However, their fashions went through some serious changes, so they were not always the same. So, let us take a look at them, and see what was commonly worn, when.
OLD CHEROKEE MEN'S ATTIRE:
Men's attire tended to center around their role as warrior. (And perhaps, allow them to be able to readily identify who was Cherokee and who wasn't, in the battles that would take place in the Dense American Forest.) And, in a sense, they seemed always dressed for combat (for raids from other Native Americans were all too typical).
Now, most distinctive of the Cherokee Men was their hairstyles. For, unlike other Native Americans, Old Cherokee would gather their long hair into one large pony tail, that stood straight up from the top of their head (woodpecker style). Consequently, in battle, it was easy to tell who was Cherokee and who wasn't, and even at rather long distances.
Moreover, rather than wearing their feathers straight up, from the top of their head, the Old Cherokee wore long ringlets (like side-burns) down the sides of their face (like Jewish sidelocks) and would hang their feathers downward from theses.
The center of the Man's costume was his warrior's belt, which was a large band of leather that went about his waist. Cherokee Nobles or NoKaDo would have these belts highly decorated in BEADWORK, and in a style and design that reflected their Noble Status and accomplishments--"Indian" Heraldry.
From this belt would be hung a variety of weapons and tools (and pouches for carrying food and medicines). And attached to these belts would be long leather leggings, for protecting the legs in travel through the brush and undergrowth.
Men's feet were usually covered by leather moccasins, apparently cut in something of a Viking style. However, in colder weather, leather boots that went high up the leg were also worn.
Despite their common warrior status, not much body armor was worn. Instead, the warriors tended to carry a wooden shield, covered with thick leather--Viking style.
UNDERWEAR -- MEN'S BREACHCLOUTS:
Now, for our modern Era, it tends to be everyone's own individual fashion statement: briefs, boxers, or bikinis. Moreover, most Native Americans wore the breach-blanket, which was a small cloth hung between the legs and wrapped over the ends of their belts. However, ALL Old Cherokee Men wore leather bikinis, called breachclouts. (And in the warm climate, that was often ALL that they wore! And especially for SPORTS.) Moreover, as the Trade with the British developed, these gave way to breachclouts of silk and satin (more like modern wrestler trunks).
While most of the warrior "unifroms" were in drab colors, to make concealment in the Forest easier, Old Chrokee Men had bright colored costumes for social gatherings and dances. For, they seemed to enjoy being the Peacock of the species--strutting their stuff to attract females! So, these were often highly decorated with feathers and beadwork.
OLD CHEROKEE WOMEN'S ATTIRE:
Women's attire tended to center around their role as wife and mother. Thus, they tended to be more "conservative" or modest, and were much more well-covering than the men's wear.
Old Cherokee women wore their hair VERY LONG. Occasionally, they would braid it into twin braids. (The single long braid was left to the Men as a more "civilian" form of their warrior's top-knot.) And, these braids were often wound up on top or their head, to facilitate work (in a Viking style).
BELT and HAIRBAND:
In a style similar (but smaller) to their husband's warrior belt, Cherokee women also wore a belt. And Cherokee Noblewomen would have these belts highly decorated in BEADWORK, and in a style and design that reflected the Noble Status of their husband and his accomplishments.
Moreover, most Old Cherokee Women would also wear a hairband or or headband made in a similar manner as the above belt (in order to clearly show to others, who she belonged to--adultery was highly frowned on).
In Summer and good weather, Women's feet were covered by leather moccasins, apparently cut in something of a Viking style--like that of the men. However, in colder weather (and most of the time) leather boots that went high up the leg were worn.
BODY ARMOR -- Tunic:
While the women did NOT wear body armor, they were usually well covered up, in a guarded fashion.
The main body covering was a leather tunic that hung from the shoulders to just below the hips (mini-skirt style). Married women would also wear a longer leather skirt, under that tunic, that hung to about the knees and was slit up the side to the thighs to give greater leg movement for work. (And, in Winter weather, an even longer skirt that hung down to the ankles, and was slit up to the knees, was worn--along with those high boots, for added warmth. And, if it was really cold, a good blanket or robe of fur was also worn.)
But, maidens were allowed more liberty in showing a bit of themselves, than was proper married ladies (the reason being to allow the young brides to be to attract a mate). Thus, shorter sleeves (or no sleeves) could be worn by them--while married women always wore the longer sleeve. Consequently, this above tunic or mini-skirt was the standard attire for marriageable maidens. (Unless it was cold, and then boots with that mid-length, to the knees, skirt, was worn.)
As a historical note, when the Mini-Skirt Era made its brief appearance in the late 60s, my mom told me that when she was a little girl, all the "Indian" maidens wore mini-skirts (and they called them flappers, as they tended to flap in the wind). But, when the Religious Whitemen showed up, they made all the girls were long skirts, even in Summer (which were very HOT for the climate). [So, I guess I can lament, like Gilligan, that we MISSED the Mini-Skirt Era!)
