Touch of inspiration


THE Traditionally Inspired Dress (TID) segment of the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant is an integral and most exquisite part of the crowning night.
This category carries a lot of weight in the judging of the winner and also receives the Best Traditionally Inspired Dress award. The TID is judged twice – before crowning to check on the construction of the dress; and on stage when the contestants walk in it.
On the Miss PNG crowning night recently, a display of outfits inspired by the cultural diversity and unique fauna and flora of the country was brought to life in the stories told by the six contestants and their designers.
Below are the stories of the Traditionally Inspired Dresses or TIDs.

Miss Paga Hill Estate, Lucy Maino was crowned Miss Papua New Guinea and winner of the Best Traditionally-Inspired Dress.
Designer – Cynthia Chapman

Lucy’s TID was inspired by her heritage. She is the daughter and a granddaughter of Mekeo chiefs in the Kairuku district of Central. Her grandfather, the late Sir Charles Maino was a chief of his clan. He also was the first Chief Ombudsman of PNG. Lucy’s maternal grandfather was a chief in his clan in the Mekeo tribe. Therefore Lucy paid homage to her paternal and maternal families in the Mekeo tribes.
The main feature was a crown of her headpiece which was the highly priced Bird of Paradise encircled by yellow feathers, the colours of the Mekeo people. Her dress was made of tapa dyed yellow with turmeric plant and dried – using a similar process to the dying of traditional grass skirts. On the tapa are keveh prints. Keveh is made from turtle shells and can only be worn by her maternal Mekeo family. On the edges of her dress were pieces and strands of a Mekeo grass skirt. Grass skirts have been worn by women for generations not only in Mekeo but across PNG. However, the Mekeo is set apart because of its bright colours or yellow, red and green and the patterns on them.
The jewellery pieces on her dress comprised dogs teeth called kapugu, toea is called aoao, tabu is called mopio in the Mekeo language. Like the Bird of Paradise these shells are also used for traditional obligations. The tabu and toea were currency/shells traded by the Kairuku tribes with the Mekeo in exchange for food.
The Mekeo family’s wealth is measured by this jewellery. These jewellery heirlooms are usually displayed at festivities and marriage ceremonies when a new bride is adorned by her in-laws to show them off as items of value and status symbols.

Miss PNG Air Services, Helen Ipauki
Designer – Miriam Xkenjik

Helen’s TID was a representation of a land of a thousand tribes unified by grace and strength of women. When a woman wasn’t gardening, she was beating, drying and weaving. Identifying her coastal origins, Helen dressed in a colourful exquisite corset, which was woven pandanus that is found in many parts of PNG and used in mats, baskets and giftware.
Her TID represented the patience one has in bringing her art to life. The black beads around her neck known as kutsi in the Central province have been worn by generations of women. It is worn during traditional dances, feasts or as adornment today.
Around her waist she wore the beautiful traditional grass skirt from Milne Bay, and her neck was outlined by the famous bagi, or shell money giving her that Milne Bay touch of beauty and cultural significance. Attached to her waist was a beautiful train of traditional tattoos found on a grass skirt woven by the women of Kairuku Hiri. Traditionally, their women upon reaching womanhood would be kept away for long periods, all the while being patiently tattooed as a sign of purity and strength before she married.

Miss East New Britain, Ellen Morgan
Designers – from East New Britain

Ellen’s dress was made from the abaul tree bark and represents the Baining people of East New Britain. Deep in their jungles, men go to look for a special tree of the same name. They then turn its bark into soft, white malo or tapa.
The lifeblood of the Baining people, this bark has many uses – such as clothing, blankets, currency and even used to craft the famous Baining fire dancers masks.
When Ellen was gifted a piece of this special material by the Uramet clan of ENB, she was also gifted with its story. A reminder of the connection to nature that these people still protect by holding their traditions close and keeping their practices sacred.
Ellen wore the malo as the main body of her dress to signify a proud connection to the place that influenced much of her young life in the Gazelle District of East New Britain Province.
The base of the dress is a corset, constructed entirely out of split cane strips or as the Tolai call it – kada. Intricately woven and hidden beneath the malo save for the structural pieces across her back and shoulders – it is symbolic of the strong customs and cultures of the Tolai people which continues to be upheld throughout the province today.
Her dress included the grass skirt from Pomio, which is made from a thinner variety of cane. There is an art in wearing the grasskirt and is traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. The cane is attached to the malo and wrapped around her legs so as to help guide her feet to walk in values passed down to her from her mother and her grandmother…of honesty, integrity and hard work.

