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How to Make a Maori Costume

New Zealand's stunning landscape is accompanied by equally striking native culture.
Cape Reinga, New Zealand image by Oren Sarid from Fotolia.com

The Maori people are the proud indigenous people of what is now New Zealand. Their time on the island dates back to the 13th century, according to the Maori Cultural website. Their clothing is made of cloth as well as flax leaves, known as harakeke. Accessories are often made from traditional materials such as shells, jade and feathers. However, one of the most distinctive aspects of Maori costume is the ta moko, or the sacred tattoos that they use to adorn their bodies.

New Zealand's stunning landscape is accompanied by equally striking native culture.
Cape Reinga, New Zealand image by Oren Sarid from Fotolia.com

Things You'll Need:

  • Woven Spaghetti-Strap Dress (Women)
  • 5 Yards Flat Woven Cord
  • 100 Rolled Flax Leaves
  • Black Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Sandals
  • Paper Towels
  • Black Liquid Eyeliner
  • Accessories Of Your Choice
  • Fabric Glue
  • Dark-Colored Shorts (Men)

Cut the flat cord in half and lay one horizontally in front of you. Beginning about three feet from the end of the cord, place the ends of the flax leaves underneath or on top of the cord, alternating the position with the addition of each new leaf. When you are finished, it will look as though the waistband has been woven. When all of the flax leaves have been put in place, dab a tiny drop of the fabric glue onto the places where fabric and leaf meet. Let set to dry.

Line up the second cord with the edges of the first cord and repeat the weaving process. This time, however, alternate the weaving pattern. If the cord was on the underside in Step 1, then the second cord will go on the outside. Place a small dab of fabric glue between the leaves and the cord once more to hold everything in place. Let it set until it dries, then test its integrity.

Lay the flax skirt, known as a piupiu in the Maori language, on top of some paper towels. Using the paint and paintbrush, paint horizontal stripes across the flax leaves. Stripes are common designs for Maori piupius because the movement of the stripes looks very impressive when the wearer is dancing. Each stripe should be about 3/4 of an inch thick with an inch between each stripe.

The ta moko is a very important and sacred part of a Maori individual's appearance. The intricate patterns are tattooed by means of a chisel and ink; this leaves the skin textured afterwards. Women often bear the markings on their lips and chin while men can have them over their entire face and body. For examples, please see Maori Tattoo in References. These patterns can be temporarily replicated using liquid eyeliner, which has a thin, precise brush. Paint your chosen design.

Place your flax skirt over the woven dress or shorts. Maori women tend to wear brightly-colored dresses while men often wear nothing above the waist when in traditional dress. Wrap the puipui around your waist, tying the cords together at the side. With sandals and traditional jewellery, the costume is complete.


Flax leaves can be purchased or ordered from most flower shops.

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