Native American Dress

Today’s mainstream clothing fashions are pretty similar, as far as everyday clothing goes. The widespread use of climate control measures such as heating, mechanical ventilation, and air conditioning systems have removed the need to adapt our clothing to match our climate, to a large degree anyway.

Especially in the United States, clothing styles don’t vary much from one geographic region to another in spite of climate differences and the rest of the world seems pretty eager to copy our Western wardrobes.

If we were to step back a few generations to a time when geographic and cultural differences were more distinct, however, we’d find a great deal of diversity in the clothing worn by the peoples from all around. In fact, the clothing styles worn by the people of the world are a reflection of their lifestyles, geography and climate, even their spiritual and religious beliefs.

Taking a peek into the wardrobes of the American past, we find a wide and splendid diversity of style in the traditional Native American dress in a time before the European invasion. Clothing style and decorative embellishments were used as means to identify members of various tribes and to convey status in tribal society.

Historic Native American dress reflected geography, too. From the fur-lined parkas of the tribes of the north to the shirts and breechclouts made of buffalo hide by the inhabitants of the Great Plains to the loincloths and moccasins of the southern peoples, there is a tremendous amount of knowledge to be gained by even a cursory consideration of clothing design.

The ornamentation used to embellish Native American dress also spoke volumes about the wearer. Seashells indicated someone who lived near the ocean while elk teeth identified someone from the northern woodlands. Turquoise beads where a rather clear indication that the wearer of these garments came from the southwestern deserts.

Even without a written language to describe their lives to people of a later time, the stories told by Native American dress and clothing styles tells stories that entertain and fascinate long after the traditional styles were abandoned.