February 16th, 2021 / posted by paularath

A maternity dress that didn’t quite make it to nine months.

It was a mistake to go to a traditional Nigerian tailor in Lagos – a man – to have my special maternity dress made. What’s worse, I neglected to ask him if he was a father. Clearly he was not. Or he would have had a more realistic take on how a woman’s tummy grows as the months go on. This got me through to about 7 1/2 months.

But oh well. I love the embroidery and I can still wear the dress, and every time I wear it, I am taken back to my strange pregnancy in Nigeria.

The nine months in 1974 leading up to the birth of my beloved son, Duncan (my only child) was an adventure all the way.

At the time, my ex-husband, Dick Graham, and I were living in Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. We were pioneering for the Baha’i Faith, and pioneers must support themselves with jobs. Dick was working for a Canadian advertising agency and I was freelancing for women’s magazines, focusing on the issue of the importance of breastfeeding your baby.

You see, it had become quite trendy for Nigerian women to NOT breastfeed. They thought it was more “western” and “sophisticated” to give their babies formula. However, the water in most parts of Lagos was dreadful and women often didn’t know the mix ratios, so babies were dying of malnutrition. Such a tragedy and totally unnecessary.

Unfortunately, I hardly got to wear this dress because, unknown to us, we were illegally in Nigeria. The ad agency had our passports and were committed to renewing our visas. However, unbeknownst to us, our visas had expired in February, and the complex Nigerian Indiginization Decree signed in April meant that Dick was one too many expats for the ad agency to retain legally.

Yikes! We didn’t learn of this until June, when I arrived at the airport to take a plane to London to meet my parents for a road trip to Scotland. The military police escorted us home and we were put under house arrest for several days. Oddly, I never worried about it. I was in this sort of blissful state and I chose to believe the agency when they blithely said  “Don’t worry. We’ll get you back to Nigeria.” I flew off to London while the agency sent Dick to Ghana. We never returned to Nigeria and we lost everything: house, car, pets, possessions.

A traditional Nigerian embroidery design

I had a wonderful trip with my parents, although it’s a bit tricky when you’re seven months pregnant and on Scottish country roads with no petrol stations and thus, no bathrooms. My father got quite used to dropping his daughter off near farm fences so I could, well, you know.

Eventually, Dick joined me in the U.K. For awhile we thought I might have the baby in London. I did get a little prenatal care, but the National Health Service would not kick in until after the due date. So we reluctantly flew to Pennsylvania, to Dick’s family, where Duncan was born.

Sadly, I have precious few memories of my time in Nigeria. It was learned a few years later that if a woman takes Paludrine, a drug commonly used to prevent malaria, during her pregnancy, she is likely to lose a lot of short term memory. And boy did I! It’s really a shame.

Close-up detail

I do have one clear memory, though. My parents and I were staying in a beautiful lodge in Pitlochry, Scotland. All the guests had gathered to watch the BBC News. It was the night Richard Nixon resigned his presidency. I had never been so embarrassed to be an American, and we were the only ones in the room.

I still wear the dress occasionally, and I only have happy memories of the excitement I felt carrying Duncan. And, regardless of not knowing where we would be living for a few months, and where he would be delivered, he came out just fine!

Please return for the next installment of “What I Wore.”

Paula Rath

February 9th, 2021 / posted by paularath


Courtesy Diamond Head Theatre

Diamond Head Theatre is currently presenting a play I love, and you can see it live on February 11, 12, 13, 14, 20 and 21. There are both matinees and evening performances, so take your pick.

The theatre is all about safety and COVID precautions. Your temp will be taken and you will be seated at a safe distance from any other patrons. I felt perfectly safe when I attended their lovely Christmas show. I understand that there are still some tickets left for some performances, so do try to see it.  I’ll be at the 3 p.m. performance Saturday, February 13. Hope to see you there!

Click on http://www.diamondheadtheatre.comhttp://www.diamondheadtheatre.com

Sisters Nora and Delia Ephron wrote this insightful and funny set of five monologues, “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” It goes straight to the heart of what our clothes mean to us, and how they bind us to our identity.

Women’s relationships with their closets are often fraught, but just as often funny. Slip on a dress you wore to the prom (if it still fits) and it can transport you back there, awkwardness and all.

A pair of jeans or a tie-dye skirt can be a time capsule of your life.

