Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Waltah Clarke's Hawaiian Shops

That summer afternoon I spent in Copenhagen gave me the perfect excuse to wear my new 1950's Waltah Clarke's Hawaiian Shops kapa print dress.

Now, you may ask, "who is Waltah Clarke?" Fair enough...unless you're a nut for vintage Hawaiian dresses like I am, I don't expect that brand to ring a bell. Well, here's a little bit of Hawaii fashion history!

Walter Clarke was a transplant (as we from Hawai'i call them) from Los Angeles who came to Hawai'i in 1938 and later opened aloha wear shops in the United States in the 1950's. At the time Hawai'i was a trendy theme, and Waltah's shops brought Americans the aloha wear that they would usually buy while on vacation in Hawai'i right to them, no cruise ship tickets required!

Walter got his Hawaiian-style name thanks to the Hawaiian Pidgin-speaking beachboys of Wakiki who pronounced his name as "Waltah." Those beachboys he befriended were musicians as well, and in 1963 he, along with Hawaii's most famous beachboy, olympic medalist, and founder of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku released an album, Beachboy Party with Waltah Clarke. If you're curious, you can listen to the album on Spotify!

He met his wife Gretchen while she was on vacation, and together they built up the company he founded to include a total of 31 stores from Hawai'i to Chicago. Gretchen was responsible for the designs, and she introduced mini mu'umu'us in the 1960s, keeping aloha wear relevant to contemporary fashions. Waltah Clarke's Hawaiian Shops closed down in the 1980's.

But Waltah's still lives on in the amazing pieces still available. Here are some of the amazing pieces I've been lusting after on Etsy!

Do you have an awesome piece from Waltah's? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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