Saturday, June 20, 2015

Design Your Own Sulu Jaba

"You need a sulu jaba for next Friday"

That doesn't sound like it should be terrifying or stressful, but it was! We were recently arrived in Suva and my husband's office was welcoming him with a traditional ceremony. I love parties, but I didn't have the right clothes.... and didn't know how to get them.

One of my husband's coworkers took me to a couple of fabric stores and we chose a fabric that was neither too thick nor too thin. The print wasn't too dark or too light. And then the coworker had to go back to work. Before she left we tried to find a tailor, but none of them could finish my sulu jaba in time for the event.

*deep breath*

I had the name of a woman in the flea market and I found her stall only to find she couldn't finish within the week. She gave me the name of another seamstress who also was booked. I felt like Mary and Joseph going from one inn to another only to be turned away. Finally I came to the last aisle and the last stall and found a seamstress that could sew the sulu jaba in a week's time, just in time for my deadline.

And it was ok. The fabric was comfortable and I felt fine.



the sulu jabas that I saw on the women in town were so beautiful! In passing I would hear others comment on the Samoan print or how traditionally Fijian another sulu jaba was. Everything looked tropical to me, I wanted to know how they could tell the fabrics apart, I wanted a sulu jaba that felt designed, and not just sewn!

A few months went by and I started to meet people. I also started to put together activities, and one of them was a Sulu Jaba Design excursion. This is what I sent out:

Sulu Jaba Excursion. $30 + cost of material, price includes a custom made sulu jaba made from the material you choose (material is purchased separately). The April meeting of the American Women's Association is scheduled for Thursday, April 30 at noon in the US Embassy. What better way to welcome our new US Ambassador Judith Cefkin to her post in Fiji than with a friendly Bula Vinaka from the women of AWA in our festive bula wear? A Sulu Jaba is the traditional Fijian two piece outfit. It consists of a fitted tunic over an ankle length skirt in matching or coordinating fabric. The most traditional sulu jabas are made of 100% cotton and have a knee length top over the ankle length wrap skirt. Modern interpretations are limited only by your imagination and the skill of your tailor. This month's activity has two parts: first we'll visit a fabric shop guided by a local designer. At the fabric shop we'll learn about different natural and synthetic fibers and how they affect the weight and drape of a material. We'll also learn about Pacific Island design motifs and how the repeat of the pattern affects your buying decisions. Our guide will help you select a sulu jaba design that fits your personal sense of style and help you select a fabric that will work well with your chosen pattern. Your sulu jaba will be ready in 7 days, you'll arrange for a fitting and pickup date during your initial visit. Your fee of $30 includes your trip to the fabric store, design consultation, and the sewing of your sulu jaba. Material is purchased separately. You can also bring 4.5 meters of your own fabric to have your sulu sewn. Please note that the $30 cost does not include the cost of the fabric. If you're interested, please respond by email with your name and your cell phone number. If there is still space available you will receive a confirmation email with details about how to prepare for your visit and our meeting point. Space is very limited, so please RSVP quickly if you plan to join us for this outing.

First we met at a local fabric shop to choose a fabric:

Rosie Semisi, a local designer, met us at the store and taught us about the different prints. She also helped us visualize how these prints would look once made into a sulu jaba.

Then Rosie custom designed sulu jabas:

We met for fittings
Picked up the finished sulu jabas

And then we wore them to the US Embassy in April 

This definitely turned out better than my first sulu jaba design adventure.

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