Women's Northern Traditional Buckskin and Wool Cloth Dress
LAKOTA BUCKSKIN DRESS
By the 1820's, with the introduction of the horse to the North American Plains, it became easier for the Lakota to obtain
the skins of larger mammals such as mule deer, bighorn sheep and elk. The much larger size of the skins from these animals allowed two entire
skins to be sewn together in such a way that the hind legs and tail could be folded over and allowed to hang down at both back and front to
form the Deertail dress. The tails would often be left on as a feature, hair intact, hanging down at the center of the yoke on both sides.
This form required only a minimal amount of tailoring, if any, and was extremely widespread amongst many Plains tribes in the nineteenth
century, replacing earlier indigenous forms of women's clothing such as the side-fold dress and strap dress. Several tribes began to decorate
the yoke section of their deertail dresses with lazy-stitch bands of pony beadwork, the contours of the beadwork following the shape of the
hind legs and dip of the tail. The figure below shows how this dress is cut from two large bighorn sheep or deer hides.
Note how the hides are sewn together at the top to make the shoulder line and how the extra leather is then folded down over
front and back. The undulating line lie thus created becomes the basis for the subsequent decoration and gives the dress its name. Most Deertail
dresses are decorated like that in the photo below. There are many bands of pony beads (usually in contrasting colors) along the front and back,
one lane of beading along the bottom edge, cloth patches at the bottom corners, and the triangular ornament in the center at about knee height.
Notice the three projections of the skirt bottom. Every good Deertail dress ought to have them.
A Blackfoot dress.
From the 1850's onwards, with the increaing availability of glass seed beads from Europe, the Lakota and other central Plains tribes
began covering the yoke section with large expanses of lazy-stitch beadwork. At this point of development, a third entire skin was employed, attached
transversely across the upper edge of the two skirt skins. See the figure above. This saw the beginning of the "tripartite" or 3-skin dress, the Lakota
buckskin dress as we know it today, at least as far as construction is concerned. The aim was still to make something that resembles the Deertail dress.
Some dresses made like this have deer tails sewn on to complete the resemblance. A variation has to do with the decoration, and is only a simplification
on the deep curve around the tail. The photo below shows how this was smoothed out to a shallow "V" over the bodice. This variation wasn't seen until
the 1880's, but it is still in use today.
A Blackfoot dress.
A Lakota dress.
The fully-beaded yoke buckskin dress of tripartite (3-skin) construction was probably the Lakota woman's most prestigious possession.
A great deal of respect was accorded to any woman who had made one, a task which might take an entire year or more, and the end product might weigh
an average of 15 pounds. It is therefore not difficult to see why a dress of this type should be regarded by its owner as a symbol of status, to be
worn only for formal social occasions.
The First Phase Style (circa 1860-1880)
By the 1860's, the established trend was for fully-beaded yokes employing a blue background of seed beads. The shape of the yoke
became standardized, characterized by "scoop" sleeves, deriving from the shape of the deer's legs. The undulating outline of the binary deertail
dress was retained, even though this had ceased to be an important factor in its construction. The overall effect was one of elegant simplicity,
with a striped border accentuating the outline, and simple geometric designs in the "classical" style added to the main field. It is this style
which can be described as the "first phase" of the tripartite fully-beaded yoke dress, which was in vogue until the 1880's, and to a certain extent,
until the turn of the nineteenth century. In the last two decades of the century, as beadwork designs increased in complexity, this style was
gradually superceded by the "second phase".
The blue used for the background color of the main field seems to be almost exclusively turquoise (sky blue), hence the Lakota
descriptive term, "blue breast beading". The color may originate from an earlier practice of painting the yoke section of the dress with a blue
pigment, in a similar manner to the treatment of the upper section of men's ceremonial hairlock shirts. The layout of the beaded yoke clearly held
great symbolic significance and power.
Typical designs employed in the main field of the "first phase" yoke belong to the first seed bead period or "classical" style.
Originating from earlier quillwork and pony beadwork traditions, these comprise a range of simple geometric elements, (triangles, diamonds, rectangles,
crosses, etc.) sparsely arranged on the blue background. The hallmark of the first phase yoke is the relatively small proportion of design area to
background. The beaded yokes of the earliest examples, the 1860's, tend to be rather shallow, giving the effect of being only half-beaded.
A Lakota dress circa 1870.
Detail of the yoke beadwork.
