There are three main parts to each costume: headdress, face and body painting, and ornaments.
There is a large variety in all these depending on which tribe they come from.
Some of the headdresses are truly really amazing.
They also make wigs using human hair and plant fiber.
They decorate them with flowers, leaves and feathers.
For Sing-Sings, which are musical festivals , tribal groups spend hours preparing their spectacular costumes. The colors and patterns of face paint indicate the wearer's tribe and status.
Shells are a very important part of the traditional costume. Gold lip-ed pearl shells are carved into curved shapes, called Kina. Circles of smaller shells, called Toea look like coins and were often worn through the nose or in necklaces. The words “Kina” and “Toea” are today used for money. In PNG currency 100 toea equals 1 kina. Even today, though, real shells might still be used as money in ceremonies such as weddings.
Every body ornament has a meaning. Strings of dog, porpoise, or fruit bat teeth indicate a person's wealth. Tattoos were once made by punching sharpened wood or bone needles and dye into the skin. Only people of high status were permitted to have tattoos. For special occasions, felt pens are now used as a less painful way to have a temporary tattoo.
These days, most people wear second-hand Western clothes. They still wear their traditional costumes for special festivals. Especially in the Highlands traditions are still important.