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The Conversation

ʻIolani Palace celebrates King Kalākaua's 185th birthday with recreated coronation suit

Coronation Suit iolani palace kalakaua
The Friends of Iolani Palace
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"Created by historic dress designer Iris Viacrusis, the Coronation Suit stands majestically in the Throne Room, while the Masonic Apron is on display in King’s Library on the second floor," ʻIolani Palace said. They debuted at the palace on Nov. 16, 2021.

With ʻIolani Palace decorated in honor of King David Kalākaua’s birthday this week, visitors will be treated to new additions at the historic royal residence.

Reproductions of the suit he wore at his coronation on Feb. 12, 1883, and his Masonic apron debuted at ʻIolani Palace on the king’s 185th birthday, Nov. 16.

Hilo designer Iris Viacrusis recreated the coronation suit utilizing historic pictures — and some careful calculations.

Kalakaua Coronation Suit.jpg
The Friends of Iolani Palace
King David Kalākaua's coronation suit on Feb. 12, 1883.

"There is actually a lot of puzzles, just like with other gowns, where there are some existing pieces that could actually get some information from," Viacrucis said. "There actually is information from his passport for one. One of the clues was, he was photographed next to one of the tall jars in the palace."

They took a tape measure to the tall jar, which still exists, and figured out his height, and the suit's height, in relation. The linen fabric and gold-embroidered trim for the dress whites came from as far away as Paris, Pakistan and England.

Viacrucis, also credited with recreating Queen Liliuʻokalani's peacock gown, says the king's project took more than a year to pull together.

Paula Akana, executive director of The Friends of ʻIolani Palace, said there are some festivities planned to mark Kalākaua’s birthday, though events are more subdued because of the pandemic.

Coronation Suit 2.jpg
The Friends of Iolani Palace

"Because of COVID, we can't do what we'd like to do, which is the big ceremonies that we'd have with the Royal Societies and the reviewing of the Royal Guard. But the bunting is up in his honor, which I think is so beautiful," she said. "We're going to have the King's Guard, the Royal Guard will be hosting on the front lanai. And then we're just welcoming people to see the newest items that were recreated for Kalākaua."

The two recreations are the latest from the palace’s Aliʻi Garment Reproduction Project, the palace said.

The community is invited to visit ʻIolani Palace while it's decked out for Kalākaua's birthday. The replica gowns and uniforms of the aliʻi add a special touch during the holiday season.

The palace is open Tuesday through Saturday. Head to www.iolanipalace.org for ticketing information.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Nov. 17, 2021.

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