What is particulary noteworthy is that these designs were often beaded onto the main field first, the lazy-stitch lanes following
the contours of their form, the background area being filled in afterwards in horizontal rows, in much the same manner as representational pictographic
beadwork desigs. This is a technique which appears to have been abandoned before the "second phase" of development, as designs grew increasingly complex,
particularly during the 1860's and 1870's. An early stage in the development of the fully-beaded yoke involved the addition of free-standing beaded
motifs to a plain (or stained) buckskin background, between horizontal bands.
Many of these first phase designs appear to have had precise symbolic significance, although their interpretation, in some instances,
is now a matter of conjecture. The square or rectangle with a border of a contrasting color, often containing one or more smaller rectangles, is a
a common choice, and is referred to by the Lakota as Tatueya Topa (Four Directions). It no doubt signifies the earthen altars prepared for the Sun
Dance, Buffalo Ceremony, Vision Quest, and present-day Yuwipi and Eagle ceremonies.
Eventually, as design showed a tendency to become more elaborate, this design was developed internally to contain, for example, a
checkerboard pattern of two contrasting colors. In other cases, a square or tectangle might form a frame containing a simple geometric unit. This is
a feature of dresses circa 1870-80.
Another favorite design is the concave-sided square or rectangle, often having triangular (or circular) appendages to each corner.
The samme motif also occurs in Lakota quillwork, usually combined with horizontal quilled stripes, employed on a variety of objects. This proctective
device seems to represent the spider's web, and also has links with thunder and lightning. Sometimes this device is set diagonally, forming a
concave-sided diamond rather than a square, in which case it signifies Yumni, the Whirlwind.
Sometimes, two or more design units were combined to form a slightly more complex design, but the overall effect was usually one of
restraint. A common approach to the layout of designs was to place a single motif to each side of the neckline, creating an AA layout; matching pairs
of motifs to each of the neckline, creating an AAAA layout, or a single motif to each side of the neckline, flanked by another (different) motif set
further out, in a BAAB arrangement. This second motif is often an isosceles triangle on its side, facing inward.
A further option was to have a central motif, flanked on each side by a second, bolder design which is, in turn, flanked on each side
by a repeat of the central motif, creating an ABABA layout.
Occasionally, it will be noticed that more than one shade of background color is employed in the main field. This inevitable occured
from time to time on such a large-scale project when the beadworker ran out of beads, the next batch varying slightly from the first. Most beadworkers
will know that blue beads in particular seem to vary in shade from one batch to another.
As for designs, a limited palette of colors is employed, usually a choice of white-core rose, dark or royal blue, greasy yellow, and
medium green. Occasionally, pink and transparent dark green have been noted, although the hallmark of the first phase dress was a conservative use of
colors, usually limited to three or possibly four in addition to the background. Beads used during this period are Venetian, usually 4/0, sometimes
the smaller 5/0. All beadwork, as well as constructional stitching, is sinew-sewn.
Another important characteristic of the first phase dress is the simple stripe border, generally consisting of three plain rows of
lazy-stitch, running all around the outer edges of the yoke and across the shoulders, giving definition to the undulating outline. By far the most
common choice, consists of three rows, namely white-core rose, greasy yellow, and dark blue, the greasy yellow being placed in the middle, creating a
medium/light/dark effect. this combination appears to occur virtually as standard during the 1860-70 period, variants of this being a slightly later
development. Other variants of the stripe border include the following: dark blue/greasy yellow/dark blue, rose/greasy yellow/rose, dark blue/rose/medium
green, white/dark blue/white, rose, medium green/greasy yellow/dark blue, rose/greasy yellow/dark blue/greasy yellow/rose, and dark blue/greasy
yellow/rose/greasy yellow/dark blue.
Sometimes, a simple geometric device is incorporated at the tip of the scoop sleeves. The neckline generally employs either the same
combination of stripes as the border; a variation thereof; a simplified version thereof; or a single plain row of lazy-stitch.
First phase Lakota dress; note the border rows and turtle device.
An eventual development of the first phase dress is the so-called "turtle" device, which was added to the lower center of the yoke.
This positioning actually seems to derive from the original shape of the tail on the binary deertail dress, although to the Lakota, the distinctive
U-shape may have specific symbolic associtations with the turtle, the creature which influenced women's capacity for childbirth and infancy, and the
natural cycles relating to womanhood.
At some stage, probably concurrently, a "secondary band" was added along the lower edge of the yoke, following the contours of the border.
This had the effect of deepening the beaded field. It is generally wider than the border, consisting of between five and seven lazy-stitch lanes, into
which the turtle device is usually incorporated.
