Native American Ribbon Shirts – Origins
Native American Ribbon Shirts are Regalia items that are worn by Native American people of many tribes and traditions. The shirts developed from European Trade Shirts that were usually made of cotton or linen fabric. Silk ribbons were another of the trade goods brought to North America by the Europeans. The bright colors of the ribbons made them very popular among Native Americans. In the 1800s calico fabric became available and Native Americans also made clothing from that colorful patterned cloth.
Fabric shirts became standard wear for Native American men during the 1800s. Men’s shirts were decorated in the same fashion as previously worn buckskin shirts but with brooches, ribbons, and applique instead of paint, hair and ermine skins. Alongside women’s fabric skirts and dresses, these clothing items became identified with Native Americans.
During the reservation period, when powwows were being organized as pan-Indian social events, the Native American Ribbon shirt was incorporated into Powwow Dance Regalia. The Ribbon Shirts were worn either belted with a sash or tucked into the waist of a breechcloth. Ribbons were attached at the shoulder, sleeve and cuffs of the shirts.
Native American Ribbon Shirts – Today
Today, Ribbon Shirts are worn by men, women and children. They retain a pull over, open neck style with or without a collar. A range of fabrics are used to make them, from historic calico and plain cotton to satin and bright polyester blends. They can be simply decorated with a single color of ribbon on the front, back and sleeves or they can feature several bands of ribbon extending to the shoulders with lengths of ribbon ‘fringe’ on the front and back. One popular motif features ribbons in the colors of the Four Directions: Red, Yellow, Black and White.
Ribbon Shirts today are designed according to the preference of the wearer. At The Wandering Bull – Native American Trading Post, you will find Ready-to-Wear Native American Ribbon Shirts in a variety of styles and colors. Our Classic Ribbon Shirts in either calico prints or solid colors with complementary ribbon trim on the front, back and cuffs are our most popular style.
Wandering Bull Exclusive Ribbon Shirts
The Micmac Style Ribbon Shirt is made in solid colors with a contrasting square yoke and matching fabric on the cuffs. The ribbon trim extends down from the shoulder and crosses the front and also appears on the cuffs.