Plains Indian (Shoshone) Woman's Dress, Bighorn
The style of a woman’s dress at the time of 1804-6 expedition was the two-hide tail dress. The fashion going out of vogue was the side-fold dress. The dresses were generally made from bighorn sheep because they were plentiful on the plains and had longer and wider hides than deer. The head and legs are at the bottom of the dress. The undulating hem is created by the gaps between the head, neck and legs. The gaps were filled in with extra hide and double-fringed. The lower portion of the dress is the flesh side of the hide but the top section is the epidermal side folded over, cut on the fold and raised to meet the lower hide, then stitched with buckskin. The bighorn sheep tail is part of the decoration and the bull elk teeth are laced in a row following the contour of the stitching. The fringe of the dress was wetted and twisted to give a graceful look. Such a dress would have been worn by Sacagawea (Sacajawea).
A Closer Look
|Sacagawea was a Shoshone woman captured by the Hidatsa (Minataree) on one of their raids. When she was about fifteen, she was won in a gambling game by Touissant Charbonneau, a French trader living with the Hidatsa. She and her husband were hired on to the expedition as translators. Lewis was primarily interested in the ability of Sacagawea to help him barter for horses from her people when they arrived in the Rocky Mountains. In February, 1805 she gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste (Pompe). Sacagawea accompanied the expedition with her son to the Pacific and back.|
|This is a simple dress similar to what may have been worn
by Sacagawea and other plains women.
The preparation of clothing was primarily a woman's duty. Men made the items related to war and hunting.
Ornamentation was part of the preparation of clothing and was done with the natural materials available. Plains Indian women demonstrated great artistic ingenuity.
Brain-tanned leather, usually from deer or bighorn sheep, was used to make dresses .
|There are two methods of sewing the hides together. One uses sinew as along the sides. The top portion is sewn on with a leather thong.|
|Similar methods would have been used by the men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to make replacement clothing during their journey.|
|Bighorn sheep tails hang from the front and back in the yoke area.
On the lower portion of this woman's dress, the flesh side is to the outside giving it a nice texture. On the dress top, the hair side faces outward. It is smoother and gives textural contrast to the lower portion.
|Elk's teeth are used as a decoration around the top portion of the dress. They are attached with hide. Long hide fringe dangles about ten inches long are placed over the front and back.|
Fringe work is a common form of decoration. It varies in length here from about an inch at the shoulders, three and a half inches inches down the sides, and six inches along the bottom. An unusual feature is the doubling of the fringe along the bottom.
Double fringe may be seen here.
Artifacts by Sioux Replications / All images © Franz Brown
|Artifacts Group 1 / Group 2 / Group 3|