A Brief History
© Firestone, Colorado August 20, 2008
Originally, each Native American Tribe had its own unique
culture, language, and clothing styles. However, as the Eastern
American Indian Nations were forced to assimilate, the
traditional Ribbon Shirt evolved.
Based upon the loose, plain white cotton shirt of the early
traders and settlers, the tribes east of the Mississippi would
add their own decorations of shells, quills, beadwork, or
embroidery. Eventually, calico or patterned cotton material was
used as it became available from the traders.
By the mid-1800ís, the popularity of these shirts began to
spread west of the Mississippi to the Plains Nations and north
to the Woodlands and Midwestern Native American Nations.
By 1900, ribbons became more readily available from the
traders and this soon became the preferred decoration with all
the Nations. For many people, the ribbons symbolized fringe
and, for many Native Americans, fringe represents prayers for
the children and the elders.
There are three basic styles distinguished by having either
no collar (sometimes referred to as the Original style), or a
small stand-up collar (called the Cherokee style), or those with
a regular collar which are known as the Western Plains style.
Today, the ribbon shirt continues to be a favorite among most
of the American Indian Nations. It is worn in ceremonies,
events and celebrations, as part of the regalia for Pow Wow
dancing and as formal or business wear.