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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture :
Ancestral Ways of Life

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 into turbans.

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 of 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 meaning, some relating to plantlife or lessons about life. The moccasin designs we have seen usually represent significant plantlife. I have recognized wild grapes, acorns, and strawberries. Men's designs on the breechcloth relate to the clan.

Women's tops from this time were short-waisted shirts, decorated often 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 beaded applique designs. Sometimes whiteman's jackets or vests were beaded as 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 of club). Since these clubs did serve as weapons, the wood was carefulluy 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 with 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 to 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.

Lance Foster

Further Information

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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