Friday, June 10, 2011

More Brain Tan Dress Research, Wonderful Discovery!

Discovery of the Day! I watched a PBS Series last night about First contact between Native and European peoples on the continent and it led me to do some more searches for tribe specific clothing.

I began my search for the Wampanoag people, the Natives who interacted with the so called "Pilgrims" of Plymouth rock and Thanksgiving fame.

I came across this site linked in the pictures below to a Native reenactment village where they are actually wearing the garment I will be recreating soon.

I was thrilled to find that the arm closure I documented on Mia's actual dress was authentic, and the manner of attaching the shoulder correct.

This is a big moment for me, as the garment had been modified to include a button closure, something I was not comfortable with using, (I never have seen button closures used in pre contact clothing).
But, the garment DID have mysterious slits on either end of the fold-over that implied a drawstring to me, and when I repaired it, I did add the leather drawstring, but left the button closure as I did not want to over-alter the dress, (it was not mine, after all).

I have been searching ever since for the actual closure, and these pictures show the leather thong strap closure I have been thinking of all along and was evidenced in the actual garment I studied. It lends a graceful closure to the over-the-shoulder attachment, and will look stunning!

Here are more photos and links to the actual page where I found my material for this article, I will be ever grateful to the Wampanoag for keeping their historical clothing alive!
The following is their sites wording and not mine:

Erinn sewing homesite
Unlike the people you’ll meet in the 17th-Century English Village, the staff in the Wampanoag Homesite are not role players. They are all Native People  - either Wampanoag or from other Native Nations - and they will be dressed in historically accurate clothing, mostly made of deerskin. They speak from a modern perspective about Wampanoag history and culture. They are happy to see you and will invite you inside a wetu, or tell you what they are growing in the garden, or show you how to play hubbub, an ancient tribal game still enjoyed by many Wampanoag today. The staff in the Wampanoag Homesite are very proud of their Native heritage, and knowledgeable of the traditions, stories, technology, pasttimes, music and dance of the people who have lived in this region for more than 10,000 years. Ask lots of questions! You may be surprised what you will learn.

Wampanoag woman and child Plimoth PlantationPhoto copyright Rusty Moore.12. You don't look like the images of Native People I've seen in movies and books. Are you a "real Indian" 
Those of us dressed in deerskin clothing on the Wampanoag Homesite are all Native People - a term we prefer over "Indian" or even "Native American". Most are Wampanoag, but a few people are from other Native Nations. Many images of Native People in movies depict Native stereotypes. But there are actually many different Native Peoples throughout the Country, with a variety of different physical features as well as different lifestyles.
If you want to know about our heritage, just ask us: "What Native Nation are you from?" We'd be happy to talk with you about it.
 2.  Who will I meet at the Wampanoag Homesite?
All of the staff in the Homesite are Native People - either Wampanoag or from other Native Nations. Asking staff what Native Nation they are from is a great way to begin a conversation. You are likWampanoag dancing at Plimoth Plantationely to meet some people who are Wampanoag--one of several Peoples (or Nations) indigenous to the southern coast of present-day New England. The Wampanoag have been living here for over 10,000 years.
While their clothing and houses are traditional, the Native interpreters you meet are not role players. They speak from a modern perspective about Wampanoag history and culture. This enables the staff to talk with you about historical as well as contemporary  issues, events and information about the Wampanoag.

Authentic Costuming: English, Wampanoag, and Pirate

1621 Clothes, whether European, American Indian, or Pirate (yes, pirates!), were much different than we so commonly think today. The following period garment information is taken from The American Patriot's Treasury of Historical Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas (Second Edition), which covers the subject in much greater detail (Sumptuary Laws, accessories, gender, undergarments, children's attire, fabric choices, resources, weapons, and more).

This time period is considered the late Renaissance, and English attire was actually very colorful and romantic. Stereotypically we think of Pilgrims in black and white, but that style didn't come into middle class fashion until the late 1600's (see the Costumes page at for a fascinating look at the origins of Pilgrim clothing stereotypes).

English class attire for both genders is discussed at length in the guide, but you can get an idea of the possibilities throughout this lens. For the sake of interest, here is the breakdown of class attire for English women in 1621. All the Pilgrims of the Mayflower were middle class citizens, but don't let that stop you from making clothing that you'll love to wear if you prefer the upper or lower class attire.

(Lower Class - Middle Class - Upper Class)
Lower Class: Outer corset, exposed undershirt sleeves
Middle Class: Jacket with full length sleeves to cover undershirt
Upper Class: One piece dress with full length sleeves and stately collar

Americans only have partial descriptions, and few if any portraits of 1621 Wampanoag people, so Wampanoag costuming is left wide open for interpretation. The pictures following are of my youngest son wearing a style-plausible interpretation, followed by line drawings of traditional attire currently donned by Wampanoag Indians (as featured in The History Channel production, Mayflower). For my son's attire I couldn't afford leather leggings, but I did manage a snake skin belt and fur wrap. Snake skin belts are mentioned in period descriptions of the New England Natives.

Yes, there were pirates in 1621, and they did touch the Thanksgiving story every bit as much as the Mayflower did! Details are in the guide, plus some information can be found on our 1621 Pirates page at 3 Sun

Essentially there were two pirates authentic to the 1621 Plymouth story: the Barbary Coast Pirates (also called Algerian Corsairs), and French Privateers (government-appointed pirates who were more inclined to steal than to kill).

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