The History of Native American Clothing

Native American clothing varied greatly from tribe to tribe based on what was readily available to the different tribes in the region. Various tribes were easily recognized by the clothing they wore and how their outfits were decorated. Historically Native American clothing was made from resources that were naturally available and abundant. Materials generally included mammals think buffalo, bear, deer, elk along with other various small animals.  

Costumes and clothing were heavily reliant on natural animal products and as a result Native Americans were highly respectful of nature and made it a point to never waste any part of the animal. Leather, fur, feathers and bone were all used to make decorative costumes, clothing and other ceremonial accessories. Throughout history, we know Native American's also utilized plants to make clothing items and accessories along with animal products. The different tribes would weave the natural resources into brilliant and vibrant textured items or use strips of grass as thread or bindings. 

The changing seasons and geographical locations also played a heavy influence on Native American's clothing. Clothing would generally vary from simple leather such as a breechcloth or fur lined trousers and boots worn in sub-Artic areas.  

When we consider the history of Native American clothing nothing is probably as iconic as the Native Headdress or War Bonnet. The visually striking and vibrant war bonnet are symbolic and sacred. These symbolic decorative pieces are worn by high ranking Native Americans traditionally from the Great Plains region. The War Bonnet was constructed from the tail feather of eagles which is considered to be the most powerful and spiritual among all birds. The feather's used on the headdress were earned over time through good deeds and acts of bravery. 

The history of Native American clothing is rich with Native peoples in various regions making use of make shift textile clothing technologies . These textile clothing technologies were used to harvest plant fibers and plant products. In addition to the plant fibers Native peoples would use spun thread made from hair from both domesticated or killed wild animals much like how wool is used today. Everywhere from Alaska down through the tribes in California and Mexico woven products were worn from head to toe. Imagine, hats, capes, dresses and even shoes all made from plant material now that is Eco-friendly. However, further South the scarcity of large animals for skins or clothing led to the tribes developing an intricate system for utilizing the skins of small animals for blankets and clothing.  

The history of Native American is diverse and interesting because due to the geographical differences you can see this clearly expressed throughout their clothing. The only major constant theme among their clothing prior to contact with early settlers was the intricate use of animal skins. Most notably, tanned skins of a variety of larger mammals such as buffalo, bison, deer and caribou.