The Polynesian pareo is nothing more than a large rectangle of hemmed fabric. But add a twist here and knot or two there, and it converts to a sarong, a halter top, a pair of shorts or an elegant evening wrap. For certain vacation destinations, it could be the bulk of a woman's wardrobe. Now haven't you always wanted to pack like that?
Ready-made pareos range in price from $18 to more than $100, depending on the quality of the fabric. Dimensions vary considerably, too. A random sampling turned up 41-by-63, 45-by-60, 40-by-58 and 53-by-60-inch pieces. Experiment until you find the best size for your shape. In general, though, the more generous the dimensions of the pareo, the greater its versatility.
To find ready-made pareos, try swimsuit specialty stores like Splash & Flash in The City Shopping Center in Orange, where sales personnel are trained to demonstrate pareo wraps.
To make a pareo (pronounced pah-RAY-o, according to the Tahitian Tourist Board) select 1 1/2 to two yards of colorful cotton fabric. Choose a fabric that's 45- to 60-inches wide. The taller you are, the wider you'll want the fabric as the width will become your dress or skirt length. French hem the fabric all around.
Front tie 1. Hold scarf out full length behind you. 2. Bring both ends to the front just above the bust line. 3. Cross, pull taut, knot securely.
Halter Dress 1. Hold scarf behind you; cross the ends in front. 2. Bring ends around to nape of the neck; tie. 3. For a barer neckline, twist the two ends together several times before tying.
Hip-hugging skirt 1. Tie like a sarong, except hold pareo behind you lengthwise at waist level. 2. Bring ends to the front at the level of the navel. Cross, pull snug across the derriere and knot securely. (A second knot might be needed for security.)
3. Tuck loose ends into the waist.
Sheathlike skirt (Requires larger pareo) Cross the material in front but, instead of knotting it there, bring the ends back around to the small of the back before tying.
For short skirt Option No. 1: Fold pareo in half, width-wise, before wrapping. Option No. 2: While holding the fabric out behind you, roll up to the desired length.
Diaper-Style Shorts 1. Hold up pareo width-wise in front of you at waist-level. 2. Tie ends at small of back. 3. Reach down, gather all loose fabric and pull it back through the legs to the back. 4. Pull remaining two ends forward and tie at the waist. If the shorts are too droopy in the rear, roll under excess fabric before bringing forward to tie.
Butterfly Shawl 1. Knot pareo together on each of its shorter ends. 2. Slip arms through the openings.
Halter Top 1. Spread pareo on flat surface. Pick up bottom right-hand corner and pull it up past the lengthwise edge of the fabric until it forms a twin peak with the top left-hand corner. 2. Tie peaks behind neck. Roll under the rest of the scarf to waist-level and tie behind your back.
Source: Splash & Flash, The City Shopping Center, Orange