Navajo Clothing



To-day it has practically disappeared as an article of Navaho costume, the typical "best" dress of the women now consisting of a velvet or other cloth skirt reaching to the ankles, a velvet shirt-like waist cut in practically the same manner as that of the men, and also left open under the arms.

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Many silver and shell ornaments are worn by both sexes. The women part their hair down the middle and tie it in a knot at the back.

Navajo clothing for both men and women initially was deerskin for shirts and skirts. The men later wore cotton or velvet shirts with no collars, breeches below the knee, and moccasins. Women gradually wore the "squaw dress," made of plain dark blankets

Prehistoric Costume
The ancient Navaho had very poor and simple clothes in contrast to their well-dressed descendants. Women wore merely a two-piece apron effect about the waist, woven from yucca fiber or cedar bark, while men wore breechcloths. For cold weather, animal skins or a woven yucca blanket were wrapped around the body. The feet and legs were protected by yucca leggings and moccasins of badger or wild-cat skin, which were soled with braided yucca.

Primitively the men dressed in deerskin shirts, hip-leggings, moccasins, and native blankets. These were superseded by what has been the more universal costume during the present generation: close-fitting cotton or velvet shirt, without collar, cut rather low about the neck and left open under the arms.

sandlesBreeches fashioned from any pleasing, but usually very thin, material, and extending below the knees, being left open at the outer sides from the bottom to a little above the knees; deerskin moccasins with rawhide soles, which come to a little above the ankles, and brown deerskin leggings from moccasin-top to knee, held in place at the knee by a woven garter wound several times around the leg and the end tucked in.

Navajo family sitting on ground by tree. Monument Valley, 1960's

The hair is held back from the eyes by a head-band tied in a knot at the back. In early times the women wore deerskin waist, skirt, moccasins, and blanket, but these gradually gave place to the so-called "squaw-dress," woven on the blanket loom, and consisting of two small blankets laced together at the sides, leaving arm-holes, and without being closed at top or bottom.

Navajo WomanOne of Gullfoyle's Navajo scouts 1883

The top then was laced together, leaving an opening for the head, like a poncho. This blanket-dress was of plain dark colors.

Clothing and accessories. bottom left, Woman's dress of 2 identical wool pieces, black body with red and dark blue borders, which would be sewn together at the sides and shoulders (as shown in drawing). Women also wore shoulder blankets. The dress was belted with a woven sash or later a concha belt. top, Belt with 7 conchas probably made from silver dollars. The outer edge is slightly scalloped with punched holes.

Cly Family

The belt leather is strung through the conchas and there is a simple silver buckle. Each concha is backed with leather, saving wear on cloth, and a stamped design is visible on several of the leather backing pieces. Such belts were worn by both sexes. bottom right, Leather pouch, a type used by men, with plain silver buttons on the shoulder strap and a single silver ornament on the flap. Tobacco, firemaking equipment, and other small items were carried in the pouch. bottom left, 127 by 172 cm, collected before 1900; top, length 98 cm, collected before 1901; bottom right, length about 76.2 cm. collected before 1905.