What are you looking for in a pareo? Color? Fabric? Softness? Design? Label? Size? Price?
All these questions are in material (pun intended).
You can make it as easy or as complicated as you want and we’ll try to outline some advantages and disadvantages of each.
Many of the pareos on the streets of Tahiti are of a polyester/cotton blend. It’s less expensive and an easy solution for local handicrafter needs. The wide availability of the raw fabric allows many to purchase and create their own designs. Many use methods of dying the fabric and adding natural motifs that have been passed down from older generations. Others create new designs, add tatau motifs and modern twists. These pareos are the most common.
Pros: less expensive, easily available (in Tahiti), traditional, handmade, lasts long
Cons: less soft
Many people nowadays have more sensitive skin. 100% cotton pareos allow for those with this issue. Of all the different kinds of pareos, the cotton ones breathe the best. They help keep you cool in hot environments. Cost is still less than other premium fabrics. Most cotton pareos have serged edges, a minimal edging that prevents fraying.
Pros: natural fiber, cotton breathes, light weight, comfort, less chance of any sense skin issues, cost
Cons: life of fabric
Rayon is the new fabric. Tahitian dancers love rayon. It “flows” and “hugs” by far the best and allows dancers to accentuate their movements more. It’s a natural fabric and yet it isn’t a natural fabric. It is manufactured from natural cellulose products. Many pareos that are mass printed in Asia are made of rayon. Many pareos made in the batik style in Southeast Asia are also made of rayon. Because of where they are primarily made an additional design element was introduced – the fringe. Mainly a series of knots that are made on the side edges giving the fabric piece a textured fringe.
Pros: quasi natural fiber, flow and hug superiority, softness
Perhaps the least available of all the fabric pareos for good reason. The cost is by far the most expensive. Add in the time, labor, and materials to create a colorful pareo and you can see why it is the most expensive. But silk is silk and the soft and smooth texture of the natural fabric can’t be denied.
Pros: natural fiber, softness, flow
Cons: cost, availability
Another factor to consider is what it is called by the seller or maker of the pareo. Take for instance, if someone calls it a “pareu” you can probably glean that they are familiar with the traditional methods that pareus have been made in Tahiti for decades. They might call it a “pareo” too as it is easier to pronounce and is more of a recognized modern marketing word for the original. If they call it a sarong, it most likely came from Southeast Asia. In Asia, they use the batik method almost exclusively and you can tell by the motifs that they create. The US mainland has a word for the 2 yard piece of fabric as well. The wraparound is just that, a wraparound. Today, many have applied popular culture motifs, designs, logos and characters to the fabric. Other locations throughout the Pacific have their own word to describe the fabric too – Hawaii (kikepa), Samoa (lava lava), and Fiji (sulu) just to name a few.
All in all, it’s definitely a personal choice. Whether you are looking for a costume, wraparound for the beach, or just a comfortable and relaxing coverup for a lazy day, there are so many choices for your next pareo. Check out our pareo collection for sale at our website Black Pearl Designs.