Saawanwe LaseeweShawnee Dress/Calico Dress
Historically the cotton fabric would have been acquired via trade with European settlers. It was likely traded by the Europeans for Native American tanned and crafted hides and pelts. When the calico style dress became the more predominate style for Shawnee women is unsure but was likely transitioned to as the cotton fabric was easier to work with and allowed for more variation of pattens and also as cotton fabric became easier to acquire than animal hides for Native American groups.
Dresses are only sewn during daylight hours. Traditionally they would have been sewn by hand but many now use a sewing machine. Some women use patterns, others don't it really depends on the preference of the maker. Marsha Meyer says, "I don't use a pattern, so I tear my fabric and then I double the width of her hips for the measurement around on her skirt, and then on her collar I double the breast - the bust measurement in order to get the fullness for the collar. And it is part of the dress, it's attached to the top.
And our ribbons match on the skirt and the apron, we also put ribbon on our pockets. The collar is - how we figure out the length of the collar is from the is the forearm so it's from the wrist to the elbow and so that is our length of our collar. We also carry a shawl when we dance."
At traditional dances a lot of time a silver medallion will be worn at the intersection of the collar. Shawnee wear center seam toed moccasins. Hairpieces are worn by some women as well either the hourglass pieces or silver hair combs with ribbons attached that flow down the back. Some women accessorize with additional jewelry of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and such as well as further decorating the collar with poncho emblems. Red or black is generally not worn in our ceremonial clothes, but a black shawl is permissible.
"In the first dress I ever made I wanted to dance so bad with them so I figured if I made a dress, they would ask me to dance, be one of our dancers. And it was kind of funny because we referred to a book and I made the skirt shorter, about probably the length of the apron. And we had one lady in camp that stood up for us and said it was okay that we had short skirts because we were also Delaware and the Delaware’s tend to wear a short skirt. So the next time the dance came I had mine lengthened."-Marsha Meyer
Marsha learned to make dress’s by asking people and just observing other women in their dresses, though there was a class taught years ago. Without using a pattern she works with rectangled pieces of fabric and used a t-shirt the first time she made a dress. Adjusting the sleeve seam to adjust from a t-shirt to a dress top she creates her own pattern of sorts which is then covered by the collar, leaving the seam hidden but the top fitted to whoever she is making the dress for. Some women likely use patterns for their dresses but Marsha has learned buy asking others for the length of the collar and matching the ribbons as well as learning from seeing other women’s dresses.