Lei Day
Storage Facility

Care and Storage of your
Lei Hulu Manu

  • Check your lei hulu manu frequently for insect infestation and/or signs of damage.
  • Always handle lei hulu manu and other featherwork gently.
  • When touching the feathers, stroke only in the direction the feathers lie.
  • Only handle with clean hands.
  • Avoid letting the lei come into contact with makeup and perfumes.
  • Loosely roll or coil the lei with the lay of the feathers to keep them smooth.
  • Remove any pins or other metal objects after each use to avoid rust damage.
  • Cedar or mothballs help prevent bugs, but should be wrapped in acid-free paper, or placed inside a small container to prevent their touching the feathers.
  • Storage containers should be airtight or close-fitting cedar and lined with acid-free paper to protect from moisture and mold, and roomy enough to protect from crushing.
  • Keep the containers in a cool dark place.
  • Air featherwork several times a year, choosing breezy dry days.
  • Avoid getting feathers wet, especially if they are dyed feathers.
  • If you must wash the lei, use a very mild soap, such as Woolite, Ivory, or baby shampoo. Swish the lei gently in the diluted solution, then rinse in tepid clear water until all soap is removed. Thiswill fade dyed feathers, but may be necessary ifthe lei is very dirty.
  • Photograph all of your featherwork and document by whom, where, and when they were made. This information will be priceless to your descendants! Also, in the case of loss or theft, you will need this documentation to file a report.

Feather Lei of Hawaii

The Lei Stand


Na Lei o Hawai`i Wall Calendar

Greeting Cards

Individual Cards























Kaahumanu, Kuhina nui of Hawaii

Garland of Royalty

The noblewomen of Ancient Hawai`i were as fashion conscious as noblewomen anywhere, and took great pains with their grooming. Tidy appearance and cleanliness were virtues, nails were kept trimmed, and hair was coiffed. Bleaching of the forehead and temple hair was practiced, and adornment of the hair included exquisite feather lei.

At right, a portrait of Queen Ka`ahumanu, a favored wife of Pai`ea Kamehameha, with fashionably bleached hair and a lei po`o hulu manu - feather head lei. The original portrait was done from life by Louis Choris in 1816. This color plate appears to be based on that portrait.

Lei Hulu Today

Harpist Cymber Lily Quinn, right, wears a purple wili poepoe style lei hulu a`i (feather neck lei) and stands before a display of lei hulu humupapa in this image. Ms Quinn played selected compositions of Lili`uokalani for the Queen's Tea.

Below, Kumu Leilehua Yuen wears a golden pheasant wili poepoe lei hulu manu in gold and red pauku (bands) as a lei po`o (head lei). Maile Kaluhea, the ki`i hula (hula puppet), wears a lei po`o of fishtail fern.

Kumu leilehua and Ki`i Hula

When to Wear Lei Hulu Manu

Lei hulu manu is generally considered a more formal lei. Does the event call for diamonds and pearls? Wear a lei hulu manu! Black tie events, weddings, funerals, and such all would be appropriate times to wear lei hulu manu. Other times to wear them are graduations, festivals, and at events honoring someone. It is not appropriate to wear them to activities where they may be damaged. The exception is the lei papale (hat lei). A lei hulu papa - flat feather lei - is the perfect adornment for a Hawaiian papale lauhala - pandanus leaf hat. Both requiring expert craftsmanship, the enhance each other, and the wearer. The papale protects the lei, and so it commonly worn at occasions from rodeos to lunch with friends. The dress hat of a paniolo, a Hawaiian cowboy, also often will be adorned with a lei hulu papa.

Manu Josiah wearing lei hulu papa

At left, Manu Josiah wears a lei hulu papa while performing at the Palace Theater in Hilo. The lei, made by his mother, Dolly Josiah, features peacock, golden pheasant, and white goose feathers arranged in pauku

Today's Master Lei Makers

With the hustle and bustle of modern times, the patience and leisure required to master intricate arts such as lei hulu manu is often difficult to come by. Fortunately, some of those who learned the art are willing to share their knowledge, and new generations are investing their time and aloha in Hawaiian featherwork. Respected kupuna feather lei makers today include Doreen Henderson, of Puna; Paulette Kahalepuna, daughter of the late lei hulu master Aunty Mary Lou Kekuewa of O`ahu; Tsugi Kimura Kaiama, of Waimea; and Diane Masumura, of Kauai.