A common approach to the treatment of the turtle device consists of a central panel attached to the lower edge of the border lanes,
often containing, or flanked by, an arrangement of crosses or rectangles, with one or more U-shaped motifs below. The main body of the turtle motif
usually employs the blue background of the main field.
The turtle motif employed on first phase dresses was generally identical o both back and front. Very similar devices appeared on
pony-beaded bands across the yoke of part-beaded Cheyenne and Lakota dresses in the 1840's and 1850's. The predominant choice of design seems to be a
central block divided into alternating stripes of two contrasting colors, with two or more horizontal bars projecting from each side.
First phase Lakota dress
The lower (skirt) section of the first phase dress retains, to a large extent, the natural shape of the deer's forelegs, often stained
with yellow ochre earth pigment. The lower edge of the skirt is usually heavily fringed, (either integral or separately attached), often with a band or
bands of lazy-stitch decoration. Spangles of tin cones were frequently added to the forelegs. Double buckskin thong suspensions were usually spaced at
intervals to both front and back of the skirt, each having a small beaded square above. A side fringe is usual though not mandatory.
Symbolism: a Cosmological Interpretation
Father Peter Powell makes reference to a Lakota legend relating how women came to bear children, the blue background of the beaded
yoke symbolizing a "lake with the sky reflected upon the waters". In this lake dwells the sacred turtle creature allegedly associated with women's
powers of reproduction. The designs on the main beaded field are interpreted as the reflections of stars, clouds and supernatural beings inhabiting
the sky and lake shore, embodying the forces of both the seen and unseen worlds which are so evident in Lakota mythology. This oft-repeated
interpretation, however, should perhaps be treated with caution, and may prove to have little or no foundation in Lakota cosmology.
The very formalized arrngement of color on first phase Lakota dresses, with the blue yoke and yellow-stained skirt, divided by the
stripe border, would apperar to have its origin in the Lakota view of the universe, and a parallel in a common type of men's ceremonial "wicaša"
shirt, the lower section of which is painted yellow to represent Inyan (the Stone), first element of creation; the top painted blue to represent
Takuškanškan, (the Power that Moves), the Sky. The stripe border, in all probability, is much more than a mere decorative device. It
symbolizes the Rainbow, Wignunke, which arcs between Sky and Rock. Mike Cowdrey speculates further about the symbolic layout of Lakota fully-beaded
"Since [the secondary] band is located at the juction between Earth (Rock) and Sky; is usually blue in color; and has submerged
within it a symbolic turtle, it can only be intended to represent the waters of the Earth. Here may be the origin of Lyford's and Fr. Powell's belief
that the blue yoke represents a "lake". I cannot insist too strongly that the yoke must represent the sky; but the blue secondary band, wherein lurks
an underwater symbol, could well denote a lake, or river".
The four leg extensions to the lower edge of the skirt, (as well as on "wicaša" hairlock shirts), are representative of the Four
Directions. The four extensions to the scoop sleeves might, by the same token, symbolize the Four Winds, genii loci of the Four Directions. Many of
the most recurrent designs employed on the main field of the yoke serve as directional symbols which also have their origins in Lakota cosmology, as
Thus, by wearing such a garment, a Lakota woman symbolically places herself at the center of all the universe, metaphorically creating
the world anew, from the center, assuming her place in the Creation, and in doing so, demonstrates the inseparability of the sacred and the profane in
Lakota everyday life.
The Second Phase Style (circa 1880-Present)
From the early 1870's onwards, the Lakota craftworker gained increasing confidence in the lazy-stitch medium. The limited range of
simple blocky design units employed in the first seed bead period, deriving respectively from earlier quillwork and pony beadwork traditions, must
eventually have become rather unimaginative to the Lakota beadworker as she experimented with the existing repertoire of designs, pushing back the
boundaries of stylistic convention to create a wide range of elaborate "composite" designs.
Paradoxically, this increased embellishment of design frequently coincided with a gradual simplification of the outline of the yoke;
and the use of the stripe border became less frequent as the geometric border gained in popularity.
