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A lava-lava is an article of daily clothing traditionally worn by Polynesians and other Oceanic peoples. It consists of a single rectangular cloth worn as a skirt.Rhone, Rosamond Dobson. , National Geographic vol. 40, No. 1, 1921, pp. 559–590. The term lava-lava is both singular and plural in the Samoan language.

Customary use

Today the fashion remains common in Tonga, Independent Samoa, American Samoa, and parts of Melanesia and Micronesia. It is worn by men and women in uses from school uniforms to business attire with a suit jacket and tie. Many people of Oceanic ethnicity wear the lava-lava as an expression of cultural identity and for comfort within expatriate communities, especially in the United States (notably Hawai'i, California, Washington, and Utah), Australia, and New Zealand.


The lava-lava is secured around the waist by an overhand knotting of the upper corners of the cloth; women often tuck the loose ends into the waistband, while men usually allow them to hang in front. Women generally wear ankle-length lava-lava while men's wraps often extend to the knee or mid-calf depending on the activity or occasion.


In pre-contact times, the most prestigious lava-lava were made by wrapping the body in a ie toga with fine mats (finely woven textiles of pandanus leaves) or siapo (tapa cloth) pounded from paper mulberry or wild hibiscus bark. The Samoans also created lava-lava from traditional materials such as flower petals,...
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