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The Melanesian fashion atrocity that is the meri blouse


Meri Blouse hook earringsWELL I'LL BE FRANK. So-called meri blouses are an abomination. Shapeless body drapes introduced by sexually-frustrated missionaries and Colonial Colonel Blimps (who had probably never seen their wives breasts) to cover their guilt at seeing women's breasts so openly displayed.

"My God, Peregrine, it will frighten the horses! Charlotte - go and hide yourself immediately!"

That was the original spirit, I am sure.

But meri blouses were a marketing triumph. Promoted by the London Missionary Society and the Lutheran Mission (the Catholics were a bit more liberal), they became the fashion of PNG.

"It must be discreet, easy to make and be designed to hide the most obvious female appurtenances and extremities, and by all means cover the female lower appendages, known colloquially as legs. May God have mercy!" A quote from Sister Apologetica of the Seven Wounds.

Meri blouses are a disgrace, and have destroyed PNG's fashion industry for half a century.

I have eventually persuaded Rose that wearing them is treason to her country.


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Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Peter, good for the argument. But post me an email address and I will send you photos of women in PNG colours, Enga colours, Western Highlands colours, Jiwaka colours, Simbu colours, Eastern Highlands women in their provincial colours etc etc.

The meriblaus is a revolution. Be warned, many of these women have sauspens hidden under their meriblauses...

Daniel, I've provided your email address to Peter - KJ

Peter Kranz

Michael - here's another link.

And at least I provoked some discussion.

Yu tru man yu kam fait onetaim mi. Nogat yu go baksait olsem kindam.

OK I confess. May Pell have mercy! Sister Apologetica is from Nuns On The Run.

(Rough translation - some people walk backwards like a prawn when confronted with a discussion).

Katie Henshaw

Bit of an overstatement to say that they are disgrace. My mother is Papua New Guinean and every year when I go back to visit my family, half of my suitcase is packed with meri blauses.

For 6-7 weeks a year I don't have to rely on a mirror or ask myself if I look good. I know I look beautiful in a meri blaus, and boy it's so much easier just having to choose what colours I feel like wearing that day.

In tropical, humid climes it's the perfect attire - airy, flowy, light and perfect for any body shape. T-shirts and pants can get uncomfortable and easily make me sweat.

And yes, Marlene is right, the styles aren't stagnant, they change nearly every year. I feel more engaged in a culture that I am proud of; I have a huge smile on my face when family from the village tell me I look nice in my meri blaus. I don't want to look different from them.

If someone tried to convince me to stop wearing my meri blauses because they are a 'treason' to my country, then I no longer know you.

And the best part about the blauses? When I've stuffed myself with real food from my aunty's garden, my stomach doesn't show like it would if I wore a t-shirt in my size.

Blokes are missing out!

Phil Fitzpatrick

Inspector Metau and his daughter Bella have something to say about meri blouses.

See above.

Michael Dom

What ever works - so long as you try to be original.

Hey Peter Krantz - someone removed that FB site you posted - is that related or?

Anne Cijahaml

I used to hate meri blouses once, but after seeing the economic story behind it I have come to love buying them for myself or as gifts.

I formed a group that targets women in disadvantaged areas of Port Moresby and what we do is, yes, teach them how to make meri blouses and sell them to assist these women make a better living for themselves rather than the sale of buai (which is a different topic for discussion altogether but perhaps a better one).

Feel free to comment.

Peter Kranz

John - you are right. No one should judge. I'm just expressing an opinion.

But meri blouses compared to traditional or modern PNG fashion are crap. (My opinion.)

John Kaupa Kamasua

Meri blouses have followed the change in fashion: they have changed too but they are cool.

I tend to like it more on some women than others but its a PNG fashion icon just like the bilum and will be around for a while.

I can clearly sense that Peter has certain tastes, and he is also entitled to his views but it has a place in PNG Society and no one can dispute that.

Peter Kranz

At risk of re-opening an old debate, I give you this....

Gunter Trnka

Hey meri blouses are cool. They are PNG and women love them. Very simple, comfortable and make sense for the tropics.

Darren Talyaga

Hold your horses Peter, you got it all in one point - fashion, life is not about displaying bodies be it feminine or masculine. The appeal is for those who have a taste of appearances be it models and fashions. The real person is behind all you see. The blouse is a dressing code for females that comes with many virtues and now after those years, has become an accepted 'culture' of wearing the 'meri blouse at all major occasions, graduations, anniversies, Independence Celebrations and others. 'A treason it is to simply say it is a disgrace to our country'. If the fashion industry suffers, it should design to suit the people - moral decent dressings matters in PNG as you can see. To be frank - 'meri blouses' are not about hiding human body features should you or any in support want to expose or display - and it's a free country still in that matter.

Manuel Hetzel

I am unsure whether many women “adore” the meri blouse or simply consider it the most appropriate piece of clothing – after years of missionary indoctrination.

Certainly, having a choice of clothing is not the same as having a choice to wear what you like. Or would anyone argue that women in PNG also “have the choice” to walk around on their own at night.

Marlene Dee Potoura

We Papua New Guinean women like the meri blouse. These days, the meri blouse comes in trendy different styles. It is a modest piece of attire that most PNG women adore.

It shouldn't become an issue of style, because women in PNG have a choice of clothing and there are women here, who dress the way they please.

Maybe some of you who are making a fuss over this blouse should introduce a fashion line where it will bring peace to you, because of how you keep on yapping about the meri blouse. And it better be something accepted in our culture!

Ed Brumby

Peter: Despite their prudish provenance - and there is much to be said about the virtues of modesty - I find much to admire about meri blouses.

They are undoubtedly cooler than tighter-fitting attire and relatively easy and cheap to make (a very important consideration in PNG I would have thought); they can be constructed to be more form-fitting and shapely if desired; they can be worn at both formal and informal occasions and they can be embellished in all kinds of ways to allow the wearer to make her own fashion 'statement'.

And, at the risk of being old-fashioned, they are a most 'sensible' attire for tropical climes.

They have also become something akin to a distinctive national dress for PNG women and so make a 'statement' of another kind.

Whether the shapelessness of meri blouses and their success in hiding the features of the female form is a virtue or a crime is, like fashion and beauty, in the eye of the beholder. I, for one, prefer the subtlety, imagination and anticipation borne of modesty.

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