Mohawk * Oneida * Onondaga * Cayuga * Seneca * Tuscarora

Women's Clothing

Rae McDonald

Wari Martin

Written by Kanatiiosh


Haudenosaunee women traditionally wore dresses made of deerskin.  They were often decorated with Haudenosaunee designs using porcupine quills.  

After European contact, the Haudenosaunee began to trade for cloth, glass beads, and other trade goods.  Women then began to decorate their clothing with silver brooches and  glass beads, and they used cloth to make clothing.

Today the Haudenosaunee have incorporated cloth like wool, broadcloth, and calico into the materials used to make dresses, but the styles remains the same as it was from time immemorial. One type of women's regalia is the overdress, which is fitted at the waist and flares out. The bottom edge of this dress is left with an open upside down V shape, and it is beaded. 

The neck portion of the dress may have a collar, which is beaded, or it may have a rounded neck. If the dress has a rounded neck, then a beaded collar is usually worn to add beauty to the top of the dress. Sometimes women wear sashes or leather belts around their waists, which looks very nice.

Skirts & Leggings

Skirts and leggings are usually worn with the overdress.  The skirt can be made of deerskin or cloth. Today many skirts are made from broadcloth or wool, and are elegantly beaded along the bottom border and edge. The skirt fits around the waist and is long enough to come midway between the knee and ankle. 

Leggings can be made from leather or cloth. Most leggings today are made from cloth, broadcloth, or wool. Leggings are tied just above the knee and must be long enough to just touch the top of the moccasin. The legging is made so that at the bottom edge, there is an inverted V-shape that is worn facing the center of the ankle. This allows the wearer to move easily.

The bottom border and edge of the leggings are decorated with beading. The leggings and skirts usually have the Celestial Sky symbol repeated near the edge. 

The Haudenosaunee use the smallest white seed beads when decorating their clothing. The beading is so exquisite,  many people say the finished work looks like fine lacework.

 Often times the designs used when beading, are taken from Haudenosaunee cosmology, clan symbols, or woodland designs of flowers, vines, and leaves.

  The beaded design on the right below is from a beaded collar, and it is an example of raised beading.  Raised beading is accomplished by putting more beads then needed.  The design is a floral woodland design.  These designs may differ depending on the artisan.  

Celestial Sky

Woodland design


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This page and art is protected by copyright law Kanatiiosh 2001©

Created February 18, 2000; Updated August 2001


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