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Historical Métis Dress

Fashion varied depending on the region in which they lived.

Métis Men’s Clothing
The clothing of early traders were usually fashioned from buckskin fringed with horsehair.  Jackets were constructed out of caribou, moose, or bison skin.  The long hide or skin coats were almost always decorated by beadwork, quillwork, embroidery or painting in a variety of motifs depending on the cultural affiliation of the woman making the design.  Fringes were regularly attached along the arms or the bottom of the jacket.

Men's Coat

A common Métis man’s winter outfit consisted of a long capote (jacket), corduroy or tanned-skin pants held up with bright suspenders, cotton or wool shirts, Assomption sashes, mittens and brightly adorned moccasins.  To conserve warmth they tied the capote and pant cuffs to restrict cold air from entering and warm air from escaping.  For headgear, the man might wear a cap made from the fur of an otter or muskrat, or a cap with two peaks called a “wide awake”.  A colourful shot pouch is often draped across the person’s chest.  If men did not have stockings or socks, they would place a rabbit skin or piece of wool in their moccasins to keeMétis Bead Workp their feet warm.  They would also wear mittens. 

Southern Métis venturing north with the fur trade introduced cloth leggings made from various coloured cloths.  The leggings were generally made from wool cloth and decorated with floral beaded, knee high side panels and ribbon rosettes.

Men also wore hats of felt, velvet and fur, which were decorated with beads, ribbons or fringes of black silk.

The capote was a hooded jacket made from a woollen Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Blanket and worn most commonly in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  It was lightweight but warm and wearable in fall, winter and spring.  The jackets that the Métis wore extended to the knees and flared at the bottom to allow the wearer greater leg movement while running behind a dogsled.  The pattern for the capote was cut from a HBC blanket because of their high quality and enduring use in the fur trade.  The women who made these jackets had to be very conscious of waste and proportion because the entire jacket was made from one blanket only.  It became an original, unique work of art when beadwork, embroidery, sashes, fringes, and quillwork were added on.

Women's Clothing
Métis women's everyday wear was simple and practical, again a combination of both First Nations and European styles. Women wore long skirts, dresses or gowns, not pants. The dresses and skirts were sometimes decorated with bright ribbons, frequently sewn in rows above the hemline. In the winter, women wore leggings (mitasses) fashioned from wool or velvet under their dresses. The leggings would be decorated with embroidery and beads.

A familiar Métis woman's outfit consisted of long-sleeved blouses, which were tucked into a long skirt at the waist. Cloth was a preferred material for their garments, though velvet was quite common. Depending on their access to a trading post or store, women incorporated materials such as lace, fine cloth and ribbons into their outfits. Like the men, they wore highly decorated leather moccasins on their feet. A shawl was worn about the shoulders in warmer weather, while in the winter, the woman wrapped it about her head to keep warm. While not all that common, high-button shoes were a much-desired fashion among women.

While most of their everyday outfits were dark, women also produced an assortment of bright and decorative clothing for festive occasions. The decoration on women's clothing was composed, at times, of dyed horse or moose hair, beadwork, ribbons, embroidery and shells, painted or not, which also were used for jewellery. Jewellery was worn on the neck, fingers, ears, and in the hair.

For festive occasions, such as New Year's celebrations (le reveillion), weddings and dances, women had an opportunity to wear their jewellery and put on their bright and decorated gaily skirts, silk dresses, leggings, colorful shawls and moccasins.

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