Saturday, February 21, 2009

BUCKSKIN DRESSES

I love making Native American regalia. I have made dozens, maybe even hundreds, of buckskin dresses. I purchase the best skins that I can find for the dresses. First, I specify that each skin is no smaller than 8 sq. ft. I order at least 100-300 sq. ft. at a time. It takes approximately 45-50 sq. ft. for a medium sized dress. My best source for deerskin is from a company that has farm-fed deerskins chemically brain tanned in Germany.

Brain tanning is a process to make the skins very soft. Long ago, the women made a soup of the brains of the animal the men killed. Soaking the skins in this soup made them very soft. Then they were smoked over a fire which gave the creamy buttery color. There are modern ways of chemically brain tanning.

I have an old book that shows various pictures of different tribal dresses. I chose as my favorite the 3-skin traditional Plains Indian Dress. This dress is made of three skins, one for the skirt front, one for skirt back, and one folded over with neck hole. Following these old pictures, I designed my own pattern for making my dresses.

Here is a sketch of my design:



Measurements I need for a custom dress:



I do use a sewing machine as women of long ago used:



Here is a hang tag of one of my dresses sold at Red Earth:


To be fashionably dressed at ceremonials and pow wows, there were necessary accessories, which is for a later post.