Native American regalia consists of many highly stylized pieces tailored for dancing, ceremonies and more. These garments are typically adorned with bells, feathers, and ribbons. Regalia pieces may include elaborate warbonnets or the porcupine-hair head pieces called roaches. There are also garments made for everyday wear, which include, ribbon shirts, pants and breechcloths. There are many commercial patterns available for Native American regalia, but each piece should be tailored to an individual's personality.
Ribbon shirts are traditionally made with cotton fabric. They are often embellished with small floral prints; however, they may also be made from a solid fabric. Ideal fabric color choices are blue, red, pink, green and brown. These colors most align with nature's color scheme, and they represent the importance of nature in Native American life. Contrasting colored grosgrain ribbon is used to decorate the front and back of the traditional ribbon shirt. It is applied in horizontal lines across the chest, and hangs freely on each side.
A beige or tan polyester cotton blend fabric is best suited for Native American regalia pants. This fabric color creates the illusion of buckskin, and is not as costly as leather. Polyester cotton is a medium-weight fabric that keeps its shape, but it is light enough that it isn't cumbersome. Grosgrain ribbon that matches the color of the ribbon shirt is used to add a tuxedo stripe down the side of the pants leg.
Dark-brown brushed cotton can be used to create a realistic looking breechcloth. The breechcloth is made from one piece of fabric. It crosses between the legs, comes up to the waist and falls back down to mid-thigh in the front and back. The cloth is held in place with a belt that runs underneath the front and back of the fabric. Breechcloths can be simple garments with plain fabric or decorated with embroidery floss and seed beads.
Leather moccasins are worn with traditional ribbon shirts and pants. These moccasins can be handmade or store bought. Moccasins are available in a variety of colors, but brown, tan and white are the most traditional colors. The shoes may be decorated with seed beads, or made with plain leather; both choices are acceptable for regalia wear.
Native American jewelry can be added to any type of regalia. Jewelry is very colorful and made with natural elements. Blue or green turquoise is a favorite gemstone for Native American jewelry. Turquoise pieces are most often set in hammered silver. Other popular jewelry materials are bone and seed beads. Bone pieces are used to create chest plates and chokers for dancing garments, but bone chokers can be worn with the traditional ribbon shirt and pants. Seed beads are used to create elaborate hair barrettes, and necklaces. These can also be worn with the basic ribbon shirt and pants.
Susan Elliott teaches studio art and creative writing to home schooled students. She is a graduate of Northwest Arkansas Community College and the Memphis School of Preaching Student Wives Program. She has written for Christian Woman Magazine and Virtuous Magazine. When she's not writing, she is painting or making costumes.