AKA: beach wrap

How to say it: suhrong

Traditional Features: 


  • a large length or tube of fabric that can be wrapped around the body and worn as a skirt or dress
  • varying lengths
  • knotted at the hips or behind the neck

21st Century Sarongs

In the 21st century the sarong is a must-have for beach going women the world over. Available in short and long versions and in all the colours of the rainbow, high-end and high-streets brands alike offer sarongs in prints and colours to work in with their swimsuit collections, and offer consumers a complete beach outfit.

Moschino Swim Pierre Balmain

Moschino Swim, Pierre Balmain

Pour Moi Topshop

Pour Moi, Topshop


…of the style: The sarong originated as a full length tube of fabric worn by both men and women in Maritime cultures of the East, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia, and Oman. I couldn’t find out when people first started wearing sarongs, but given that it is a very simple garment that requires little, if any, construction and no additional pieces, there is a fair chance the sarong has been worn for decades, if not centuries.

Originally made from a light-weight cotton fabrics, and often decorated to denote social ranking or the formality of the occasion, the sarong is a comfortable and easy to wear garment that was, and still is, worn by the rich and the poor in many countries around the world.

At some stage the sarong was appropriated by the West – again I couldn’t find an exact date as to when this happened, but I would imagine it occurred around the time that swimming and going to beach became a popular and acceptable pastime; sometime in the 50s or 60s. The sarong as we know it today (in the West) has evolved into a far more casual garment worn only by women and generally used as a cover-up in hot climates.

The Western sarong is often made from light-weight, see-through fabrics that merely offer a thin layer of covering, rather than acting as an actual piece of clothing as it does in other parts of the world. Regularly worn short (sometimes so short it doesn’t really cover anything) the Western sarong rarely resembles the garment that inspired it, but that has made it no less popular in the 21st century.

Sarongs appear on the swimwear market at all price points and are regularly released by high-end designers, and middle market brands, in prints or colours that work in with their seasonal swimwear or resort offerings. On the other end of the scale, the tourist trade has also recognised the value of the sarong – cheap to make, easy to sell and always popular; inexpensive, colourful sarongs are available en masse in beach town tourist shops the world over.

…of the name: Sarong is the Malay word for ‘covering’

For more info on Sarongs try Wikipedia, All Sarongs, Fair Wind Sarongs or the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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