MOHAWK WOMEN'S DRESS
The women wore their hair long, often with traditional bear
grease, or tied back into a single braid. They often wore no
covering or hat on their heads, even in winter.
Traditional dress styles of the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk
peoples consisted of women going topless in summer with a
skirt of deerskin. In colder seasons, women wore a full
woodland deerskin dress, leather tied underwear, long
fashioned hair or a braid and bear grease. They wore several
ear piercings adorned by shell earrings, shell necklaces,
and also puckered seam ankle wrap moccasins.
Haudenosaunee women traditionally wore dresses made of
deerskin. They were often decorated with Haudenosaunee
designs using porcupine quills.
After European contact, the Haudenosaunee began to trade for
cloth, glass beads, and other trade goods. Women then began
to decorate their clothing with silver brooches and glass
beads, and they used cloth to make clothing.
Today the Haudenosaunee have incorporated cloth like wool,
broadcloth, and calico into the materials used to make
dresses, but the styles remains the same as it was from time
immemorial. One type of women's regalia is the overdress,
which is fitted at the waist and flares out. The bottom edge
of this dress is left with an open upside down V shape, and
it is beaded.
The neck portion of the dress may have a collar, which is
beaded, or it may have a rounded neck. If the dress has a
rounded neck, then a beaded collar is usually worn to add
beauty to the top of the dress. Sometimes women wear sashes
or leather belts around their waists, which looks very nice.
Skirts & Leggings
Skirts and leggings are usually worn with the overdress. The
skirt can be made of deerskin or cloth. Today many skirts
are made from broadcloth or wool, and are elegantly beaded
along the bottom border and edge. The skirt fits around the
waist and is long enough to come midway between the knee and
Leggings can be made from leather or cloth. Most leggings
today are made from cloth, broadcloth, or wool. Leggings are
tied just above the knee and must be long enough to just
touch the top of the moccasin. The legging is made so that
at the bottom edge, there is an inverted V-shape that is
worn facing the center of the ankle. This allows the wearer
to move easily.
The bottom border and edge of the leggings are decorated
with beading. The leggings and skirts usually have the
Celestial Sky symbol repeated near the edge.
The Haudenosaunee use the smallest white seed beads when
decorating their clothing. The beading is so exquisite, many
people say the finished work looks like fine lacework.
Often times the designs used when beading, are taken from
Haudenosaunee cosmology, clan symbols, or woodland designs
of flowers, vines, and leaves.
MOHAWK MEN'S DRESS
The traditional dress styles of the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk
men consisted solely of a breech cloth of deerskin in
summer, deerskin leggings and a full piece deerskin shirt in
winter, several shell strand earrings, shell necklaces, long
fashioned hair, and puckered seamed wrap ankle moccasins.
The men also carried a quill and flint arrow hunting bag,
and arm and knee bands.
During the summer, the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk children
traditionally wore nothing up to the ages of thirteen, the
time before they were ready for their warrior or woman
passages or rites.
Later dress after European contact combined some cloth
pieces such as the males' ribbon shirt in addition to the
deerskin clothing, and wool trousers and skirts. For a time
many Mohawk peoples incorporated a combination of the older
styles of dress with newly introduced forms of clothing.
Later, sinew or animal gut was cleaned and prepared as a
thread for garments and footwear and was threaded to
porcupine quills or sharp leg bones to sew or pierce
eyeholes for threading. Clothing dyes were obtained of
various sources such as berries, tree barks, flowers,
grasses, sometimes fixed with urine.
Durable clothing that was held by older village people and
adults was handed down to others in their family sometimes
as gifts, honours, or because of outgrowth.
Mohawk clothing was sometimes reminiscent of designs from
trade with neighboring First Nation tribes, and more closely
resembled that of other Six Nations confederacy nations;
however, much of the originality of the Mohawk nation
peoples' style of dress was preserved as the foundation of
the style of today.