Now, it appears that Old Cherokee women also wore some kind of leather bikini bottom, like the men (but it was covered up, under their skirts). Moreover, as with the Men, when the Trade with the British developed, these gave way to ones of silk and satin (more like modern women's panties).
In addition, it appears that some kind of bikini or halter-top was also worn under their tunic, to assist in breast support, like the modern brassiere.
While Old Cherokee Men tended to be the Peacock of the species, wearing bright colors to attract the female's attention, Old Cherokee women wore the duller, more drab, and camouflaging colors for their outerwear (though underwear was often bright colored or at least in contrasting color to their outerwear.)
However, with the arrival of the British (who had a Viking heritage themselves), many of the Mediavel Cherokee made a strong identification with British Culture, and consequently, began the adoption of the popular British attire of the day. Now, this would be the Era of Shakespearean, and Elizabethan things--as well as the rise of the French Musketeer Era. Thus, costumes in these styles became more and more popular, especially among the Cherokee Nobles.
However, the TRADITIONALISTS and many of the common Cherokee tended to stick with the Old Cherokee Fashions, that we have just described, above. (And considered it a degredation to dress as Whitemen.)
MEDIAVEL CHEROKEE MEN'S ATTIRE:
For men, this change was quite profound! Men's attire changed from centering around their role as warrior, to the softer, kinder, image of the Nobleman, the Statesman, and the Gentleman. (And no doubt there was a lot of snickering over these new "dandies" and "sissies" from the TRADITIONALISTS.)
Now, that distinctive Cherokee top-knot of the warriors tended to fade away. The long single braid (or the Colonial, short pony-tail) coming along, instead. These were topped by HATS, and usually the broad-brimmed Musketeer style hats (with the long braid tucked up, inside). And especially so among the Chrokee Noblemen.
The commoners tended to go with the Mediavel Page Boy look or cut their long hair as "Round-Heads" did--looking more like modern, men's haircuts.
Moreover, the wearing of feathers all but disappeared (except for combat).
WARRIOR'S BELT -- to Tunic:
Apparently, most Men still wore some form of the Warrior's Belt.
But, under this, it became common to wear a Tunic (like a Mediavel Tunic) that was usually brightly colored and often of silk or satin. Cherokee Noblemen had these tunics highly decorated with embroidery and beads (and Musketeer Lace), in a form that matched their Heraldric Designs. And as time progreessed, the Tunic became more stylish, like a tailored doublet, giving a more and more European look to the Mediavel Cherokee.
The leather moccasins (and boots), were slowly phased out, in favor of the European style shoe (and boots). And it would seem logical that the European sandal also mades its appearance here, to make the hot climate more bearable.
The bare leg of the Old Cherokee warriors was slowly replaced by the silk stockings and tights of the European Nobiity, which had been popular since their Mediavel Days. (Yep! Look at the paintings of America's Founding Fathers, and below their short pants, you will see that their legs are covered with SILK STOCKINGS! This was the style of the Dayfor Men.)
And to add a touch of modesty (and to hide the tops of the tights and/or stockings), the popular, puffy-pants or very short legged breaches of Shakespear's England, began to be worn, more and more. (The old leather leggings being now used only in combat or work in the woods.)
Again, most comoners did not wear body armor. But, as the Cherokee Nobles increased in wealth, and armor became available, there were some who did wear it. But, the rising power of the musket and rifle demonstrated that this was not such a wise idea. So, it was more a short lived fad.
UNDERWEAR -- MEN'S BREACHCLOUTS:
Well, as part of Our Regathering Meetings, we sometimes do a mini-fashion show. And here, this topic has proved to be wildly controversial! For, as the British trade spread, and softer fabrics of silks and satins became available, the traditional leather bikini or breachclout was replaced by silk and satin ones! And, as the Men were found of wearing bright colors, these were often bursting with color and decorations, too.
Now this is HISTORY! But, unfortunately, the Far-Right thinkers of modern America try to say that only Gay Men would wear such things. Well, I can assure you, that the men of Our Tribe are NOT gay, but that such attire was common for this historical period. (Just as America's Founding Fathers ALL wore SILK STOCKINGS! So, were they Gay then?)
MEDIAVEL CHEROKEE WOMEN'S ATTIRE:
Changing subjects, since Old Cherokee Women's attire was rather conservative, it tended to change the least. And the new fashions still centered around their role as wife and mother. As was also pretty much true of women's fashions in Europe at this time.
Mediavel Cherokee women still wore their hair VERY LONG. Occasionally, they would braid it into twin braids. (The single long braid was still left to the Men as a more "civilian" form of their warrior's top-knot.) And, these braids were often wound up on top or their head, to facilitate work (in a Viking style).
BELT and HAIRBAND:
The wife's warrior belt, in a style similar (but smaller) to her husband's warrior belt, seems to have phased out.
But, in its place Mediavel Cherokee Women's hairband became very popular OR the headband made in a similar manner as the above belt (in order to clearly show to others, who she belonged to--as adultery was, indeed, highly frowned on). And British style caps and bonnets, made with this heraldric design, also seem to have appeared.
