Whether they make you sing South Pacific's famous tune "Bali Ha'i" or suddenly give you the urge to book a trip to Bora Bora, you have to agree that there's something truly transporting about Polynesian prints. Whether it's a traditional batik pattern or simply involves a tropical motif, these prints inject a little bit of paradise into their surroundings, making them an ideal pick for anyone who wants to swap the city for sandier locales. Of course, a frond-emblazoned or ruffle-embellished frock appeals to even the most cosmopolitan crowds, as evidenced by red-carpet regulars like Zoe Saldana and Blake Lively. They're taking inspiration from the islands, and you should too!
If you're wary of trying this trend because you think you'll look like a Honolulu tourist trap, our suggestion is simple: just check out Dior's S/S 11 collection and you'll have ideas aplenty on how to execute Polynesian prints in a chic way. We noted loads of South Seas-influenced prints in luau shades like tangerine and hibiscus pink. In our featured runway look, a leaf green and purple palm-frond print Tropical Batik Dress (available by special order, 800.929.DIOR) was paired with leather, suede, and feather Tahiti Sandals ($1600, 800.929.DIOR) and a cat-eye pair of red Montuone Sunglasses ($395, 800.929.DIOR) for a flirty, island-inspired ensemble with a hint of '50s flair. On a side note, if you're obsessed with this exact print, do check out Dior's Printed Cotton Poplin Mini Dress ($2300), which is available now.
In addition to taking lessons from the runway, we also suggest checking out how some of our favorite fashion plates are wearing these pretty Polynesian pieces. A few are opting for colorful interpretations, like the one-of-a-kind orange fringed Marchesa Resort 11 dress Blake Lively wore to a dinner party celebrating the label's F/W 11 show in New York earlier this year. Though not a typical Polynesian print, the ornately embellished dress has a tropical, tribal vibe that's certainly in keeping with this trend. Pixie Geldof also picked a vibrant ensemble with a South Pacific sensibility for the ELLE Style Awards in London earlier this spring. The tastemaker selected the white and purple banana-leaf print Maxi Dress with Draped Back ($502) by House of Holland for this occasion. We love the oversized pattern; the proportion gives it a slightly '70s, very festive spirit that makes us want to drink a cocktail out of a coconut.
Of course, the combination of (what can be) a kitschy print and a bright palette might be too much for some readers. For you, mistresses of subtlety, we say take a tip from Zoe Saldana and simply pick muted or neutral pieces. The actress did just that for the Los Angeles premiere of Burning Palms a few months ago when she arrived in a head-to-toe Yves Saint Laurent runway look, including the Cotton-Pique Halterneck Top ($1650), Skirt with Fingerprint Motif and Ruffles ($2790, 212.980.2970), and a pair of Suede Cage Ankle Wedges ($1050). Though the pattern on her skirt is fingerprints, the way they're placed, especially combined with the pareo-style silhouette, results in an island-like look. Speaking of wraps, we also appreciate the tropical-print dress Tali Lennox selected for the launch of the new Tommy Hilfiger pop-up shop, better known as Prep World, in Covent Garden, London earlier this month. Though the gray background and muted flowers make this a somewhat understated option, the dress has a neon hemline and that small detail makes it all the more interesting. Another way to convey the tropics is by picking a print piece with a halter top, as Emmy Rossum did for a Harvey Weinstein and Dior dinner at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles this past February. The actress was photographed executing this trend in high style via her mid-blue and cream cotton poplin Dior Manoa Halter Dress ($2400, available by special order, 800.929.DIOR).
If you're feeling inspired and ready to interpret this runway trend at home, we have some suggestion that just might help. Those of you who are in the market for a punchy print should check out Vanessa Bruno's Tie-Front Tropical-Print Skirt ($455); it has neon accents and offers a less traditional take on this trend. Want something that's not much of an investment? Topshop's Tropical Rhianna Dress ($84) is an excellent choice and it has a black background, which makes it very easy to wear. Also check out Free People's Breezy Palm Dress ($60) in Navy, as it offers a subtle Polynesian-reminiscent print and a festive, tiered ruffled skirt. There's also something lovely about Halston Heritage's Orchid One-Shoulder Side-Drop Dress ($395); it touches on the trend in an untraditional way. And last, but not least, if you're feeling daring, ready for an abbreviated top, and loved the banana-leaf print Pixie Geldof wore, you definitely should check out House of Holland's Cropped T-Shirt with Leaf Print ($102); it's beyond darling, especially paired with print shorts.
Photo of Blake Lively, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Photos of Pixie Geldof and Tali Lennox, courtesy of Getty; Photo of Zoe Saldana, courtesy of Bauer Griffin; Dior runway image, courtesy of Christian Dior