The Native American people were very resourceful and were able to create a wide variety of items to wear. From the most basic war and loin cloths, to the most elaborate powwow and wedding gowns, Indian fashion covers a wide scope. Originally, the most basic element of Indian fashion was the breechcloth, which was simply a large strip of cloth that covered both the front and back area of a person, held together by a strip wrapped around the waist. Nothing was worn as a shirt.
For footwear, leggings were worn as well as moccasins, and in colder climates, boots made of deerskin and fur called mukluks were worn. Fur parkas were also very popular in colder areas in order to keep everyone warm. Woven blankets were often draped over the shoulders and worn as colorful form of over-clothing. Eventually, Indian fashion became more intricate, and beadwork and dyed colors in the fabrics were worn. Feather headdresses made a very beautiful addition to the Indians’ wardrobe.
Beaded necklaces were worn by the women, and also articles of clothing called jingle dresses. A jingle dress was a simple dress adorned with shells or beads that made a jingling sound when the Native American woman walked or danced. This added an element of elegance to the wardrobe. Most Indian clothing was made of animal skins, fur, or woven fabric. Shells and even the quills of porcupines were sometimes used to help adorn the fashion.
The Native Americans believed in using all parts from animals that were hunted, so their clothing reflected this by using as many parts as possible. Native American clothing was durable and adaptable, as well as high in quality. Much of the time the women served as seamstress, making war uniforms for the tribesmen and clothing for their children.
Joseph Paige © 2006