Wearable Art. Plains Indian Clothing and Accessories from the Gordon Smith Collection
Introduction to Native American Clothing

Have you ever wondered how your clothes are made? For some pieces, plant fibers are formed into cloth that becomes a shirt or a pair of pants. Other pieces are made from animal hide, which is turned into leather and shaped into a jacket or a pair of shoes. Now imagine one person doing all of that work by hand, without the help of factories to make the materials, and sewing machines to create the clothes. Native Americans went through similar processes to make their clothing, a practice that lasted well beyond the arrival of Europeans. This exhibit will explores how Plains Indians created functional and beautiful outfits and accessories that are considered pieces of art by many today.


This dress, known as the "Aurora Borealis dress," is an example of a Sioux-Style two-hide dress, which was actually made using pieces from three hides. The "U" in the center of the yoke represents where the tail would have been if the dress had been made using only two skins. It is estimated that 320,000 glass beads were used to decorate the front and back of the dress.
Oglala or Lakota
Late 19th-Early 20th Century

Quivers and Arrows

The Plains Indians continued to hunt with bows and arrows even after the introduction of the gun. The quiver was used to hold the hunter's extra arrows, and he would strap the container across his back for easy access to the weapons inside.
Late 19th-Early 20th Century


Arrows were made of wood with heads of stone, metal, or bone. The other end of the arrow is called the fletching. Feathers were strategically added here to help with the balance and trajectory, allowing the arrows make it to the target.
Late 19th-Early 20th Century