From beautiful china-sets to rare books and board games, you can find great treasures in thrift stores. Indeed, Hawaiian shopper Shannon Hiramoto found herself a gem in the form of a familiar-looking dress. The woman soon learned about the long legacy that came with the bright muumuu (a popular dress in Hawaii).
Hiramoto, from Kauai, enjoys searching for vintage muumuus as one of her favorite pastimes. So that’s exactly what she was doing when she came across the floral muumuu in a Salvation Army shop in Lihue.
When she found the dress, she liked its short length. It is a pink piece covered with detailed flowers, and it has a V-neck with thrills above the bust. When worn, the mini muumuu falls just above her knee. But she would soon discover that there is far more to it than meets the eye.
“I saw this beautiful muumuu right here, and I’m like, ooh, a mini one, because you know it’s always fun finding a shorter one,” Hiramoto told Khon2, a local television station. Then, in the thrift shop, she looked at the Liberty House tag attached and was shocked at what was on it.
“Kamei” was handwritten on the label. There aren’t many people who had that surname in the area, but Hiramoto knew of one person – her muumuu-loving great-grandmother. She started to wonder if the dress had belonged to her once upon a time.
“When I looked at the tag, it said Liberty House, then it also had handwritten on it ‘Kamei,’ and it blew my mind,” said Hiramoto. She immediately bought the dress and went home with it. She simply had to find out if her suspicions were true.
Her great-grandmother’s name was Florence Shizuko Kamei, and she had been born in Kekaha back in 1904. Hiramoto said, “One of her legacies is that when she passed she was the oldest person in Hawaii at age 108! When she died they announced it on the radio and news!”
And what was her great-grandmother’s secret to long life? “Green tea and hobbies,” said Hiramoto. Along with wearing beautiful flowing dresses, Kamei enjoyed laughing with loved ones, singing in the church choir, strumming the ukulele, dancing and indulging in food.
Hiramoto gave her own daughter the same middle name as Kamei had had, Shizuko. It is a Japanese female name that translates to “Quiet Child.” This is somewhat ironic as “neither of them have quiet personalities,” according to Hiramoto.
Then, as her mind ventured back to thoughts of her old relative, Hiramoto started to recall something extraordinary. She actually remembered Kamei wearing the muumuu. But it was deep in her memory so she couldn’t be sure if it had been the same one.
With her mother, Hiramoto dug through their old family photos to find the proof but at first there was no luck. That was until her mother finally reached the last page of the last album. Then the evidence that the dress had once been in their family was revealed.
“I just knew that she [her great-grand mother] always liked to wear muumuu that had pink or purple or red, and it seemed familiar in this memory way,” Hiramoto said. “Then a couple nights later, my mom texts me a photo and it’s this [pointing to the muumuu], and it’s her, and it’s a full-body shot!”
Of course, Hiramoto was absolutely overjoyed. She said she was “so excited” to see her relative wear the frock all those years ago. But the coincidence didn’t stop there either. Hiramoto even knew where the old photo had been taken.
Hiramoto’s great-grandmother was posing with the long-lost muumuu in a historic county called Hanapepe. She was smiling in front of her church, the United Church of Christ. “What’s really special about it is she’s there,” Hiramoto said. “Her ashes, her remains are in the back of the church there, so it was like visiting her again.”
In memory of Hiramoto’s beloved great-grandma, she went to that very same place in the photograph. She too wore the pink muumuu and then posed for a picture.
It had been five years since Kamei had passed away and during that time, no one knew what had happened to the muumuu. However, Hiramoto believes the fate behind finding the dress is a sign from the departed. To her, the dress is a symbol that she is doing the right things in life.
“She [her great-grandmother] passed five years ago, so I have no idea where [the muumuu] had been between that point and now. It’s magic,” Hiramoto laughed. “I think it’s just her way of telling me I’m on the right track.”
Hiramoto shared this brilliant story on her personal Instagram page “Machinemachine,” where she has more than 4,500 followers. The post has received more than 1,000 likes, and users have commented on how amazing and special the whole experience has been.
“I’ve come full circle and feel like she is smiling down on me or at least giggling,” said Hiramoto. The dress will live on as a family heirloom, and she will “definitely” pass it on to her daughter.
It’s incredible to think about the serendipity of finding such a family treasure in a thrift store. Some people may think it’s simple luck but no matter what reasons are behind it, the muumuu’s legacy has shocked and pleased many, so in that regard, the dress does indeed have a little bit of “magic.”