Issue 7.5: October/November 2004

The Fabric of Aloha

by Liza Simon
photo by Jim Shea

Jacqueline Vienna with
her grandson Iakona.

Her business card advertises "custom aloha shirts made in forty-eight hours," but Jacqueline Vienna can actually whip out the signature hang loose garb of Hawaiian men’s wear in less than an hour. She guesstimates that she’s stitched up at least 10,000 shirts in the last thirty years—all the more amazing when you consider that her machine of choice is a 1937 Singer model that once belonged to the grandmother of another Garden Island seamstress.

Jacqueline sewed her first batch of aloha shirts for a Father’s Day celebration with her husband and two sons; today, while her collection has grown to encompasses kids’ and women’s wear and all manner of accessories (coasters, handbags, eyeglass holders), the aloha shirt remains her specialty. And she seems tailored to the task of getting men to explore their latent shopping side. "It’s amazing how fussy men get about their clothes once they’re given options and have a hand in designing their own shirt," says Jacqueline, whose beaming smile has long garnered Farrah Fawcett look-alike comments.

The seamstress, whose creations are branded with the Jacqueline of Kauai label, has just opened a new and

colorful-as-ever outlet in Hanapepe town. But perhaps the even bigger news emanating from her one-woman sewing circle these days is how busy she is filling orders for "Aloha Chicks." These are palm-sized stuffed toys, each one wrapped in a different swatch of aloha print and accompanied with a tiny legend about the good life of a chickadee on Kauai. Her insight on the tchotchke-chickadee explosion? She says it has to do with the real-life explosion of the wild chicken population on Kauai following Hurricane Iniki twelve years ago—bands of the roaming birds became a sentimental symbol of the post-storm recovery.

Jacqueline of Kauai
(808) 335-6477