Up to the mid-1700s, Choctaw tribes wore clothing made from handmade textiles based on plant and animal fibers, as well as tanned animal hides and fur for warmer winter garments. When European settlers arrived around 1833, Choctaw clothing transformed to resemble European dress, and by 1850 most Choctaws had fully adopted the European style of dress. The early 1900s brought a decline in hand-crafted garments with ready-made dress available for purchase, and today Choctaw wear current fashions.
Historically, highly skilled Choctaw ancestors created Choctaw textiles, or “na tvnna” as they are known in the native language. Common plant fibers used for textiles included stinging nettle, milkweed, dogbane and mulberry inner bark, while the primary animal fiber was bison wool.
Choctaw textile makers used a variety of techniques like twining and looping to create intricately detailed patterns with brightly dyed yarns and painted fabrics. They also incoporated feathers and quills as ornate decorations in certain clothing pieces, like traditional robes known as “kasmos."
By 1833, the arrival of European settlers resulted in a transition toward a more European style of dress. Increasing trade between the Europeans and other native tribes influenced the styles of Choctaw clothing. As trade cloth entered the villages, it became the primary material for Choctaw garments. Also available through trade, glass beads began to take the place of traditional ornamental decorations like shells, seeds, rocks and feathers.