Like Men's footwear, the women's leather moccasins (and boots), were replace by European shoes (and boots). And more than likely, the ladies found the European sandal appealing as a relief from the Summer heat. (Though they were not worn far, as snakes abounded in the Forest!)
And while silk stockings and tights now becamce available for women to wear, too, far more popular among women seemed to be the long cotton stockings or long wollen stockings--to be worn under those long skirts in Winter--for added warmth!
BODY ARMOR -- Tunic -- To Blyat:
The woman's leather tunic gave way to the more popular Mediavel Blyat or its Shakespearean and Elizabethan equivalent. (And later to the fancier Musketeer style women's gowns.) This change was displayed in both Pocahontas the Cartoon, and the Movie.
The Blyat was a long dress composed of two gowns. The outergown was long, and well covering (and in the duller, darker, more camouflaging colors)--though it was usually slit either up the side or middle to give a peek at the undergown. The undergown was longer yet, with its sleeves sticking out of the outergown (and a hint of it appearing at the slits of the outergown, and perhaps, even below, as it hung out.) Moreover, the undergown was brightly colored and often fancily decorated (like lingerie). Thus giving men a slight hint of the pleasures that might be within.
Now, as with the men, that Old Cherokee women's leather bikini bottom faded away into ones made of silk and satin.
However, probably due to the cold, this tended to be covered up by longer petti-pants (like men's breeches, but reaching to the knees) or even full length pantiloons (to the ankles). [Pants as underwear!]
Moreover, that bikini or halter-top tended to give way to the more popular bodice (a kind of corsette that was worn on top of the dress) to keep the breats in place--and then to the formal corsette, with its supports and stays, under the dress.
In addition, with the longer skirts, came in the popular petticoat, with all its ruffles and laces. (Making the women appear to be as a flower about to burst into bloom--and be pollinated. And no doubt, this image made the Can-Can even more popular, in the Days that were just about to come.)
Moreover, with the coming of the Indian Removal Act of 1830s, and the subsequent Trail of Tears, Colonial Cherokee fell to pieces, and over the years a Modern Cherokee has emerged. Again, other sources can far better explain their style of fashion far better than we can. So, check them out, there.
Now, before you start in criticizing this, let us look at those Lessons of History. Down through the centuries, Jews were often made to wear distinctive garments, headress, or symbols that made them stand out (and thus easy targets for discrimination and persecution). Consequently, most Jews also opt out to NOT dress in Traditional Jewish garments, but to wear whatever is current fashion in the Community where they live. That way, they blend in, and are not picked on so much. So, I think that wisdom is applicable to the Pacific Coast Cherokee, too. (There is enough anti-"Indian" bigotry and discrimination going on--why make yourself a ready target for it?)
Consequently, while we do encourage Our Members to wear costumes and uniforms of Our Historical Heritage for Our Gatherings (to make it more of a Parade and Pagent, for others to come and watch), we generally allow Our People to wear whatever they want in their regular, every day life--and in Public. (Though there still is that common taboo for married women to dress modestly and conservatively.)
And that is plainly seen here, as the Cherokee High-Priests or Community Bishops dressed in a distinctive ALL WHITE garment, much as the Old Jewish Levitical Priests used to do. (And today, for some occasions, some Rabbis still wear the ALL WHITES kind of garment.) Now, in Old Cherokee Times, this was a long deerskin robe, that had been bleached or whitened with clay. But, as the British Trade picked up, these were replaced first by white linen, and then by white silk type robes. (Something like modern choir robes.)
UKU'S BRIDAL GOWN:
Consequently, the Uku wore a special form of this, that was styled more like an "Indian" Bridal Gown, for as the Old Cherokee High-Priest (and Monarch), he was supposed to be God's Bride on Earth. Then, as the British Trade brought in more and more new things, this "Indian" Bridal Gown, was replaced by a more traditional (or "Victorian") wedding gown type garment (complete with ruffles, ribbons, and lace). Now, the Traditionalists really howled over this. (Whiteman's decandance, for sure!) But, if you look at what other Dignataries and Religious Leaders were wearing at the Time, this kind of gown would be right in style with the Times. However, today, it seems that those in the Far-Right are so whipped up by their hyper-homophobia hysteria, that they only see Gay Men wearing such things. Well, it was Our HISTORY. So, open your history book for a change--and see what REALITY really was! Needless to say, we have unending controversy over this manner of Our Dress, too! But, it WAS the style of Our People--and Our Ruler.
See Our CONTACTS PAGE Section .
1. Much of the information on the Early or Mediavel Cherokee comes from the book THE CHEROKEE PEOPLE--The Story of the cherokee People, from Earlest Origins to Contemporary Times; by Thomas Mails, published by the Council Oak Books of Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1992 (where Payne, Adair, Butrick, and Haywood are extensively quoted).
2. Supplemental information supporting Mail's work may be found in HISTORY OF THE CHEROKEE INDIANS and Their Legends and Folk Lore; by Emmet Starr which was orginally published in Oklahoma City in 1921 but was reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland in 2004.
3. Several other modern books on the Cherokee give mysterious hints and clues to this hidden Hebrew-Viking-Cherokee origination.
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