Native American Fringe

Picture of a Crow Warrior

Native American Fringe
Facts and information about the History of Clothing and regalia of Native American Indians and the use of the fringe on their clothes. Many different types of clothing worn by various tribes featured fringes on dresses, jackets, shawls, bags, moccasins and shirts. The fringed additions served for both practical and decorative purposes.

Buckskin clothing was adopted by pioneers, frontiersmen and mountain men complete with the fringes favored by the Native Indians.

Native American Fringe Fact Sheet

  • Native American Fringe Fact 1: A fringe consisted of a border or edge of hanging threads, cords, tassels or strips, and was often found on garments made from leather and buckskin
  • Native American Fringe Fact 2: Fringes were made separately and sewn on garments, or other important Native Indian items. Fringes were either twisted or plaited together or added as narrow, hanging strips of leather
  • Native American Fringe Fact 3: The purpose of the fringe on Native Indian clothing was two-fold. Fringes were added for purely decorative reasons or had a practical use
  • Native American Fringe Fact 4: The practical reason for fringes were that they helped to repel rainwater from the wearer. As the fringe moved the water ran down to the tips and was shed faster than with no fringe allowing the clothes to dry faster
  • Native American Fringe Fact 5: Fringes were added to a garment in different ways. When making a dress, shirt, skirt of jacket it was a common practise not to trim the leather hides when sewing seams. Instead the excess leather was cut to create the fringes. 
  • Native American Fringe Fact 6: Native American Indians tried never to waste anything. This included leather, that had taken a long time to prepare. Surplus leather was cut into strips and a band of fringing was sewn on to the clothing. Some surplus leather strips were kept and used to decorate other items such as pouches, bags, quivers and knife sheaths
  • Native American Fringe Fact 7: When making Moccasins the surplus leather was used for fringing the shoes and for making the straps. Moccasin fringes often trailed on the ground.
  • Native American Fringe Fact 8: Long thongs of leather were tied together in pairs to create a different fringed effect
  • Native American Fringe Fact 9: Beads were also added to fringes to achieve and even more decorative effect. This was especially popular with the women of the tribes, as was the older tradition of adding brightly colored seeds and shells. Fringes were also painted
  • Native American Fringe Fact 10: Fringes were most commonly added to the shoulders and bottoms of jackets, dresses and shirts. They were also added to the side seams of leggings
  • Fringe Fact 11: The fringed leather tunic or shirt, worn by Native Americans was called a 'wamus'.  According to tradition if a warrior had scalped his enemy, he was allowed to trim his tunic, or wamus, with a human hair fringe in addition to the buckskin fringe. The pictures on this website provide many examples of this tradition
  • Fringe Fact 13: Fringed Jackets, shirts and tunics - The wamus was the name given to these garments that slipped over the head of the wearer
  •  Fringe Fact 12: The style of fringes differed from tribe to tribe. The Comanche and Kiowa wore long, twisted fringes, often tied in bunches. Other Great Plains tribes favored long, straight fringes, especially along the sleeves. The fringes worn by Woodland tribes were shorter so they did not get caught up or tangled in the underbrush
  • Fringe Fact 14: Fringed Dresses featured fringes that hung down the front at the bust. Fringes also hung down from the hem, sleeves, and back.
  • Fringe Fact 15: Breechclouts would often will often have fringes attached and be decorated with different colors
  • Fringe Fact 16: The fringed Buckskin clothing was copied by backwoodsmen, frontiersmen, pioneers and mountain men. The fringes were knotted to the inside of seams. The men wore so much fringe that some tribes gave them the nickname of the "Fringe People"
Native American Clothing
Native Indian Tribes Index

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