsthand, Far and Away Adventures can help you plan your dream trip. Contact us today to start your journey to this tropical paradise and discover Traditional Dress in Tahiti for yourself.

Our Top FAQ's

Traditional Dress in Tahiti encompasses a range of clothing and accessories that reflect the cultural heritage of the Tahitian people.

Natural materials such as bark cloth, coconut fibers, and pandanus leaves, as well as cotton and silk fabrics, are commonly used in Tahitian clothing.

Traditional Dress in Tahiti has evolved due to influences from European colonialism, resulting in a blend of indigenous and modern elements.

Notable styles include the pareo, tifaifai quilts, tapa cloth, hei (adornments), and traditional tattoos (tatau).

Tahitian clothing serves as a connection to ancestry, an expression of identity, and a representation of Tahitian history and beliefs.

Traditional attire plays a vital role in Tahitian dance, enhancing the beauty and storytelling aspects of these cultural performances.

Modern adaptations have led to the incorporation of traditional elements into daily attire and increased demand for these garments as souvenirs.

Visitors to Tahiti can find traditional clothing in local markets, boutiques, and souvenir shops, providing an opportunity to take home a piece of Tahitian culture.

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