Miss Sanctuary and Rapopo Resorts, Natasha Metta
Designer – Wandid Korimbo
The attire consists of a glamorous head piece, cape, main dress and accessories, which were a tribute to Natasha’s heritage of West New Britain and also to PNG.
The head piece worn was a crown beautifully crafted with cassowary feathers, shell money and banana seeds. This piece was a bold statement that signified pride.
Worn as an overcoat and delicately decorated with banana seeds and coloured vines, was an intricate weave of pandanas leaves to create the extravagant cape. This was locally made by the women in Central province and signified modesty, warmth and protection.
As she released her cape, placed on her neck was a large kina (mother of pearl) shell and a patterned necklace made of seeds and shells. The necklace was made by the women of the Sepik province. The kina shell originated from Natasha’s home province, West New Britain. The kina shell is still highly priced and is acknowledged for its value; commonly used for bride price and during customary events.
The tapa used on the dress originated from the Highlands Province .This piece pays tribute to Natasha’s upbringing in the Western Highlands.
Accessorised on the dress were black banana seeds and yellow frills made from vines. The yellow vines pay tribute to women of West New Britain as it symbolizes the color of the grass skirts commonly worn in Natasha’s culture.
Through the TID, Natasha took her viewers on a journey from the Momase, New Guinea Islands, the Southern and Highlands region that makes up PNG.

Miss IBS, Magarita Sariman
Designer – Tabu Warupi

The design was inspired by the coconut tree, commonly regarded as the “Tree of Life” because of its many uses in the everyday life of a Pacific Islander living along the coast.
Every part of the tree has its own use and benefits, simply because of what it can provide.
Margarita’s head piece was made entirely from traditional twines and the ‘common coconut broom stick’ which has been ornamented by shells, beads and coconut feathers. The hairpiece is inspired by the majestic Kairuku head dress.
Margarita’s garment was intricately pieced from various parts of the coconut tree – from its fibres, bark, leaves, fronds, husk and the shell of its fruit. The pattern on Margarita’s dress was of a tattoo design, representing her Motuan heritage. The tattooed design was made from the coconut shell, cut into cubed pieces and hand beaded into the garment, while the flowers cut from the coconut fibre were shaped into flower petals and added onto the hem of the garment.
The frill of Margarita’s dress was also made entirely of coconut fibre and embellished with sea shells (from the tabu shell money) to add colour and wealth – with respects to Margarita’s, East New Britain custom. The coconut fibre which made up the frill has many purposes from being woven together to form sails of a canoe or twined into fibre ropes.
The coconut tree also symbolises human settlement and sustenance. In the lead up to the crowning, Margarita had been advocating against land grabbing issues and its adverse impact on indigenous land owners. In the years gone by forefathers would map and mark out land ownership boundaries usually with coconut trees – some of these coconut trees now stand on plots of land to indicate land wealth of certain clans, and resting places of those passed on.

Miss Jacks Madang, Lavianna Leong
Designer – Heai Ugava

Lavianna’s dress was made from raw materials found in Madang.
The head piece was woven entirely from the sisal plant which is also known as lepa in one of the local languages. This headpiece resembled the lights of the great iconic 61-year-old land mark the Coastwatchers Memorial Lighthouse.
Her accessories which included earrings, necklace and bracelets were made of shells from the shores of Madang waters which also provide a source of food for the people.
Her two-piece dress consisted of a top and a skirt. The top was made out of the sisal plant and paid homage to the women of Madang who use it for constructing the famous traditional string bag, ‘the Madang Bilum’.
The skirt was constructed using two different raw materials. The top part of the skirt was made from sisal plant and the bottom part was made with the Madang traditional grass skirt made from sago palm leaves – sago being one of the staple foods of Madang.
The colours of the various parts of this dress are taken from Madang’s flag and the fauna and flora of Madang, both on land and in the sea.
This dress and accessories did not include any animal fur, bird feathers or body parts of an animal. This is a stand taken by the designer to limiting the use of fur and feathers so that she does not encourage the hunting of PNG’s endangered species such as the Bird of Paradise and the cuscus.

  • Pictures by Roan Paul

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