Misadventures in Wonderland: Hawaiian shirt-making

Misadventures in Wonderland: Hawaiian shirt-making

Our intrepid columnist Alice White turns her hand to alohaberdashery

What exactly is it?
What exactly do you think it is? The title can’t be faulted on its transparency. The class is run by Emily Millichip, a designer who makes clothes and, guess what, loves Hawaiian dress.

St Margaret’s House, the arts complex in Meadowbank, Edinburgh. It looks rough on the inside and the outside, and turning up at a weekend feels like you’ve broken in to spray paint something obnoxious about the government on the walls. However, go along a corridor and you come to an oasis of a room with warm swing music playing and a fancy rug. Inside, five or six women have already started preparing their fabrics among pictures of pin-ups and satin samples.

Do you make it from scratch?
Of course. This isn’t a ‘trying on a shirt’ class. From hemlines to shoulders to collars, you’re going to make the entire thing over eight hours. I went to pattern-cutting school eight years ago (you might want to gasp there like I’d said I’ve killed a man) but just because you ran on a track once doesn’t mean you’re Usain Bolt. I kept this quiet because it’s one thing not knowing anything, but it’s another not knowing anything when you should. It was easier to say I’ve never sewn anything before, which actually turns out to be fitting considering all technology progresses (not just iPhones), and I was confused by the brand new digital sewing machines. I wondered what Buffalo Bill could’ve achieved if he’d had an embroidery application.

What's the deal with that print?
All the fabrics are handpicked from actual Honolulu. You choose before you come to class. My favourite was sickly bubblegum pink with big white flowers, which is a bit different from my entirely black wardrobe (so it all matches). Emily told me that Hawaiian businessmen wear the shirts with the fabric inside out so they’re subdued for work. Isn’t that like always having an umbrella up so everyone can’t see the top hat you’ve insisted on wearing?

What if you don’t want a Hawaiian shirt?
I’m pretty chuffed with my one and am desperately trying to think of somewhere, anywhere I can go in it. Believe it or not, though, not everyone likes the aloha shirt. I’m going to point out that, if you’re one of those people, this might not be the class for you, because you will leave with one. Don’t be a petulant child screaming about not wanting to eat your vegetables – you’re an adult, and if you don’t want to do something then don’t do it. As with everything in grown-up life, there are other options: Emily also runs classes on kimonos, pom-pom head pieces, skirts, knickers and men’s shirts. It’s perfect even if you just want to announce you made your own clothes, the same way as if you’re telling everyone you have a gluten allergy.

Visit edinburghpalette.co.uk for details of future Hawaiian Shirt Masterclasses.

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