Native American Clothing

Beautiful and hand-crafted, Native American clothing is more than just parts of a wardrobe: Each piece is a work of art. Complex symbols based on the rich history of the various tribes are used to decorate these items with bright colours. Additionally, Native Americans developed intricate methods for crafting unique jewelry.

What are American Indian clothes made of?

Coming from an era before industrialization, Native Americans traditionally had to hand-craft every portion of their clothing. These processes were often laborious as the native people had to work with what was available from their environment. For instance, some made cloth from rigid plant components like bark. By beating the bark until it was flexible, the American Indians were able to extract the fibers from these plants, and these fibers were then woven together.

Native Americans also used the by-products of their hunting. Animal pelts and leather were important materials, especially in colder regions where fur made for warmer clothes. Bone was often hand-carved into beads or tools for working leather and cloth.

What are the different kinds of Great Plains Indian clothes?

Some of the most commonly known Native American clothing comes from the Great Plains; headdresses and moccasins come from this region.

  • Indian Headdress: The headdress, sometimes called a roach, is a symbol of honor and status worn on the head. It is made from a variety of materials, including porcupine hair or feathers from various birds. A headdress is decorated with different coloured dyes to represent a veteran's success during combat.
  • Leather Moccasins: Moccasins are a type of sock or light shoe crafted from the skin of animals like deer. They are soft and flexible, and beads are often used to decorate the tops of moccasins with intricate designs.

What clothes do southwestern tribes, such as the Navajo, make?

American Indians native to the Southwest were faced with the challenge of keeping cool in the desert sun while keeping warm on cold nights. To manage this, the Indians in the Navajo tribe wore short-sleeved clothing made from deer skin. As the weather got colder, they wore blankets made from yucca fibers, which are large sword-leaf plants that thrive in the southwestern United States. Leather moccasins were also prevalent in this environment.

These Native people are known for their turquoise jewelry. Set in silver, these necklaces, rings, belts, and bracelets often feature a characteristic "squash blossom" shape.

What styles of Native American dress come from the Cherokee?

Native American tribes in the southeastern United States also have a distinct style of clothing. A native Cherokee woman often wore a tear dress, named for the tearing process used to make the design, and a Cherokee man would wear a ribbon shirt. Children often wore the same style of native clothing as their parents. Clothing in this Indian tribe often featured their seven-sided star and other sacred symbols.