A few years back, Shannon Hiramoto made an amazing discovery in a thrift store.
It was more than just your average treasure.
Hiramoto is a fan of muumuus (or muʻumuʻu), the loose dresses common in Hawaii that are a cross between a shirt, dress, and robe.
They’re a great vintage item (and let’s just say they come in handy if your pandemic body isn’t quite the same as your summer body).
“I’m always hunting for muumuu, vintage ones. That’s like my hobby,” Hiramoto told KHON2 News.
She told Hawaii Magazine that she has about 40 of the garments in her closet. And as a designer herself, she loves clothing in general. She even started Muumuu Month in Hawaii, “an annual monthlong challenge when women across the state don these vintage dresses when they’re out—at work, in school, at the grocery store, in restaurants—to celebrate Hawaii’s fashion history,” according to the magazine.
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But when she came across a flowered muumuu at the Salvation Army in Lihue, Kauai, she knew there was something special about it.
The Liberty House item was a hot pink number and on the shorter side, which is rare for a muumuu. But what really stopped Hiramoto in her tracks was what she saw next to the brand name on the inner label.
She took to Instagram to share her story, and it then made the local news.
“I saw this beautiful muumuu right here, and I’m like, ooh, a mini one, because you know it’s always fun finding a shorter one,” Hiramoto said. “When I looked at the tag, it said Liberty House, then it also had handwritten on it ‘Kamei,’ and it blew my mind, because that’s my great-grandmother’s name, her last name.”
Her grandmother loved muumuus that were pink, red, or purple. But could it have been hers? Hiramoto decided to buy it and find out.
A family hierloom?
In an Instagram post, Hiramoto recalled her quest to find out more about the garment. She enlisted her mother to help her go through photos to see if she could find one of her great-grandmother wearing it.
“I was surprised to find this because she passed away 5 yrs ago! Could it be hers? There aren’t many Kamei on Kauai. It looked so familiar but I needed proof. (See my archive instastory to see how I felt the day I found this mini mu’u!) My mom and I went through all our old photo albums hunting for proof. Alas nothing!”
But how could it have her great-grandmother’s name on the label and be so similar to the ones she wore if it weren’t hers?
Finding the proof
Hiramoto’s mother apparently didn’t give up the quest to find a photo of her grandmother in the muumuu. And her diligence was rewarded! At the very end of the photo album was the full-length shot she had been hoping for.
She texted her daughter immediately.
“Then I get a text photo from mom the other night–it was hers! The last photo in the last photo album! I immediately knew where this photo was taken. Her church in Hanapepe–where she is actually resting to this day (her ashes are in a cubby back there.) I’ve come full circle and feel like she is smiling down on me or at least giggling.”
A message from above?
Hiramoto decided to take the discovery as proof that her grandmother was sending her a message. And it turns out she was quite an interesting woman as well. Her great-granddaughter shared a bit about her in her Instagram post that shows them side-by-side in the same muumuu:
“Florence Shizuko Kamei was born in Kekaha in 1904, one of her legacies is that when she passed she was the oldest person in Hawaii at age 108! When she died they announced it on the radio and news! Her secret? Green tea and hobbies. She loved her church choir, playing ukulele, Japanese dancing, joking around, and eating. My daughter shares her middle name Shizuko which means Quiet Child (neither of them have quiet personalities!) And I’m definitely passing this dress down to her.”
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What a fun treasure!
Be sure to scroll down below to see an interview with Hiramoto and hear what the garment means to her.
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