Second phase Lakota dress
The "second seed bead period" amongst the Lakota extends from about 1870 onwards. We are all acquainted with the light spidery effect
created by the elaborate composite designs, often extended with subsidiary forked, pronged and zig-zag terminals. However, the manner in which these
composite designs were used with specific regard to the evolving tripartite dress is interesting, as they seem to have been adopted somewhat cautiously
on dress yokes, compared with their application on a variety of other Lakota beaded items. This may be due to two reasons. Firstly, the dramatic
effect of a small number of elementary design units, sparsely arranged on a vast field of blue beads had been the very hallmark of the fully-beaded
yoke dress; and secondly, the symbolic origins of the blue background in Lakota cosmology must have contributed at least in part to the perpetuation
of the first phase style. Indeed, many of the simple blocky designs, together with other features of the earlier phase such as the stripe border, in
fact persisted on dress yokes until the late nineteenth century and later. By this time, of course, more complex geometric composites were being used
as standard on most other articles of Lakota beadwork.
One of the earliest departures from this style involved the addition of internal embellishtmnt to otherwise restrained first
phase-style designs. This became a feature of many dress yokes which abandon the stripe border in favor of one with simple geometric designs.
Many examples feature a combination of first and second phase characteristics in this way, and would be best described as "transitional". Other
transitional examples may display pure first phase characteristics, (stripe border, simple classical designs, deertail outline, etc.), and conform
to the conventions of the earlier style in everything but the background color, blue being substituted by white, for example, or by pink.
However, the gradual trend was for an increased design area in proportion to backgroound, and for the use of several different
designs on the main field of the yoke. This is in contrast with the first phase style, in which only one or two simple motifs were arranged on the
vast expanse of blue background.
The designs fall basically into three categories:
1. Large-scale "primary" composites in the "baroque" style, consisting of a wide variety of triangles, parallelograms, diamonds,
rectangles, etc., often with a proliferation of radiating appendages and much inner elaboration. Generally speaking, two or more separate primary
designs are used on the main field of a typical second phase yoke. One (A) is placed centrally, the other (B) flanking it at each side, creating a
BAB layout. At times, the central design is repeated again, creating an ABABA layout. Even more complex variations might involve the introduction
of a third primary design, arranged in a BCBABCB layout, or similar variations on such a theme.
2. Smaller-scale "secondary" designs, usually of a simple nature, frequently employed to "fill in" between the primary designs.
These include crosses, eight pointed stars, and small-scale composite designs. The effect of these motifs was to minimize the area of unfilled background.
3. Vertical devices, sometimes used to divide the main field. These are optional, but include "vertebrae", "lightning", stacked
triangles, crosses, etc.
The first phase practice of beading geometric designs onto the main field first, and filling in the backgrouond afterwards, was
abandoned in the second phase, the more complex designs no longer lending themselves to this approach. Designs in the main field of a second phase
yoke sometimes differ slightly on front and back. This was never the case on first phase examples studied.
Second phase Lakota dress
Occasionally, in the final quarter of the nineteenth century, and particularly during the 1890's, up until around 1910, the US flag
was used as a motif on fully-beaded dress yokes, reflecting the contemporary fondness for patriotic emblems, in common with many other Plains tribes.
A further choice of design, though rather less common, was that of representational (pictographic) figures. This type typically
consists of two inward-facing sets of mounted horsemen or paired standing figures, wearing warbonnets, each holding a horse. The designs are beaded
onto the background first, the lazy-stitch lanes following the contours of the figure, and the background filled in afterwards with horizontal rows
of lazy-stitch. These retain very much of a first phase flavor with a simplified stripe border. However, this representational style does not occur
by any means as frequently on Lakota fully-beaded dress yokes as it does on male accouterments such as vests and pipe bags, this mainly being the
preserve of Lakota men. It perhaps reflects the continuing importance of warrior imagery during the reservation period continuing the earlier
tradition of women displaying painted depictions of the exploits of their male relatives on their dresses.
Second phase Lakota dress with representational figures
Cheyenne influence on Lakota material culture is understandable in view of the two tribes' close alliance, and the influx of Cheyenne
wives into Lakota camps following the cholera epidemic in 1849. An unusual example of the representational style is seen in a dress in which the
stylized pictographic figures of mounted horsemen have been substituted with realistic birds and foliage within rectangular "frames". This example
dates from circa 1915-25, and should be regarded as anomalous in style,, although it harks back to the earlier first phase practice of enclosing
simple geometric units in rectangular frames. The choice of color used for the background of the main field was expanded in the second phase to
include white, (the favorite choice of background color fot the majority of Oglala and Brulé beadwork articles), as well as a diversity of
other shades of blue, particularly after the turn of the century. In addition to the classic turquoise (sky) blue, there was an increasing favor for
periwinkle blue, light blue, medium blue, royal, dark, and pale blue. Pink and greasy yellow have also been noted as background colors.
