What is a Muumuu?

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  • Written By: Y. Chen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 December 2019
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A muumuu is a loose-fitting dress of Hawaiian origin that is usually printed in bright colors and floral patterns. It is designed to hang from the shoulder and does not have a waistband or any other form-fitting features, causing it to appear bell-shaped when worn. Expecting mothers, plus-sized individuals and others often choose to wear a muumuu because the dress provides a comfortable, roomy fit.

The shape of the muumuu is largely derived from the Mother Hubbard dress, so named because of its intent to show off the least amount of skin, making the person appear to have the conservative values of a grandmother. Missionaries first introduced the muumuu to the Polynesians in an attempt to civilize them, since they considered it savage for the natives to be walking around half-naked in their indigenous South Seas island environment. The Polynesians only did so because of the constantly pacific climate, but the missionaries found it primitive. They introduced the billowy, loose-fitting muumuu with a high neckline and long sleeves made with heavy, monotonous fabric as the standard dress code instead. Characteristic of this type of apparel are the yoke, which is an additional layer around the neckline, and the train, the part of a muumuu that the wearer trails behind.


The traditional-style muumuu is now considered a Victorian artifact that is only worn by women in the Pacific islands. However, because of the warm climate, they have changed the fabric to lighter material, namely cotton, and also printed them in vibrantly colored flower patterns of basic Polynesian motifs. Furthermore, the muumuu does not have a yoke and a train like the Mother Hubbard dress does, which makes them easier to craft.

Because of its penchant toward making its wearer appear to have no figure, the muumuu has long been considered a “don’t” in the fashion industry, despite attempts to bring the look to the runway. Many who consider themselves fashion-conscious call it “figure-obliterating” and a “potato sack.” However, muumuus are still pronounced an appropriate fashion choice for the plus-sized individual. For the average figure, fashionistas have recommended modifying the dress shape through shrinking, tailoring, and accessorizing with belts to accentuate the waist.


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