Clothing Answers

What did the plain Indians wear for clothes clothes?

Every tribe was different and clothing changed over time, particularly when trade cloth and ready-made clothes became available from traders.

In general, men and boys were considered fully dressed in just moccasins and a breechclout which was of soft-tanned deerskin and had flaps of varying lengths depending on the tribe. Shirts, thigh-length leggings and buffalo robes would be added when needed.

Women wore a range of different dresses of deer, elk or mountain sheep skins - depending entirely on what was available in their area. Some dresses were of two skins, others were made with one at the front, one at the back and a third forming a cape or yoke section across the shoulders and sleeves. Women wore moccasins like the men, but their leggings reached to below the knee and had ties to keep them up - in some Plains tribes the leggings and moccasins were sewn together almost like boots.

Each tribe used different styles of decoration, originally of dyed porcupine quills and later of glass beads obtained from the traders.

The size of the glass beads used can help to date an item of clothing; from about 1790 to 1850 large "pony beads" were used - these were available in a very limited range of colours. From the 1850s much smaller "seed beads" were used and these came in a wide range of colours. Each tribe had its own favourite colours and designs but there were sometimes exceptions to the norm.

Trade blankets, stroud cloth and ready made shirts and dresses were quickly adopted by some groups, while others resisted all white influences for as long as possible.

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Cloth Answers