The pareo is Tahitian, and developed when islanders adapted their traditional colors and designs to Western fabric introduced by European explorers in the 1700s. The pareo is a rectangle of cotton fabric worn by women as a a wrap-around skirt or dress. The fabric is usually brightly colored, and adorned with tapa patterns or hibiscus flowers. A pareo typically measures approximately 2 yards long and 1 yard wide. Today, the garment enjoys more widespread popularity, although women usually wear it to cover their entire torso below the shoulders.

Z & L Handbags Floral Pareo
Tarnish ‘Gecko’ Pareo
Missoni Pareo
*Find at Nordstrom


The pareo is similar to the sarong, but the main difference is where they originated. Pareos are what the long rectangles of body wrapping fabric are called in French Polynesia, whereas sarongs come from Indonesia. Wearing pareo can be just easy to do. You can wear it as a skirt or wrap it around your entire body so that it is more like a dress. The pareo is long enough to function as both and it will look fashionable either way. To wrap, start with the fabric of your pareo centered in back. Wrap the pareo around your back and bring the fabric under each arm. Pull it snugly around your body, crossing the corners in the middle of your chest. Continue to bring the corners around your neck and tie behind your head. This tie will create a modest overlap of fabric in the front.

Gottex Electric Print Pareo
Gottex Maldives Floral Leaf Swimsuit Pareo
*Find at Bloomingdales


For a nice strapless look, begin by centering your pareo on your back. Wrap the pareo snugly across your back and bring the ends to your front under your arms. Knot the corners in the middle of your chest. You won’t get any overlap with this tie, but the extra fabric will make soft folds in front, providing some additional coverage. Today, most pareos are made from rayon, silk, or cotton. Some may be created of thinner wool or wool blends. Whether bright or watercolored, most pareos have repeating abstract patterns or floral designs. These pareos are really versatile for you. Since pareos are rectangles of cloth, they can serve many purposes.