Women's Prairie Style.
PowwowFashions, the Native American diaspora of the 1800s caused Native people to be driven in caravans across the country, forcibly relocating them from their ancestral homelands; many were sent to "Indian Territory" now Oklahoma. As a result, today, we use language to describe Oklahoma people as "Southern" when in fact they once were in much closer geographic proximity to other tribes that we currently give different geographic generalizations to like "Northern" or "Southeast".
In Jim Johnston's article in Whispering Wind Issue #314 he describes the various portions of a woman's Winnebago / Ho
Chunk outfit. While these people are without argument living in the "North" much of their culture is similar to many of the tribes who now live in the "South" including tribes like the Osage, Ponca, Otoe, just to name a few who used to live elsewhere and are often designated as "Southern". This is not to say that when people categorize styles today as "Northern" or "Southern" it is incorrect, but without context it can certainly be confusing when someone calls the songs sung by a Ho Chunk drum as "Southern Style". Such is the story of the ladies featured in this month's column who I will call "Prairie Style".
While most other women's styles at a powwow are wearing dresses, the women who dance this style wear a shirt and skirt. One of the distinctive features of a Prairie style outfit is the wide strip of floral applique work that runs the vertical length of the skirt. A mirrored pattern is a traditional aspect of this style of skirt. The maker has added some contemporary embellishments like wide, gold rick-rack which shines and contrasts well against the dark fabric of her skirt.
A round her neck she wears the beaded necklaces traditionally found with this style. These are typically made of bone hair pipe, cowrie shells and other types of round beads. In this case, she has chosen dark fire polished beads with an aurora borealis finish that sparkle in the light. It is difficult to see, but she is also wearing a beaded medallion around her neck that appears to match the purse she is carrying and is decorated with rhinestone chain in a similar way to her purse. She is also wearing contemporary beaded cuffs that match her outfit and beadwork, decorated with large crystal cabochons like the ones in her earrings. These crystal cabochons have become very popular with women's contemporary beadwork because their large mirrored backs catch the light and sparkle under the lights of a powwow arena or a photographer's flash.
Her headband again matches the rest of her beadwork and in the back, rather than a traditional medallion or rosette, she has a three-dimensional beaded ribbon, which has become an incredibly popular hair decoration with young ladies. Her headband supports a single bald eagle center feather and in her right hand she holds a red tail hawk, tail fan. Tail fans are the preferred fan style for most women today.
A fantastic side by side comparison which, upon quick glance, shows little discernable difference in the outfits. However, there are some unique things on each outfit that provide a contrast. The young lady on the left has chosen to wear an immature golden eagle center tail feather, a beaded headband with rhinestone chain decoration and beaded earrings and rhinestones. While the young lady on the right has chosen a more traditional look without headband and traditional German silver articulated, dangle earring. The blouse of the young lady on the right is also decorated with a very traditional silver brooch that is pierced with hearts and other stamped decorations and the "pin" that holds the brooch to her shirt.
Their necklaces are very similar and both sets are decorated without using cowrie shells which is often seen with this style. Both of their fans are made of immature golden eagle tail feathers. The fan on the right is set in the "fixed" style, while the fan on the left is set in a "loose" flat fan style. This type of fan is not as popular with ladies and you can see that some attempt has been made with white thongs to tie the fan so that it is more "fixed".
The dress on the left is entirely machine sewn using the traditional patterns of the cloth applique that is common among prairie dresses. The dress of the right is mostly machine sewn, however the edging (see enlarged detail) is made using the traditional cut and fold method and is hand stitched. In the old days, all the decorative applique work on these dresses were cut, folded and hand stitched like the method used on the edging of this dress.
The moccasins on the lady at left are the typical beaded moccasins with a "T" cut in the middle and an applied hard sole. The moccasins on the right are a center seam, soft sole moccasin style common with some Prairie tribes. Often the wide side flaps on these moccasins would be decorated with beaded floral designs or floral cloth applique similar to what is seen on the dress
Photographs by Brian Fraker
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|Title Annotation:||Powwow Fashions|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2019|
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