Join the Mitchell Museum on Thursday, March 19 from 6-8pm for a lecture by Curator Janelle Stanley (Dine’/Acoma) about the history and significance of Dine’ women’s high fashion. As a complement to the museum’s “Native Haute Couture” exhibit that opened in January, the lecture will explore Dine’ fashion from oral histories to the keeping of tradition by young people today. The lecture is $10 for museum members and $12 for non-members.
Dine’ (also known as Navajo) is one of the largest federally recognized tribes in the United States. Dine’ tribal lands make up over 27, 425 square miles of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico. It is the largest land area retained by a tribe in the United States.
In Dine’ culture grandmothers have always been the “fashion police,” says Mitchell Museum Curator Janelle Stanley. “Whether it is a trip into town or a traditional ceremony, an elder Dine’ woman takes great pride in being well-dressed.”
The traditional regalia for a Dine’ woman includes a tight-formed bun with silver and turquoise hair-combs, turquoise earrings, velveteen collared blouse with V-shaped turquoise collar pins clasped brooch blouse, two to three strands of turquoise necklaces, prized bracelets for both wrists, a flared skirt, and finally Dine’ moccasins adorned with silver buttons.
Today, the traditional attire is now worn with pride at college graduations, weddings, and other important social events. Because it takes a team of family members to assist with donning the traditional ensemble, the process is an ideal teaching moment for the oral history behind each item worn.
While traditional attire is still worn for occasions, young new Dine’ designers are putting a contemporary spin on Dine’ fashion. Designers like Jolonzo Goldtooth, the head of JG Indie Fashion Designs, are premiering collections at New York’s fashion week and getting recognition around the world.
The year-long “Native Haute Couture” exhibit celebrates the history of Native American high fashion from pre-contact to today. It features unique and priceless garments that showcase American Indian artistry and expertise in tanning, weaving, embroidery, beadwork and tailoring. From ceremonies and pow wows, to celebrations and fashion runways, Native Americans have always had a sense of high fashion and adornment.
“Native Haute Couture” features exquisite examples of late 19th and early 20th century garments and accessories from tribes across the United States and Canada. These pieces reflect the incorporation of many European influenced trade goods and designs in traditional Native dress. Among the items on display are a Cheyenne dress from ca. 1915 made of elk skin with a beaded yolk in a geometric design, a Cheyenne child’s dress from the 1950s that is navy piped with red ribbon, and a signature scarf from “Project Runway” finalist Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo).
The Mitchell Museum is one of only a handful of museums in the country that focuses exclusively on the art, history and culture of American Indian and First Nation peoples throughout the United States and Canada. In 2012, the Mitchell Museum was named “Best Museum of The North Shore: Up and Comer” by Make it Better magazine, won the Superior award by the Illinois Association of Museums and was named a national finalist by the American Association of State and Local History award program.
For more information about the Mitchell Museum of The American Indian, visit www.mitchellmuseum.org or call 847-475-1030. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, students and children and Free for Mitchell Museum members and Tribal members.