Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reconstructing a Pre Contact Elk Hide Dress


We've had a week off, so I've jumped right into a project that has been years in the planning and research. I'm recreating an Elk Hide dress that hasn't been seen walking around in 300 or so hundred years.

I actually have three hide dresses in the planning phase, but this one just sort of came up when I got the hides and hung them on the dress form.

The hides were hung as they had been delivered, no cutting or trimming of leather was done to it.

It was supposed to be a Wampanoag over the shoulder dress, (Think Jane of Tarzan fame), but when I did the initial dress form fitting, this dress came out instead and insisted I make it.

Sometimes the hides just arrange themselves in such a way you just have to go with what they are telling you.

In early Native American Culture it was common to make a dress from the entire hide without cutting it in any way, just artfully arranging it to your form.

One second later, Slippers pulled the dress form over on top of her!
This was powerful medicine in it's day but was later modified to become a more taylored garment for a more active mobile lifestyle and redesigned to differentiate between different tribes.

What really surprised me is when I got things pinned up I began to see a garment that covered different cultures around the world also.

If one looks carefully, one can see the lines of the Kimono. If one squints a bit, a Medieval dress line appears.

Lets face it, at one time or another we all ran around in hides of one sort or another on every continent. We all wanted to look our best, (women have always been concerned about their looks, trust me on this, even in the cave there was some sort of fashion going on). 

I imagine considerable time was spent making the hides hang, "just so" instead of just tying a knot of any given smelly hide over one shoulder and marching on...that idea is abhorrent to women now as then.

Anywho...it's amazing to think that all long flowing dresses are essentially paying homage to the original two hide dress, the lines are obvious, the pattern clear.

We've just changed fabric for hides, added darts, zippers, buttons and cut away at the excess to reveal a modern line. It's nice to take a moment and take a good long look at our beginnings and see that even then, women had fine taste in clothing.

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