Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dakota Nakota Lakota / The People

Article: Women's Dress

For everyday wear the Lakota women’s dress consisted of a hide dress made from two elk hides, leggings and moccasins. These dresses typically had no quill or beadwork. The yoke of dresses worn for formal occasions however were highly decorated with rows of elk teeth and embroidery made with quills. In latter times beadwork was often substitute for quillwork and dentalium shells were often used. Leggings and moccasins were also were also decorated with quillwork and latter beadwork. Women took great pride in their workmanship and the uniqueness of their work and vied with one another.

Many of the geometric figures and designs were passed down from mother to daughter and were known to belong to the family who used them. Often they had originated from a dream. To use designs belonging to another family without being given permission or purchasing the rights was considered unacceptable behaviour.

Certain designs had symbolic meaning. The turtle commonly found on women’s dresses is symbolic of the protective qualities imparted to females by the turtle. The spider web and dragon fly designs imply kinship with the Wakiñyañ, the thunderbeing. Some represented an event in the person’s life, for example eight black horse hoofs could represent that the wearer had captured eight black horses.