Ioway Clothing and Adornment
The earliest clothing
types we know about are seen in the 1830s daguerrotypes (a type of
photograph) and 1840s paintings of Catlin. Men tended to be
barechested, with bearclaw and other types of necklaces. Some wore a
type of cape made from wolfskin. Men had fingerwoven yarn sashes, and
often garters, at that time yarn or sometimes small otters (later the
beaded type was more common). The leggings were front seam type, with
fringes and quillwork, and the moccasins were front seam with large
flaps and quilled.
Details above and below are from George Catlin's 1844
engraving of the Ioways made in London.
Warriors of distinction wore the red
deerhair/porcupine hair roach, and were tattooed. Chiefs often wore
otterskin turbans as well as the roach. Some also wrapped the sashes
Women wore deerskin dresses, of the shift type, with a mantle or cape
on top to cover the shoulders. Women's moccasins also were front-seam
and had the flaps. In public, women usually wore their hide robes
wrapped around them.
However, those early photographs from the 1830s also show the Ioways
Mahi, NoHeart, and others wearing the ruffled cloth shirts popular
among the French, with beaded chokers. So white trade garments were
used by then, and later would be embellished with ribbonwork.
After being placed on the Reservation in the 1830s-1840s, a great period of
change occurred in the 1850-1860 period. Skin was not so available,
beaded applique took over the place of quillwork, and ribbonwork was
introduced from the eastern tribes like the Shawnee that the Ioway
came into contact with in Kansas after Indian Removal.
The period 1860-1900 was the period of high-style in Ioway clothing.
Dark trade cloth (navy blue or black) was decorated with some of the
wonderful multilayered ribbonwork. The Meskwaki have preserved much
the knowledge of the meaning of this style. For one thing, the
mirrored dark and light designs represent both sides of life, the
light and the dark, above and below, and they have individual
some relating to plantlife or lessons about life. The moccasin
we have seen usually represent significant plantlife. I have
recognized wild grapes, acorns, and strawberries. Men's designs on
breechcloth relate to the clan.
Women's tops from this time were short-waisted shirts, decorated
with German silver, while the wrap-around skirts and blankets were
edged with ribbonwork panels. If a person were to follow this style,
the "classic" Ioway style in most of the old pictures we see, it was
quite similar to the Omaha, Winnebago, Otoe, Sauk and Meskwaki/Fox
styles. Again, short waisted shirt with German silver, wrap around
skirt with ribbonwork, front seam moccasins, and blanket with
ribbonwork. Later, the blanket became smaller...and became the
easier-to-manage shawl we see today.
Men wore skin or trade cloth leggings, panelled ribbonshirts (not as
elaborate as the women's), wool or tradecloth breechcloths with
applique designs. Sometimes whiteman's jackets or vests were beaded
well. Men discovered the hardsole plains-style moccasin was more
durable on the plains, but some continued to use the older softsoled
type from the woodlands.
With the development of the modern powwows in the 1900-1920 period,
styles changed again. Older designs were no longer remembered in the
details of what they represented, and were often simplified. For
example, clubs in the older days had a round ball on them (one type
club). Since these clubs did serve as weapons, the wood was
selected, using a burl on a branch from a hardwood tree like a maple,
with the club carefully shaped around it to leave the burl-branch
integrity. In the 1910s-1920s, the clubs were merely
symbolic, they did not have to have the strength to be a real weapon,
so people often just carved a round piece out of wood and nailed it
a sawn-out club from a plank. Same with bows and arrows, which were
more show than go. The old weapons were fearsome things, they meant
business, but the modern ones simply served for show.
One of the most useful hobbyist-type books with patterns is:
Indian Clothing of the Great Lakes, 1740-1840, by Sheryl Hartman.
(Eagle's View Publishing, 1998).
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