Tuesday, August 28, 2012


 This is a Plateau style elks tooth dress I made as a commission.   It is probably the only one like it I will ever make in my lifetime, as ALL the teeth on it are REAL elks teeth.   Not carved bone as many of the historic dresses actually are.   There are only two teeth per elk that are used like this,  so this dress took many years of collecting teeth to make.
 The dress it's self is made using two brain tanned calf elk hides,  which were aged to give a antique appearance.   It is tailored in the classic Plateau style,  where the shape of the hides dictated to some extent the shape of the garment.   Additional brain tanned antelope hide was doubled and used for the fringe on the sides and bottom of the dress.
 All the beadwork on this dress was done using antique Italian beads.  The bead design symbolizes what would have been the elks tail on the dress as it is constructed.
 The elks teeth were laced on the dress using thin hide thongs,  as was done on the original dresses.   I actually had enough teeth to do one more row,  but ran out of length on the hide to do that,  so its only three rows.   And it is very heavy ,  as these teeth are solid ivory.
This is a yoke of a original Plateau dress in a private collection.   It is done on trade wool.   Often times the teeth used on these dresses were saved from older items and might be centuries old and passed down thru families.   These dresses carried a tremendous amount of family prestige and pride to own one,  as they indicated wealth, and the hunting capabilities of the men of the family.  Not many owned these types of dresses composed of the real teeth.   

Among the Crow people the "Elks Tooth" dress is a standard of wear....but again,  many of the teeth are carved out of bone to represent what you see here.  

Also on many of the old dresses you see teeth that have been etched and inscribed.   Unfortunately I am unable to tell you what these mean.   If they have a societal meaning or are individual meanings to the maker and wearer of the dress. 

 More inscribed teeth on a dress in a private collection.  This one on red trade wool.


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