The Cherokees referred to themselves as, "The Principal
People", speaking a language related to those of the Iroquois
Confederacy, of which they were the southernmost tribe, in the states
of Tennessee and North Carolina. In the 16th century, DeSoto
passed through the Lower Cherokee towns, bringing about their first
European contact, which was both devastating and invigorating.
At this time, young Cherokee adults were clothing themselves in woven
fabrics, feather cloaks, and finely tanned animal skins. Typically, this
included breechclouts, leggings, and moccasins for the men, and
dresses, yokes, skirts, cloaks and moccasins of buckskin for the
women. Porcupine quillwork, (later replaced with beadwork), copper
and shell jewelry, and clay and stone decorations were widely used
at this time.
Woven cotton cloth had replaced native tanned skins by
the 1820s as the desirable medium for clothing manufacture, and it
was about this time, that beadwork began to decline, except as a cottage
craft. This was further compounded with their tragic removal to
Oklahoma in 1839, over the Trail of Tears, along with their subsequent
education by white missionaries.
European ways proved to be very attractive to some of the Cherokees, and, by the 1850s, over
half of the tribe bore the surname of European settlers. Today, most
members of the tribe live in Oklahoma, with a smaller group still living
in North Carolina.
Notions & Tools
9 buttons, 20 yard ribbon 3/8" or 5/8", thread, needles,
Note: The length of the finished dress will depend on the height
of the person wearing it. Sizes indicated here are for an average
height of 5" to 5" - 4". A taller person may require slightly more
fabric, so check your pattern before purchasing your fabric.
100% cotton calico, cotton poly/blend, cotton broadcloth, in
solids or very small prints, with contrasting ribbons. Usual colors
were red, blue, white and green