Article Links

Lei Hulu Manu - the precious feather lei of Hawai`i
Lei hulu manu, the feather lei of Hawai`i, are some of the most dramatic lei, and steeped with the history and culture of the royalty of the islands. Birds, endowed with the power of flight, can reach the heavens, and flying high, can see far beyond the human view. And so their feathers, filled with the mana, spiritual strength, of the birds' communion with heaven, were crafted into many items of royal regalia worn, and used by chiefs. Feathered garments and adornments are found throughout the world. James W. Reid's book, Magic Feathers, documents the exquisite feathered textiles of Peru. Growing evidence indicates repeated contacts between civilizations throughout and ringing the Pacific Basin. In Hawai`i, featherwork developed into an art form which added spiritual strength and beauty to items ranging from personal adornment to religious and war regalia to sacred structures. Read more. . .

Hawaiian Lei - Garlands of Aloha
Lei are an instantly recognizable symbol of Hawai`i. The wreaths of flowers and foliage worn by both men and women add fragrance and beauty to island life. But lei are more than flowers sewn on a strand. There are lei of seeds, shells, feathers, and even words. A special song composed for a loved one can be a lei. But all of them are a tangible expression of aloha, and as such are given to show love, joy, or sympathy, and as greetings and farewells. Read more. . .

Mele Lei - Celebrating the Hawaiian Lei with Song
For milennia, Hawaiian poetry has celebrated the lei. From ancient chants to modern songs, from poetic metaphors to literal descriptions, the lei has been a popular subject. This fascination with the lei continues today, and even engendered a holiday, Lei Day, to celebrate this delightful part of Hawaiian culture. Read more. . .

The Language of the Lei
Lei are as diverse as their wearers and makers, and this diversity only adds to the beauty and excitement of this traditional adornment. Hawaiian lei makers are innovative, and constantly creating new styles as fashion and taste change with the times. But it is important to remember the old styles which provide the foundation of the art form, and the words that describe them. Today, it is common to use to term "haku," to describe everything from a lei po`o to a lei pāpale, to a lei wili. When the language loses the specific terms, we lose more than one word. We lose the ability to speak - and think - in the detail we once had. Read more. . .

Lei Hulu, feather lei

Lei Wili Poepoe

At right, 19th century lei hulu manu of, `o`o, `iwi, and `o`u feathers in the wili poepoe style, arranged in pauku, or bands. The `o`o and the `o`u birds are now extinct due to habitat loss, invasive species such as rats, and introduced diseases, such as avian malaria. This lei is in the collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

These types of lei were worn by royal women, and passed down from generation to generation. They continue to be cherished today, not only for their beauty, but for their mo`olelo, their stories. Most `ohana (families) which have such heirloom lei are very aware of their provenance, and themodern wearers can recite who crafted the lei, and who in the `ohana had the privilage of wearing it down through the years.

Lei hulu - humu papa

Lei Humupapa

These lei hulu manu humupapa are from the author's collection. Crafted in the 1920s, they are narrow, rounded in cross-section to resemble the kamoe (stitched flat, "sleeping" style), and flat on the under or back side. The stitching is covered with a fabric band. The lei were crafted by the author's kupuna wahine. They are shorter than lei papale (hat lei) done in the same style, as they are designed to be worn around a hair bun. Instead of being secured with a straight pin, which could poke the scalp, they have snaps sewn to their ends.

Modern lei hulu manu humupapa are often more wide and flat, and the stitching on the underside is left exposed to show the beauty and intricacy of the work.

Lei hulu - humu papa

Princess Ka`iulani

Princess Ka`iulani, right, wearing a lei hulu manu in the wili poepoe style. Ka`iulani recently was depicted in a film bearing her name. While modest and studious, she was also a lady of fashion. Educated in England, as Crown Princess of Hawai`i, she strove to fit herself to some day assume the throne and reign as a modern monarch, leading her people into a new era.

Thoroughly modern in education and political leanings, she treasured the traditions of her ancestors.