Eventually, in more recent times, a wide range of Czech colors was used, including red, green, orange, and even purple. Czech beads
were available to the Lakota from the early twentieth century, and came in a wider, though less subtle, color range than Venetian beads. Many second
phase dress yokes still retained the conservative palette of colors customarily favored by the Lakota; that is, three or four colors in addition to
the backgound color. Other examples display a tendency to use a considerably broader selection of colors, encouraged by the increasingly complex
nature of the baroque designs. Faceted steel and brass beads from France and England became popular from the late 1880's.
Predominantly white-outlined geometric designs were favored when used on a medium blue background. this is particularly the case
for dresses made after the turn of the century.
As designs became ever more complex, there was a tendency in some cases for the shape of the yoke to become simplified, the deertail
outline being made less of a feature. Yokes were expanded to become even deeper and often more square in shape, sometimes at the expense of the scoop
The simple stripe border was superceded by a border of between three and five lazy-stitch rows, employing simple composite designs.
The use of two alternating designs was a paricularly popular practice. Diamonds, blocky crosses, triangles, bars and chevrons were popular favorites.
The stripe border, however, continued to be employed by some conservative beadworkers.
A similar range of geometric composites, often in aternating pairs, was used for the secondary band, employing the same background
color as that used in the main field. Occasionally, with the trend for deeper yokes, a third or "tertiary" band was added below the secondary band,
completely enclosing the lower part of the turtle device.
The turtle device itself also became more complex, often with a decorative border or borders, consisting of repeated triangles or
blocks. The colors and even designs used on the turtle device on the front of the dress sometimes differed from those on the back. With the increasing
simplification of outline of the yoke, the turtle device was sometimes omitted altogether.
The preferred choice of skin used for second phase dresses was generally elk. It became fashionable in the twentieth century to use
white skins rather than the first phase practice of staining the skirt section with yellow ochre pigment. Skirts were cleaned with chalk to enhance the
whiteness of the buckskin. The skirt section of the second phase dress either retains the natural shape of the animal's forelegs, or eventually becomes
simpler and more tailored, squarer in outline. The heavy fringe to the lower edge may be either integral or added. Beaded bands or other decoration
along the lower edge are optional, as is the side fringe. Double buckskin thong suspensions, spaced at intervals on both front and back of the skirt,
were decorated with small beaded squares in the customary manner, or sometimes strung with large beads or hairpipes. Some dresses, especially those
made for young girls, even had a fully-beaded skirt, the designs matching those on the main field of the yoke. An extremely flamboyant woman's dress
with fully-beaded yoke and skirt is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. It was made as a recital gown by Minnie Sky Arrow, a Yanktonai concert
pianist from Fort Peck reservation, Montana. Such dresses were vogue from the late 1880's, and represent the ultimate beadwork creation. Many were
specially made to be worn while touring with the various wild west show companies.
Size 4/0 or 12/0 Czech beads were generally preferred for second phase dresses. Stitching was either of animal sinew, as before, or
commercial cotton thread, used double for strength and rigidity. Nylon thread is particularly favored today, and seems very much to have superceded
the use of sinew, although some individual Lakota craftworkers who still like to work in the traditional way, use sinew an awl rather than thread
A 21st century Lakota dress, the sleeve fringe has been extended to the full length of the dress.
This beautiful dress and the accessories below were created by KQ Designs specialists in unique custom-designed
beaded items, Native American Beadwork, Powwow Regalia, and Southwest Jewelry.
Most dancers wear partially or fully beaded moccasins and beaded leggings tied just below the knee. A long buckskin skirt is normally
worn, with a fully beaded buckskin yoke. The yoke has long buckskin fringe that hangs down below the knees. Usually, a breast plate will be worn
over the dress and a choker may be worn around the neck. A belt is normally worn, with a saltillo/bag set attached. Beaded cuffs may be worn. A
beaded purse and a flat fan are carried, and a shawl is draped over one arm. Beaded hairties, and sometimes a fully beaded crown are worn.
First you need 3 to 5 deerskin hides (depending on the amount and length of fringe you want).
Make sure the hides don't have too many holes.
Make your own patterns ... start with your own shape (especially if the dress is for you, duh!!) and take your measurements and transfer
them to paper. Note: sleeves are elbow length. Then go through the hides that you have to find the right one for the right piece and cut it from your pattern.
You need to stretch your skins out before you ever cut them. They will never stretch on you then as you work on them or wear them.
Cut the parts you need NEVER too big, because deerskin will stretch big time.
