2010 Bookseller Resource Guide
Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History
2009-10-15 “The need for protection from the cold climate is what first brought about the invention of clothing,” points out anthropologist and art historian Theodore Brasser. “Bone awls and needles found in ancient campsites are evidence of the tailored clothing of hardy hunters.”

In Native American Clothing (Firefly Books, October 2009, $65.00 hardcover), Dr. Brasser tells the story of great North American indigenous cultures through their clothing, providing social and historical context for the evolution of native dress -- from ancient times to their initial contact with Europeans -- citing the markers primitive artisans left on what he calls “this endless river of time.”

Copiously illustrated with more than 300 magnificent full-color and black-and-white photographs from major museums and private collections, this authoritative volume spans more than five centuries, encompassing tribal groups in 12 regions of the North American continent.

Each tribe crafted beautiful and practical clothing using available materials such as animal furs and skins, feathers, and plant fibers. As European explorers moved across the land introducing new goods, the natives responded with greater creativity, adapting the traders’ beads, cloth, and silver ornaments into their designs with a variety of methods including embroidery, appliqué, patchwork, beadwork, weaving, and dying. Eventually, elements of European folk art found its way into the native art traditions.

“Artistic expression was well developed among these native peoples,” says Dr. Brasser, “though they lived in a social context that did not recognize art as something separate from the production of useful garments and utensils. Aesthetic norms were an inseparable component in the creation of functional objects; there was no art for art’s sake.”

The book describes the meaning of the different kinds of decoration, and the various influences on the clothing such as mythology, social standing, political status, wealth, climate, and geography, revealing “an increasingly detailed story of a diversity of intelligent ways of life.”

Readers will find examples of everyday dress and ceremonial clothing, including dresses, tunics, coats, sashes, headdresses, moccasins, boots, and leggings, plus a plethora of other artifacts such as baskets, bags, blankets, pottery, cooking utensils, masks, and jewelry. “Local art styles proclaimed one’s tribal identity.”

Numerous maps show the ranges of the tribes and convey how trade and travel spread cultural themes.

Native American Clothing is the definitive book on the subject, and will appeal to a broad audience, from collectors to history buffs to general readers.

About The Author:

Theodore Brasser was a curator at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands, and at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He was Professor of Art History at Carleton University and Professor of Anthropology at Trent University and continues to write extensively for many publications including Smithsonian and American Indian Art magazines.

Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History
By Theodore Brasser
Published by: Firefly Books
Publication date: October 2009
Format: 9 X 11; 368 pages; 300+ color and b&w photos; References; Bibliography; Maps; Index
Price: $65.00, plastic-laminated hardcover with jacket
ISBN: 978-1-55407-433-4
Available at bookstores, online booksellers, or by calling 1-800-387-5085
Website: fireflybooks.com