Published on June 9, 2012 by Amy
The colorful dresses worn by Choctaw women are made by hand and probably adapted from a 19th century dress design. No pattern exists for the dresses, which consist of a bodice with a fitted waist and a long, full skirt trimmed with ruffles and handsewn applique. The dressmaker simply takes a series of measurements from the person who will wear the dress and cuts out the shapes that will make up each part of the dress. A white apron, trimmed in the color of the dress, completes the woman’s traditional outfit. Men’s shirts, designed with either a round neckline or an open collar and applique work on the front and sleeves, are made in much the same way.
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Choctaw dresses are usually trimmed with one of three motifs: full diamond, half diamond, or a series of circles and crosses that may represent stickball and stickball sticks, but may have their origins in earlier designs. The diamond design, which is often seen on Choctaw baskets as well, is said to represent the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
A few elders still prefer Choctaw dresses for everyday wear. These dresses are made from a print fabric and are shorter than the dresses worn for dancing. Instead of time-consuming hand applique, these dresses are usually trimmed with commercial trim. The apron may be worn with these dresses as well.
Most Choctaws today wear Choctaw dresses and shirts mainly for special occasions. They are made from cotton fabric, in solid colors with a contrasting trim. Occasionally, women choose silk or velvet fabric for traditional dresses, usually for events such as the Choctaw Indian Princess Pageant.