The Tear Dress shown
here is worn
by Marilyn Lowe
and hand sewn
by Leuwanna Williams

The traditional dress of the Cherokee women
is called the tear dress. The information on
the tear dress is very limited The style of the
dress was probably fashioned after the colonial
women's dresses of the day. The dress worn for
everyday use was made of cotton calico with dark
background and lighter colored figures within the
pattern. The choice of the darker fabric may have
been to help hide the soil from everyday wear.
Cherokee women also used wool for cold weather, and
satin and velvet for dress-up and formal wear.

Cherokee women were encouraged by
the federal government to produce cotton cloth.
They learned to spin and weave very early
because the government believed that the Indians
needed to be educated and civilized in the useful arts.
Today's tear dress usually is made from cotton
calico with a bodice that has buttons running from
the neck to the waist. The neck has a narrow stand-up
collar with a small ruffle. The dress is generally
made with a fitted waist line, long or three-quarter
length sleeves, a gathered ruffle on the lower edge of
the skirt and is usually worn floor length. Contrasting
ribbon is often sewn on the back and front of the bodice,
the sleeves and just above the ruffle. Sometimes solid
colored cotton strips with patterned shape cut-outs are used
instead of ribbon. Once completed, the tear dress is one
of the most attractive and comfortable dresses of any of the Tribes.

Because of the hardships of the
Trail of Tears, 1838-39, often Cherokee women did not have
scissors with which to cut material. In lieu of cutting,
they tore the material into square or rectangle pieces that
were then sewn by hand. Thus originated the term for the
tear dress that reflects a double meaning tear for the torn
cloth tear for the tears shed during the terrible ordeal
on the trail where they cried.The tear dress has become the
traditional dress of Cherokee women and is now worn in
remembrance of the Trail of Tears.

worn by
Sherry Piee
swen by
Tiger Eyes

This dress belongs
to Tiger Eyes.
It was swen by
LightFoot Eyes

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