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Native American Fashion Appropriation


Is The Fashion Industry Appropriating Native American Culture

Fashion trends may come and go but the little black dress never goes out of style. Footwear, accessories and clothing with Native American influences have surfaced in fashion and they cycle in and out of designer's collections and have been doing so for decades. But is this cultural appropriation or high fashion's attempt to salute indigenous cultures? Clothing chains like Urban Outfitters have come under fire when they label their goods "Navajo" with no input from the Navajo Nation.

Bloggers are increasingly taking to task non-natives who wear headdresses and other indigenous apparel when they want to play across cultural game of dress-up. You can support indigenous designers and learn about how to avoid the pitfalls of the fashion world in regards to native dress with cultural insensitivity.

Native American Fashion Staples

Cultural appropriation is probably the last thing on a shoppers mind when they go to the mall. Many consumers do not know they are wearing an item that is been blatantly co-opted Native American culture. Those who rise above can blur the lines. A shopper can associate a pair of feather earrings with hippies and Bohemians and not with Native Americans. But the feather earrings and feather hair accessories and beaded jewelry that you see in the contemporary fashion market have their inspiration from indigenous cultures.

The same is true for fringe purses, vests and boots along with mukluks, moccasins and Native American prints on clothing.

See article Native American Designers

It is not a crime to wear these fashion items but you need to recognize when cultural appropriation occurs in some of this native apparel and it has more than cultural significance but also spiritual significance in Native American communities.

The leather fringe purse that you love may look great with your outfit that it actually is a medicine bag that was modeled with religious importance in indigenous cultures. You should research manufacturers who peddle apparel with Native American influences. Are there Native American designers employed by the company? Does the business give anything back to indigenous communities?

See article Native American Design Concepts

Playing Dress up as an Indian

Countless consumers will inadvertently buy products that have been inspired by indigenous cultures but some will make a conscious decision to appropriate native dress. This can be a misstep made by trendy hipsters in high fashion magazines. If you attend an outdoor music festival wearing a headdress, face paint, leather French and baited jewelry isn't just a fashion statement but a mockery of aboriginal cultures. Dressing up as a Native American is inappropriate for Halloween and it's offensive to pile on pseudo-native attire to get in touch with your inner hippie at a rock concert, especially if you know little about the clothing's cultural significance.

Fashion magazines such as Vogue and Glamour have been accused of cultural insensitivity when they feature fashion spreads where the models go primitive by wearing native inspired fashions yet there are no Native American designers, photographers or consultants in the process.

Many of these cases romanticize Indians and blur separate traditions and some disregard Indian spirituality. They forget that before white America decided that American Indians were cool many whites did their best to kill and sequester them. So is not necessarily cute to wear a feather in your hair and carrying Indian rug clutch, instead it could be thoughtless and insensitive.

Supporting Native Designers

If you enjoy indigenous fashions, you should buy them directly from First Nations designers and artisans throughout North America. You can find them at the Native American cultural heritage events and marketplaces. There are many top indigenous fashion designers that one can follow on the Internet.

When you buy indigenous apparel and accessories from the artisan directly with a different experience than buying a Native American good from a corporation. Native American designers put good intentions into their work and look forward to the person who wears it. They do a prayer and a blessing for the wearer of the piece and they hope that they accept this with our heart and all the teaching from the parents and their families.


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