As a former fashion designer and fashion writer, clothes have always been an important aspect of my life. I treasure them, and the moments they conjure. So I’ve decided to write a series of blogs about special clothes that help tell my life story:

  • maternity dress I had made in Lagos, Nigeria
  • jeans I wore when traveling in a tinker’s caravan through County Cork, Ireland
  • safari skirt my son Duncan gave me for my 40th birthday, when he was 11
  • swing coat I made as a class project in Fashion Technology at Honolulu Community College
  • hand woven silk scarf and vest gifted to me by renowned silk artist Akihiko Izukura

…and more. Please join me on this journey of remembrance. Subscribe to http://www.paularath.com

to receive email messages when a new blog is up. And please share your own closet tales.

Paula Rath

February 2nd, 2021 / posted by paularath

The first week in February simply cannot exist without the Punahou Carnival, right? The teeming crowds, endless malasada lines, cases of mango chutney, keiki games, EK Fernandez rides…..

Well, it’s not exactly possible to hold that kind of event this year, but the Punahou Junior Class is doing everything possible to bring as much Carnival as they can to us.

One thing you can easily enjoy online is the Punahou Art Gallery. It’s considered the largest and most diverse art sale in the State. It’s by invitation and quite prestigious for the artists, too. I was asked to enter three pieces this year, and here they are.

You will notice that they all relate to the North Shore of Oahu, where I did a lot of my growing up.

“Summer at Waimea Bay: Dive In!!”

“Waimea Bay: Breaking Big”

“Honu Comes Home to Laniakea”

Of course, not being able to see and touch the art before bidding on it is a shame. I find it especially difficult with my work because most of my recent art (and all three of these pieces) is done with hand-dyed fabrics. They may look like paintings, but it’s all fabric. There are a lot of interesting layers and textures that aren’t evident in a photo.

To take part in the silent auction in support of Punahou Scholarships, here is the link to get into the Art Gallery, followed by the details on how to navigate:


It will be open to the public (no password necessary) starting
Monday, February 1st at 6pm through

Saturday, February 6th at 11pm 
Once you are at the site, you can navigate from the top menu to collections, or see the whole catalog. You can also search for any of the artists by name under the dropdown menu on the left “Vendor” and select it just to see his or her work. If you can’t see all three of the pieces above, that means it sold. On the upper right there is a small magnifying glass logo to click on to search. You can search by name or keyword.

I hope you will make a virtual visit to “A Carnival Out of this World,” an appropriate name for a Carnival during COVID!

Paula Rath


January 26th, 2021 / posted by paularath

Jack and Sadie, adorable shih tzus, snow doggies in Dad’s Cooperstown back yard

When my dear friend Darius Homayounpour, who often simplifies his name to Darius Homay, moved to the mainland, I was devastated.

Darius is the man who introduced me to indigo dyeing, one of my passions. He was the primary enabler for my indigo habit. On many Sunday mornings he fed my habit, allowing me to get elbow-deep in his vat. He kept his vat healthy, a challenging feat all indigo-lovers understand and appreciate.

So when Darius moved to Cooperstown, where the winters are brutally cold and snowy, I wondered if the vat would survive. After all, it can become a vatcicle (his clever term) in winter time.

Darius’ Indigo Vatcicle after a snowstorm

So how does Darius handle the frigid Upstate New York winters? “The vat freezes during the winter; I just make sure it’s not too full.  I installed a great sink (double, stainless steel sink with sideboards) in the basement studio so that I can have a vat going in winter.  And since my basement is unheated, I use a ‘trough heater’ to warm the vat, essentially an immersion heater on steroids to keep cattle troughs from freezing.  Works like a charm.  Only wish I had known about these when I was teaching at the Donkey Mill up in chilly coffee country on the Big Island.”

Darius has an eviable studio in Cooperstown.

Darius worked at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (now Honolulu Museum of Art, or HoMA) as the collection manager in the Textile Department. He has a deep knowledge of textiles from all over the world.

In his adopted community of Cooperstown, New York, Darius has found a welcoming community of artists, who are appreciating his many textile-related talents, as a curator and teacher.  In July, 2019, he curated a show called “Indigo/Blue.” it featured three artists who are indigo-dyers (there are three indigo vats in Cooperstown…sigh), as well as other artists in various media inspired by the blue of indigo. This show was held at The Art Garage, one of Cooperstown’s art centers.


In addition, Darius added, is “Cooperstown Art Association’s gallery in the village hall (isn’t that quaint?), and The Smithy, an historic building-turned gallery, both under the same umbrella. I’m a member of the CAA and sold indigo-dyed shibori at their holiday sale.”  http://www.cooperstownart.com

A recent work by Darius Homay

Darius is also discovering some new natural dye materials in Cooperstown. Instead of hibiscus and turmeric, popular dyes in Hawaii, he is using goldenrod, but only in the summer and fall.  Above is a piece he completed recently, patchworked from fabrics shibori-dyed in indigo and goldenrod. “And yes,” he wrote wistfully, “I’m dreaming of summer and fall and the life outdoors.”

