‘Moana’: The Red Feathers Worn by Moana Are Symbolic

In 2016, Disney fans everywhere fell in love with Moana. Moana is unique and has her own style. She is also different from the other heroes in that she goes on her journey with the story is centered around her, and there is no love interest.

In addition to this, the directors made an effort to make sure the movie was culturally authentic. According to Oh My Disney, this included Moana’s outfits. 

What is ‘Moana’ about?

Auli'i Cravalho and Nicole Sherzinger
Auli’i Cravalho and Nicole Sherzinger | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Disney

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Moana is a Disney animated coming of age film that was released in 2016. Moana is the teenage daughter of the island chief and lives on the fictitious island Motunui.

Moana is headstrong and fearless and is reluctant to accept her role as future chief, but eventually comes around to the idea. However, a dark force threatens her island. Moana’s grandmother’s dying wish is for Moana to save the island and her people.

To do this, Moana must return the heart of Te Fiti, the mother island, who created the other islands. Moana agrees and sets sail, accompanied by a demi-god, Maui, and her adorable rooster, Hei Hei. After overcoming obstacles along the way and battling the lava demon, they return the mother island’s heart to her and restore peace. 

Moana’s outfits are authentic

Vanity Fair article discussed how the directors and creators of Moana, John Muster, and Ron Clements, worked hard to make sure the movie was culturally accurate. It is now one of Disney’s most culturally authentic films. They took many trips to Polynesia and the Pacific Islands to better understand the cultures.

The directors formed what they deemed the “Oceanic Trust.” This team included Anthropologists, Cultural Practitioners, Historians, Linguists, and Choreographers from Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Fiji. This team of experts made sure the movie was as accurate as possible.

The notes they gave changed things that may seem minor, like the curtains Moana had in her home or the fact that Moana would never waste a coconut by throwing it into the ocean. Still, these notes are what helped the movie show the real culture.

Attraction Magazine wrote another article that also gives details about the making of Moana. Both directors wanted Moana to have a unique look, and they struggled with Moana’s fashion.

The main challenge they faced was that the movie took place 2,000 years ago. So, there is little to no reference or documentation to what women wore during this time.

On their second of many trips to the South Pacific, Muster and Clements took photos of the women there. The visual department found these pictures to be very inspirational. The directors also asked the Islanders about materials that would have been around to make clothing out of 2,000 years ago. Some of these materials include mulberry tree bark and pandanus, a palm-like tree, and shells. 

Throughout the movie, Moana wears a total of seven outfits. One of these outfits is only seen for six seconds but still includes thoughtful detailing. Tapa, a softened bark, often mulberry, turned into fabric, pandanus leaves, feathers, and other natural materials make up her clothing.

Red feathers symbolize royalty

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A bond that spans oceans. Happy #FathersDay!

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Moana and her father wear a headdress made of red feathers at one point in the movie. Both the feathers and the color red are a symbol of importance and royalty.

The chief and his daughter, who will be chief after him, wear the red feather to stand out among their people. According to Hawaiian culture, feathers were a rare material, especially red ones. 

You can admire Moana’s beautiful outfits by streaming the movie on Disney Plus.