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What was the earliest known clothing of the Cherokee?

The clothing of the Cherokee was practical and straightforward for the climate and conditions they lived. Their garments were made from deerskins and the fur from animals.

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Myth, misconception, and misperceptions of the dress of the Cherokee or any Native American abound. These notions derive from portrayals of Native Americans in movies and television shows that mischaracterize the practical nature of the clothing worn. Most historians place the majority of the Cherokee living in the Southeastern United States. Climate, weather, vegetation, and the availability of natural resources dictate the clothing of native populations. The Cherokee is no exception.

The climate in the southeast US tends to be very humid and hot in the summer and relatively mild and damp in the winter. Winters are usually short, and summers are long. Historians believe Cherokee clothing for males consisted of deerskin loincloths, probably no shirts, and moccasins made of deerskin on their feet in the summer months. Female summer attire consisted of a wrap-around skirt or loose blouse made of deerskin or some other light animal skin. The females wore moccasins on their feet, covering the lower part of their calf.

As the temperature in late fall and winter began to fall, the males would switch to leggings and shirts made from deerskin and insulated with some type of animal fur. The more northern tribes probably wore a long robe-like coat made of animal fur during the coldest months. During the cold months, females wore long coats made of fur and animal skins similar to the males. In general, the clothing for males and females was practical for the climate and lifestyle of the Cherokee.

The one clothing misconception is the picture of the Cherokee with an elaborate headdress made of feathers or the female clothed in dresses decorated with brightly colored beads. Ceremonial headdresses and clothing were rare, were more associated with Plains tribes, and are the product of Wild West shows in the late nineteenth century. Popular culture in television and movies misportrays Native American dress, customs, and lifestyle.

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