What Clothes Did the Amerindians Wear?

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Native American clothing varied based on the region and tribe. However, certain commonalities existed, including that men wore breechcloths, attaching leather leggings when the weather grew colder, and women wore leggings with skirts. Most nations had some kind of footwear, but specific styles varied. After European settlers arrived in North America and began to drive the tribes from their lands, these variations began to vanish.

Most Native Americans made clothes out of animal hides left over from their hunts. Some tribes, such as the Navajo, Apache and Seminole, learned how to weave thread and made clothes out of plant material. Women were generally responsible for clothing production, tanning hides into leather to cut and sew into clothing.

Shirts were largely optional for men, but the Plains Indians, who created elaborate and highly decorated war shirts, were an exception. Women sometimes wore shirts or tunics, but some tribes considered their shirts optional as well. A few tribes, including the Cherokee and Apache, dressed women in long buckskin dresses.

After the settlers arrived and tribes were forced into closer contact with each other, they began to take cues from each other and adopt each other’s fashions. Woven blankets, fringed buckskin tunics, fringed leggings and porcupine hair headdresses became very popular.