Published on June 27, 2011 by Amy
According to Wendell Cochran, Cherokee master craftsman and National Living Treasure in the Area of Traditional Clothing, the Cherokees who were deported and now live in Oklahoma have an official tribal garment for women called the “Tear Dress.” The word “tear” rhymes with “wear,” or to rip, to explain how the dress is made. Originally, the dress was made of squares and rectangles of fabric that were torn, not cut. These pieces were sewn together in a shirt-waist-style dress, with a top, waistband and skirt. The front has buttons. The dress is easy to put on and comfortable to wear while doing chores. The one-piece dress was better than a skirt and top, because it allowed more movement.
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For special events, such as the “stomp dances,” men and women tied shells to their ankles to make a rattling sound. Sometimes they would fill small turtle shells with pebbles to rattle with each movement. The moccasins were adorned with colored beads and dyed porcupine quills and thread. On their heads were hair ornaments made out of possum hair, which had been dyed black or in bright colors.
The Cherokee Nation was a very large structure that had many different clans, many of which had their own traditions. The peace chiefs from the long-hair clan wore a robe completely made of white feathers and white leather belt, breech clout, garters, leggings and moccasins. To top off the elaborate costume, they donned an otter-skin cap that was covered with white leather and feathers. Normally, however, the Cherokees did not wear headbands with feathers as did other Native American tribal units.