The clothing worn by the Métis combined fashions worn by
Europeans and Aboriginals, with more colour and their own style. Most
clothing was made at home by the women from cloth obtained at the
trading posts or from deerskins and moose-hides. Some men’s clothing was
bought at the post. Some garments, especially moccasins, snowshoes and
jackets, might have been purchased from Aboriginal women or Métis women
who were especially skilled.
Men wore cloth or tanned deerskin or
moose-hide trousers with beaded (a Métis art-form) or brightly coloured
suspenders; their shirts were of wool or cotton in bright colours, with
beaded armbands. Sometimes they wore tanned deerskin or moose-hide
shirts and jackets decorated with beadwork. On their feet they wore
woollen stockings and beaded moose-hide moccasins; sometimes deerskin or
moose-hide leggings; and on their heads woollen caps or large
broad-brimmed hats. For warmth they wore a capote (a garment like a
modern-day parka) made from a Hudson's Bay blanket. It was fastened
around the waist with bright scarlet or multi-coloured sashes, which was
finger-woven from wool and could be up to twenty feet long. This Métis
Sash was a most useful article of clothing as it was used as a belt, for
hauling canoes over portages and whenever else a rope or a chain was
needed. It also fulfilled the function of a back support, like a weight
belt. Very broad and conspicuous belts of the same colour, ornamented
with beads, crossing their breasts and backs to which they append
powder-horns and shot-pouches. The tobacco pouch also became a very
elaborate bag with finger-like extensions, all decorated with beadwork.
Leggings of variously coloured cloths were worn by the men, all more or
less ornamented by the women with beads or silk thread according to
taste. Moccasins were garnished with porcupine quills, dyed red, blue,
and yellow, or beaded. Men carried their rifles in ornamented covers.
They wore a wide variety of hats of all shapes, sizes and materials.
Women were very style-conscious and fashioned clothing that was
attractive as well as serviceable out of whatever material was
available. Early in Métis history, they wore dresses which resembled
Aboriginal women’s dress. This dress was long and straight, and hung
from a yoke (something like that in a cowboy shirt, except extending
over the shoulder) to which were attached long straight sleeves. The
dress extended to mid-calf, and showed the decorated leggings that were
worn with it. The top of the dress became more European in appearance.
At one point, the blouse was long in front, to tuck into the skirt, and
short in the back, with a peplum or frill which overhung the skirt. They
wore skirts and full-sleeved colourful blouses pleated at the bodice and
tucked into the skirt. Their skirts were gathered and decorated with
ribbons. Sometimes they wore sashes similar to the men's. Women's
was beaded moccasins and highly decorated velvet or woollen
leggings. In some communities the leggings and moccasins were combined
into high-top moccasins. High button shoes were highly prized by the
women, but rare. On their heads they wore scarves or shawls. The women
wrapped a blanket about them in the winter and a shawl in the summer.
Sometimes they made coats from Hudson's Bay blankets. Later, they bought
their clothing ready-made in European fashions from the depots.
Children were dressed in the same styles of clothing as the adults. Moss-filled
bags kept babies warm and comfortable. Anecdotal evidence tells us that
girls and women converted to wearing cloth clothing, while boys and men
continued wearing buckskin jackets and leggings, especially while
hunting or travelling.
(snowshoes, traps, scrapers)
(rattles, dolls, games)