You can take the boy out of Hawaii, but you can’t take Hawaii out of the boy. I’m hoping, when things begin to open up more here, Darius will return on occasion to teach a workshop at HoMA or U.H.-Manoa. How happy many of us would be to get our hands (or arms) deep into an indigo dye bath!

Paula Rath






January 22nd, 2021 / posted by paularath

Photo courtesy of Spanx

Note to readers: I totally get that most of my readers are women. So I’m writing this for you so you can pass it on to HIM in time for a thoughtful Valentine’s shopping excursion. And, hey, maybe I can help save a relationship with a little piece of advice about Valentine’s gift giving.

Valentine’s Day might be the holiday most paved with pitfalls. Some guys just don’t get it. Spanx is NOT an appropriate gift for a woman at any time, much less the holiday that celebrates love. C’mon, guys! Just try for a minute to see it her way. What is the message you send if you give a woman a gift of Spanx? Well, I can tell you several likely scenarios upon the unwrapping:

  • She will throw it in your face, then throw you out.
  • She will burst into tears and run away without a word.
  • She will scream: “You think I’m fat!” (And that’s the conclusion driving the first two scenarios too.)

Another Valentine’s gift booboo: an appliance, any appliance: vacuum cleaner, toaster, waffle iron, panini maker, dust buster. Is this gift for her so she can do stuff for you? Uh oh. The same goes for a gadget that you probably want more than she does.

Photo courtesy of Wolford

Lingerie is a gift that can backfire. Unless you have supreme confidence in her taste (would she actually prefer a flannel nightie from the Vermont Country Store?), lingerie can be a tacky, trite gift, or a flattering one. And, uh, sizing is a minefield. The best way to be safe with sizing is to check some of her favorite bras and panties or slips or nighties. If you’re not certain of sizes, the smart move is to go bigger on the bra size and smaller on the bottom.

Rumi Murakami’s Gwen Shirt
Photo courtesy Rumi Murakami

Clothing can be a welcome gift, especially if it’s something you know she wants (if you’ve been paying attention to subtle hints.) But the sizing advice for lingerie is just as true for clothing. Again, do your best to shop local. We have fabulous designers in every category, from work wear to evening gowns and bikinis. The blouse above is by Rumi Murakami, who recently opened a studio in Kaimuki. She can offer you great advice.

Perfume is lovely if you know what her favorite scent is. (And you get extra points for knowing that!) If she already has the perfume or cologne, perhaps you can buy her a body lotion or shower gel to match. One caveat: Avoid a scent that was beloved by a former girlfriend or spouse.

Bliss Lau Black Jade pendant from Bliss Lau NY, a local girl who grew up in Manoa

Jewelry is usually a welcome gift, especially if she has been shopping with you and mentioned a piece in a window that she loves. Sizing is not a problem with jewelry, but taste is.  Does she usually wear silver or gold? What is her birthstone? Does she choose pieces that are bold or delicate? Funky or classic? And please consider one of the many outstanding local jewelry makers we have in Hawaii.

Of course flowers and chocolate are always traditional and appreciated, but Valentine’s isn’t the time to buy flowers at the supermarket or chocolates at the drug store. Make sure they’re special. And don’t forget that Hawaii has some delicious chocolates right here. Diamond Head Chocolates is now available at Kahala Mall and Ward Center.

Perhaps you have a talent that you can share for Valentine’s Day. A poem, a song, a potted plant, a handmade cupcake or a hand painted card? My husband, Jerry Mayfield, delights me every year with a watercolor card that features hearts in one form or another. They are whimsical and loving and I have kept every one of them. He made the border with ohe kapala (carved bamboo sticks, a method used by the ancient Hawaiians to print kapa) a craft he studied with Philip Markwart. Here’s the one from 2001:

Jerry’s hand painted watercolor Valentine from 2001

One year Jerry was in San Francisco at my favorite card shop, Avant Card on Grant Street. He bought 14 Valentine’s cards, each hand painted with the word for “love” in a different language. I have some of them framed in the bedroom and appreciate them every day.

Jerry sent me a Valentine each day one year.

There’s one other thing I am sure your Valentine will appreciate: Don’t give her the job of planning your Valentine’s Day date night. Have courage and take on the task yourself.

Paula Rath