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Seminole Patchwork

.. hs were bold and basic. They were the rain and fire patterns as seen in source one. Another popular pattern made around the same time was one that looked like a checkerboard and named rain and storm (source two). As time moved on, the development of patterns augmented.

The pattern rain was no longer just vertical stripes; it was now comprised of horizontal stripes (source three). Another development in patterns was that certain family units had special representational patterns such as the bear, snake, panther, crawdad, toad, turtle, bird, deer and so on (source four). Along with fire and rain patterns, other everyday life patterns were just as common. Some example of these are lightening bolts, crosses, spools, arrow, mountains, trees, wave and storm (source five). Any of these patterns could be put into any one garment. As shown in source six, the womens skirt has patterns such as fire, tree and rain and storm incorporated into its design.

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Both women and mens garments looked the same, but each had their own distinctions (Downs, 1995, 90-108). All of the patterns mentioned before and then some can be found in all Seminole clothing. No pattern was gender specific. Womens attire consisted of a skirt, blouse and jewelry. The skirt was a very full, floor-length skirt. At knee level there was a ruffle and the whole skirt gathered around the womans waist.

The blouse worn was long sleeved, with an attached cape that could be closed to cover the extremely short blouse. The actual blouse was so short that it would barely cover the womans chest and left a few inches of her midriff showing. In old photographs, like the one in source seven, women were always photographed with their arms crossed in front of their midriff gap, giving the photo a sense of decency. Then to top the outfit off, they would wear 10-15 pounds of glass beads. All of the garments were made of patchwork of course, but is thought that Mrs.

Alice William McKinely Osceola was the first woman to wear a row of patchwork on her dress (source eight). A row of fire adorned her cape. Also you can clearly see the 10-15 pounds of glass beads around her neck (Blackard and West). The mans attire was a little less complex than that of the womans. Men wore a simple full cut shirt and either a short skirt or pants, depending on what Seminole tribe you look at.

A very popular garment for men was the big shirt, which had a gathered waistband at the knees. The big shirt also known as the long shirt, came to be known as the medicine mans coat. Only those of special rank or stature then wore them. Originally this was not the case, all men owned one and it had no affiliation tied to it (Blackward and West). Later into the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, a patchwork jacket gathered at the waist and wrist was quite popular.

In source nine you can see present day Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, James E. Billie wearing a patchwork jacket (Westermark -Bad Horses). James E. Billie is not the only present day Seminole to wear traditional patchwork garments, but the number of Seminoles who do not uphold the tradition of patchwork outweighs those who do. Seminole patchwork in the 90s has been somewhat disappointing. There was once a time when the art of sewing was the most important event in a young girls life and their mother, aunt, grandmother or other family member still loved to keep the tradition alive.

Present day Seminole women have moved into the job market and do not have time to make the patchworks by hand. Instead they buy rolls of pre-made patchwork or already assembled outfits. Thus the history and tradition of patchworking slowly fades away with each passing year. Fortunately those like Effie Osceola, Irene Cypress and Pauline Doctor have taken the time to create new complex patterns and keep the old way of making patchwork garments alive in the 1990s. In source ten, eleven and twelve, you can see the work of Effie, Irene and Pauline respectively. It is easy to see the complexity of the patterns in comparison to those of early day patterns such as fire and rain.

In source ten and twelve the use of metallic material is used giving the garments a flashier more modern day look, but at the same time retaining the orginial process of making patchworks (Downs, 1995, 115-117). In 1995-1996, Lee Tiger, a Public Relations Executive, held a Seminole patchwork exhibition in Berlin, Germany. This exhibition showcased the works of Seminole patchwork throughout time. Showing the progression from around the 1900s to now. This exhibition was held to create awareness of Seminole patchworks, but what exactly does the future hold for Seminole patchwork? (Westermark Bad Horses) This question is a good one, because present day Seminoles do not have an answer to this question. The women who know how to sew patchwork together are becoming rather old and they are losing eyesight and memory on how to do it.

Seminole women in their forties or younger seem to not have an interest in making patchworks anymore. They recognize its importance not only as a mark of tribal identity but as a tangible link to their cultural heritage, (Downs, 1995, 118). Steps are being taken to keep the tradition alive. Schools are now teaching young girls how to sew and make patchworks, and cultural programs are being brought into several tribes to teach the same thing. These efforts should bring a new awareness to their heritage and Seminole patchwork will again thrive throughout the tribes. (Downs, 1995, 118-119) In a sense, it was beneficial for the Seminole Indians to be forced into Florida.

If they were to remain in the cool regions of Georgia, then they might have worn furs and hides forever. Instead they were forced to make clothing out of cotton scraps and thus started a tradition known as patchwork. The Seminoles history was very vital to their heritage. When making these patchworks garments, things that were taken into consideration were the process, elements of design, who wears them and who makes them. The future of Seminoles may be at risk, but efforts through education and public relations hopefully will stop absolution of patchwork.

Seminole patchwork has been done for over a century, and its beauty and uniqueness has been and further needs to be revealed and recognized by Americans. Patchwork has done more than just identify the people of the Seminole tribes: it has reflected their pride in their Indian heritage (Downs, 1995, 119). Arts Essays.


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