Style show highlights traditional dress

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
09/08/2011 09:19 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Model Catherine Foreman Gray wore a trade shirt, finger-woven belt and a wool wrap skirt that was typical for Cherokee women in the 1700s during a Souteastern-Indian style show Sept. 2. She also wore pucker-toe moccasins and some trade silver. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Model Catherine Foreman Gray wore a trade shirt, finger-woven belt and a wool wrap skirt that was typical for Cherokee women in the 1700s during a Souteastern-Indian style show Sept. 2. She also wore pucker-toe moccasins and some trade silver. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Model David Fowler is dressed as a Cherokee Old Settler in the early 1800s. The outfit includes a bandolier bag, which Fowler showed off. Fowler made the outfit and modeled it during the Sept. 2 Southeastern-Indian style show in downtown Tahlequah. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee artist Roger Cain models a turkey-feather cape that would have been worn by a Mississippian-era war chief while his grandson Austin Lyons wears regalia that would have been worn by a bird-man dancer complete with turkey feathers and jewelry from the period, which was between 900 to 1600 A.D. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Mary Smith models a Seminole skirt made by Jay McGirt during a Southeastern-Indian style show Sept. 2. The Cherokee Native Art and Plant Society sponsored the event. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Southeastern-Indian style show presented by the Cherokee Native Art and Plant Society was part of the Cherokee National Holiday’s events this year.

Models of all ages wore clothing from a period ranging from 900 A.D. to present. How clothing and accessories were made and some of the history behind the clothing worn by Cherokee and other Southeastern tribes were explained by an emcee while the clothing was modeled.

Lisa Rutherford, archival curator for the Cherokee Nation Businesses, served as committee chairman and emcee for the style show. She shared the knowledge she has gained while doing research for art used in Cherokee Nation buildings. Her job is to ensure artwork purchased by the CN is culturally and historically accurate.

She said the show originated from people asking questions about a turkey-feather cape she was making last winter at the CNAPS studio in Tahlequah. Rutherford is an award-winning artist who creates pottery, Southeast-style beadwork, clothing and textiles, and oil paintings.

“They didn’t know a lot about it. They didn’t know it was a Cherokee cape and they were asking questions about what Cherokees wore in different time periods,” Rutherford said. “I’ve been researching the clothing and the textiles for the past few years and have several outfits of my own from the 1700s. So, Shawna (Cain) and I came up with the idea of having a style show during the Cherokee holiday to show people what Cherokees were wearing during different time periods.”

She added trade with Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries at times dictated the clothing worn by Cherokee people. For instance, in the early 1700s when the Cherokee began to trade deerskins for fabric and in the late 1700s when Cherokee women were encouraged to weave, the style of clothing the people wore changed.

Rutherford said the traditional tear dress worn by Cherokee women during the Cherokee National Holiday and other events did not originate until the late 1960s and has evolved over time. The first tear dresses were “shorter and plainer” and now are made with better fabrics and have a more contemporary style, she said.

The Southeastern-Indian style show began with the Mississippian period in history (900 to 1600 A.D.) and went through the centuries to current styles of traditional clothing worn by Native people whose ancestors originated from the Southeastern region of North America. For instance, an evening dress adorned with a feather cape was modeled during the show.

“I just wanted to show something we wore in 1540 could be modern and attractive today,” Rutherford said.

She added the manager of the Jazz Lab in downtown Tahlequah where the style show was held was “very happy with the event” and said he hadn’t seen the facility “that full in a long time.”

“We at CNAPS were very pleased with the attendance and feedback from the audience,” Rutherford said.

Information about Southeastern-style clothing was compiled from research done by Cherokee artists Tonia Weavel, Wendall Cochran, Cathy Moomaw, Shawna Cain, Rutherford and others. Weavel sewed many of the tear dresses in the fashion show.

Trade beads fashioned into elaborate necklaces and earrings and gorgets once worn by Cherokee men were also showcased during the show. Gorgets are small, decorative plates of silver or copper and are worn around the neck. Some Cherokee men still wear gorgets today during ceremonial events.

Rutherford said she believes the show generated a lot of interest and would be considered for an annual event during the Cherokee National Holiday. It’s possible the organizers could incorporate styles of clothing from other regions including powwow regalia, she said.

“We were trying to include all the Southeast tribes, and hopefully next year we can have people from the other tribes and get more diversity of clothing,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961

About the Author
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. 

For many years h ...
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. For many years h ...

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