My grandmothers taught me that our people wore wrap skirts of leather and went topless. There were times we would wear a cape that was rounded or squared over our shoulders when the weather was colder (Click here - see page 20). Many times we would go barefoot or wear moccasins. The length of the moccasin would vary depending on where we were living at the time. Being an enrolled Cherokee of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, I chose NOT to wear the tear dress. My people would have not worn this dress as it was created in the 60's. It was and is a modern dress designed and adopted by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma after a beauty pageant. Click here to read the history of the tear dress. I decided to wear an updated version of the wrap skirt & cape. So I extended the cape a little longer than usual and used a belt to hold it in place. I also extended the length of the skirt for personal reason. But, it is indeed a wrap skirt. My dress during my pow wow dancing for a few years was to wear the contemporary style I had designed.
Shells were included, as our people wore shells and adorned themselves with shells. Click here to read of shell usage (see page 20).
Face paint is worn by many contemporary pow wow dancers and for some has significant meaning while for others no meaning. For my family it has a special meaning, one of which I honor for my family. Long ago our women would adorn their faces, hairlines, cheeks with red ocher.
Many contemporary dancers wear animal skins, parts, etc. I was gifted a skunk to wear after my husband died. I called him my little stinker and we had a sweet skunk story we shared between the two of us. After he died, some dear friends of mine gifted me the skunk. Inside the pelt holds my deceased husbands braid. I promised him, I would carry this with me when I started dancing again so that he could be with me. I kept that promise. You see, he never was able to dance. He became too sick, too fast to go out and dance with me. So through his spirit and the skunk pelt, we danced together. This is how I honored him.
I no longer wear my contemporary outfits as I have decided to wear historically correct, 18th Century time specific clothing. I may still break out my contemporary outfit from time to time, but for now, I will stay with the 18th Century historically correct.