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Algonquin people with wool blankets

Algonquin people with wool blankets

In the 1600s, most people still dressed the same as they had before, in deerskins. But in the south-west, Pueblo and Navajo people began to buy wool clothing from the Spanish settlers. Europeans produced a lot of wool to sell, so they wanted to sell it to Americans. The wool clothes were cheaper than deerskin, so more people were able to wear more clothes more of the time.

Native American doll of a European trapper wearing deerskin (about 1850)

Native American doll of a European trapper wearing deerskin (about 1850)

People who lived on the East Coast, like the Iroquois and the Cherokee and the Algonquin, also began to get wool clothes and blankets by trading with English, French, and Dutch traders. Everyone started to wear more clothing. But women still wore shirts and skirts, or dresses, and the men still wore shirts and pants.

Just as many Native American people got new wool clothes from the settlers, many European hunters and settlers learned to wear deerskin from the Native Americans. Deerskin lasted better than wool clothes, and you could get right where you were, even if you were nowhere near a store. And you didn’t have to sew hems on it, either.

Learn by doing: visit a Native American reservation and check out some traditional clothing
More American clothing styles:the 1700s

Bibliography and further reading about American clothing:

North American clothing before 1500 AD
North American Economy
American History home