Dressing Island Style – The Do’s and the Don’t’s


There are many books and TV shows from L.A. to New York, from Milan and then to Paris outlining every detail of fashion do’s and don’t’s to the very minute thread.  There is even a whole army of self appointed fashion police who critique celebrities and the rich and famous, sometimes brutally on what they wear.

I thought,  back home on Guam, who do you go to for fashion advice for island wear?  I thought of my family.  You should see how some my siblings and cousins dress! Joan Rivers would have them for dinner!  Of course, I found the answer. I should have known that it would come from my mother. She wrote about it in her column recently for the newspaper, The Pacific Edge.

Here it is for your education!   Remember once you learn it, to work it!


What is the difference between Chamorro Island Casual, Island Wear and Island Formal?

Ask  Joyce-August 15, 2008-The Pacific Edge


The Chamorros have gone through years of different modes of clothing style.


Quite a few of those who did research on Guamthrough Spanish recordings discovered Chamorros of the 1500s and earlier wore nothing except for special occasions. Women wore tifi, woven leaves which hung from the waist and garlands of jasmine and other flowers. Men wore cone shaped hats woven from coconut leaves. Written accounts indicated that tattoos and piercings had no place for the Chamorro people unlike other Pacific natives where this adornment was common.


In the 1600s, Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores got permission from King Philip IV and Queen Mariana de Austria to start a mission to Christianize the Chamorros. This was difficult because it caused conflicts with the leader, Maga’lahe Quipuha. Surprisingly, Chief Quipuha later converted to Catholicism and so did the Chamorros at that time. The conversion led to many changes and covering the body became paramount.


The Chamorros’ indoctrination to the latest styles continues to this day and age. The tropical weather lends to wearing relaxed and informal attire. One of the most prominent women attire was the Spanish-Filipino Mestiza, a long flowing flowered skirt, a camisole with a see-through puff-sleeve blouse.

After 300 years of Spanish rule, the Chamorros came under the United States, and then Japan when WWII began. Styles of clothing for each era continued to be influenced by the different cultures.


After the liberation, Guam became a territory of the U.S.and the Chamorros became U.S.citizens in 1950 under the Organic Act of Guam. The clothing styles of Chamorros were conservative. Later generations became influenced and continue to be influenced by styles coming from the U.S. and its neighboring Asian countries.


Now, for the sake of Protocol, here is an explanation of what it means when you received an invitation that specifies island casual, island wear, island formal, formal, and formal black tie. The Chamorros consider a nice slack for men and the flowered shirt as the norm for attire specified as island casual, island wear, and island formal. Women dress in a nice Sunday dress, cocktail dress, or long length dress, skirt or blouse. So, what is politically correct attire is what the person feels comfortable and has. The Chamorros knows what is beach or picnic attire, but for more formal functions will dress appropriately.


Island casual and island wear are very similar based on the occasion—nice dress, pantsuit, blouse and skirt; slacks for ladies; island shirt, golf shirt, slacks or shorts for men.


Island formal is long, island dress or other national dresses for ladies; long-sleeve shirt, sport coat, slacks or a summer suit for men.


Formal is ankle-length or short cocktail dress for ladies; dark suit with tie or the Filipino barong for men.


Formal black tie is long evening gown or ankle-length cocktail dress for ladies; black tie, tuxedo or dinner jacket for men.


During some occasions, national attire is often worn by the different ethnic group such as a long, island dress, Mestiza, kimono for ladies and Filipino barong or other for men.


The key is to be comfortable and remember we are on a laid-back island and styles differ. Unless it is a very formal event—this does not happen often—relax and enjoy your home away from home. If in doubt, please call me…I’ll be glad to help.



si Joyce I. Martratt







6 thoughts on “Dressing Island Style – The Do’s and the Don’t’s

  1. Hii joyce just wanted to know how much do u do your island dresses for im just looking around for a dress maker to make mine n my daughters dresses that we need before july this year or how much would u charge for the dresses to made-up n how long would it take too. please

  2. Should a haole man wear a navy or black tee shirt under an off-white barong for his friends’ island formal evening wedding cocktail reception at a hotel? What’s your phone number?

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