Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Even Elvis was a fan

As servicemen and women returned from the second world war, the shirts and souvenirs especially the alohas shirts and Hawaiian sundresses they brought back from Asia and the pacific islands, were a big hit! During the 1950's tourists began flocking to Hawaii as faster airplanes allowed for easy and quick travel. Here you can find a really interesting article on the history of Hawaii's major airports in the 1950's.
After serving in WWII Alfred Shaheen returned to Oahu Hawaii with plenty of ideas in his head to expand his family's business to include ready-to-wear aloha shirts and women's fashions. In 1948 Shaheen started his own company, luckily his mom Mary was kind enough to let him borrow four of her best seamstresses.

Shaheens originally made his ready wear using imported textiles from the mainland like other manufactures of the time. Due to the fact that fabric had to be bought months to almost a year in advance and lack of unique designs Shaheen began to make his own fabrics. Shaheen first print plant was Surf 'n Sand Hand Prints, the machinery he used to create his gorgeous patterns on fabric was made using parts and scraps he would find in junkyards.

By 1952, Shaheen was printing around 60,000 yards of fabric per month. Only four short years later Shaheen had built a $8,000,000 factory, showroom, and office complex. Shaheen soon employed 400 people, sold garments worldwide, owned his own chain of retail stores in Hawaii, and grossed more than $4,000,000 annually.
Shaheen raised the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction. Shaheen's Hawaiian labels include Alfred Shaheen, Shaheen's of Honolulu, Surf 'n Sand, Kiilani, and Burma Gold Hand Prints. Shaheen was the only Hawaiian manufacturer to print his own fabrics and, using these fabrics, he created clothing for other retailers throughout the country. Some of these retailers include Andrades, McInerny, Liberty House, and Waltah Clarke. The red aloha shirt Elvis Presley wore for the cover of his 1961 Album "Blue Hawaii" was a Shaheen design. Today, Shaheen's Hawaiian shirts, sarongs, and sundresses are some of the most prized pieces for vintage collectors to find. The tan sarong dress w/ boat print can be found here for $383.

Alfred Shaheen in his factory circa 1950's
Heres a few vintage Shaheen piceces for your viewing and buying pleasure
$249 PGV
$363 PGV

$298 violetvillevintage

$85 Planetclairevintage

$275 TripleGemini


  1. The red dress from Posh Girl Vintage is really awesome. I think red really makes a statement.

  2. Great information. I didn't know all of this. Cheers!

  3. i like those patterns they're so tropical:) reminds me of key west and the carribean.

  4. That first dress is amazing!!!

  5. such a good selection of dresses. thanks for the history lesson!

  6. LOVE this post. I'm fascinated by 1940s and 1950s-era Hawaii; great info!

  7. Wow! The dresses are beautiful! Thanks so much for including the history behind the creations- it gives so much value to the actual clothing to know the where, why, and when.


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