What Native American Women Wore - Pre Contact: Two Hide Strap Dress

Here are some actual examples of Native American Two Hide Strap Dresses currently housed in museums.

The first shown is in the Chicago Field History Museum, the other in the Brooklyn Museum.

This was the everyday garment of most Eastern Woodland Indians, it afforded the ability to be a warm weather garment by removing the sleeves, hood and leggings, and was ready for the cold by adding sleeves, leggings and hood.

The minimal fringing allowed ease of movement through the brush and woods. 

The hide dress is painted, although no information is available on what the colors are.

The dress features a false deer tail at the neckline that seems to also be a small storage pouch.

Note the unusual square notched fringe.

Note also the woven rabbit strip coat on the other model, as well as post contact clothing and adornments.

By the way, in case you noticed, the dress shown on the model from the Chicago Field History museum is incorrectly displayed, they show it being attached at the shoulders when in fact, it would have had straps attached and the dress suspended from them, this error has since been corrected, but new pictures have not been taken since then. 

This dress was collected in Canada.

I intend to recreate this garment also in the next year.


Strap Dress with Red and Green Embroidery
  • Culture: Probably Yanktonai Sioux, Native American
  • Medium: Emulsion cured buckskin, dyed porcupine quills, glass beads, tin and copper tinklers, thread, sinew and pigment
  • Geographical Locations:
  • Dates: early 19th century
  • Dimensions: 46 x 21 in. (116.8 x 53.3 cm)
  • Collections: Arts of the Americas
  • Museum Location: This item is on view in Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 5th Floor
  • Accession Number: 50.67.2
  • Credit Line: Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund
  • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Caption: Probably Yanktonai Sioux, Native American. Strap Dress with Red and Green Embroidery, early 19th century. Emulsion cured buckskin, dyed porcupine quills, glass beads, tin and copper tinklers, thread, sinew and pigment, 46 x 21 in. (116.8 x 53.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.2. Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Image: overall, 50.67.2_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
  • Catalogue Description: This dress is composed of four sections of very white and pliable skin, probably employing at least two deer or caribou hides. Two large pieces of skin were sewn together to form the front and back of the dress and the upper edge of the skin is turned down as a long graceful flap to the waist. Two smaller pieces of skin are added to serve as shoulder straps. The entire dress, including the quillwork, is sewn together with thread. The seams that join the two major sections are fringed. Fringe near the shoulder is clipped very short so that it appears "pinked" and the fringe at the bottom of the dress is wrapped with orange and blue porcupine quills. The decoration of the shoulder straps is somewhat unusual as it differs from front to back. Scallops terminate the straps on the dress' front' while fringes decorate the shorter ends of the straps at the back. The straps are also decorated with a row of tiny black beads that edge the sides of these straps and surround the three scalloped lobes on each. Pairs of black beads in a double row decorate the section of the strap that intersects with the low neck line. Each scalloped portion of the straps is also ornamented, right and left, with bows made of hide strips wrapped at intervals with orange and light blue quills. Similar string-like ornaments are also attached at the proper right side of the front flap and the proper left side on the black flap. Quillwork strips across the body of the dress are in green, black, brown, white, reddish orange and light blue. Black seed beads and blue pony beads are applied as a scalloped border on an added piece of skin near the hem of the dress and tin cones are suspended in pairs from the apex of each of these beaded curves by thin hide strands wrapped at intervals with orange quills. See Jarvis report in Arts of Americas files.

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