Clothing of Native Americans

Published on June 27, 2011 by Amy

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Southern Plains Buckskin Dress
Southern Plains Buckskin Dress

Most Native American Indian tribes had their own style of clothing and could be recognized by both the type of clothing and the designs that were added with various forms of beads and quills. Native American clothing included hunting or every day clothing as well as ceremonial clothing that was only worn during special visits or ceremonies.

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Native American Men

Native American men typically wore a breechcloth, which was a strip of rawhide or leather attached to a belt that fell from the front and back. In colder climates, leggings were added. Shirts were not used very often, but ceremonial war shirts were used in times of fighting or in some ceremonies. The war shirts would be decorated with quills, animal tails and beads. Leather shoes and buckskin boots were typical footwear. The shoes would be decorated with different types of beads.

Native American Women

Buckskin dresses were the typical daily wear for women–the women wore skirts with leggings. Tunics were worn in public. Soft moccasins and fur boots were also worn. In colder climates, cloaks made out of animal hide with the fur intact were used as coats to keep warm.


As time progressed and Native Americans began to move from place to place more often and encountered other tribes, a subtle change in clothing began. In addition to the traditional styles of a tribe, adding designs from other tribes was not unheard of. Many tribes would adopt a style or design and incorporate it into their original designs. Even after colonization, some tribes adopted certain types of Western-style dress. The most common form of this is evidenced by Native American men wearing western-style hats.


Eventually, more intricate designs using beads, seashells, turtle shells and other items were increasingly used. After the Europeans came, clothing became more of a necessity as the American Indians were told that it was “sinful” to be without clothes. Native American Indians did not wear a lot of clothes or have different choices and harsh climates did not affect them. If it was not functional, it was not necessary.

Modern Times

In 2009, many Native Americans still wear traditional clothing in daily life just as in earlier times. The ceremonial wear is still used for demonstrations and formal events. There are many stores that sell authentic Native American clothing, as well as many online sites.

Source: ehow Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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