Put the front part and the back part to each other, inside (slick/hair side) out, to stitch together. About the hand stitches ... just
in case someone doesn't know ... they are not the flat stitches that machines make ... like a basting or a running stitch. It is called a WHIP stitch and
it is done over the top (edge) of the two (or 3) pieces of buckskin that you are holding together. You just go over the top and don't make them too
long ... about less than a 1/4 of an inch from the top and continue along trying to space them pretty closely and evenly but not right on top of each
other. Spacing is hugely important, it is the first thing critical people will look at.
All of the seams are stitched with the seams placed together and sewn as a wrap stitch inside the garment. (See Figure 1) In other words,
sew inside out. Where the seam is to have fringe, insert the piece of leather between the outside layers that you will later cut as fringe. We refer to
that as the welt. When the seam does not need fringe, sew a 1⁄2 inch wide piece of leather along the whole seam as the welt. When you turn the garment
right side out, trim the welt to match the surface of the garment. If you plan the seam to be fringed, cut the welt leather for the fringe after it is
sewn into the seam. The dimension of fringe welt depends on how long you want the fringe to be.
Pull it firmly, but not too tight and it will make a perfect seam, with no stiching showing on the "good" side. Uh, we use the "suede"
side out here, never the slick side (on commercial hides). Many reasons, number 1 being that it is traditional and number 2 being that your beads will
nestle nicely in the rough nap. They will slide if you bead on the slick side. I really don't know of any tribe that uses the slick side for ceremonial
or contest dresses.
If you pull too tightly, it will pucker and if your stitches are too loose or if they are too far apart, you will not have a tight
seam and you might even see some "air" in there.
When you hold the skins in your non-stitching hand, don't try to pull too hard, because you will stretch the bottom skin, and then
you will wind up with skin longer on the bottom piece when you get to the end.
If you like to make fringe, ever so easy to do, just cut the leather into fringes, be sure to practice a bit before you start to cut
in the expensive deerskins.and DON'T forget, that leather WILL STRETCH,
For decorating, you can best use glass beads, don't use the plastic stuff, it would be such a terrible thing on buckskin, cheap. You can
sew on beads and shells by hand to a completed dress. It is more difficult to do than before dress construction since your thread will likely get tangled
in fringes, on edges/corners and whatnot. Just use shorter lengths of thread.
LAKOTA WOOL CLOTH DRESS
By the 1870's, women were also making cloth dresses in number. Some of these were cut much like the Deertail, but were
made of rectangular pieces of woolen trade cloth. Leather fringes were added, since cloth does not fringe well. Most of the cloth dresses
made in the 1850=1880 period were red or dark blue strouding and most were decorate with lanes of pony beads alternating with cowrie shells,
dentalium shells, or elk teeth. Similar dresses without the decoration were also made and worn -- usually as less formal attire, but also to dances
and ceremonies. Two woolen dresses and one cotton of this type can be seen in the same McFatridge photo, taken at a dance on the Rosebud
Reservation around 1900.
The dress is simple but ingeniously constructed. There are only 5 or 6 main pieces, depending on whether or not there is
a shoulder seam in the body of the garment. The main part of the dress is two rectangles of cloth, usually made from the full width of the
cloth, selvage to selvage. The sleeves are also simple rectangular pieces of the cloth, and gussets or side-inserts are elongated isosceles
triangles. With these straight-sided shapes, a minimum of cloth is wasted. The dress is long, to the ankles even when belted.
The gussets were added probably to increase freedom of movement and perhaps to approximate the shape of the antecedent hide
dress. The sleeves, are open at the bottom because the “sleeves” of the old hide dresses also were unsewn there -- and it’s easy to fold the
sleeves back and out of the way for messy jobs, or to feed a baby via the large sleeve-opening.
The dark blue, white-edged stroud was the woolen cloth used in making such a dress, and the darker solids and calicos were
cotton fabrics used. A woolen dress like this can later be decorated with cowrie shells, dentalia, bone elk teeth- depending upon the owner's
financial situation - to make it into a truly “full-dress” costume.
Leggings, beaded in the traditional style.
Moccasins, with added ankle flaps.
Belt, tack-studded, concho or plain.
Shawl or blanket, worn over the shoulders in the usual way for dancing; wrapped about the body in other ways when not dancing. (The hand-tied,
long-fringed, lightweight shawl is a modern replacement.)
Necklaces, braid ornaments, earrings, lowanpi plume (for the eligible only) bracelets (quilled, beaded or metal.)