Yakima Beaded Deer Tail Dress
Yakima Beaded Deer Tail Dress CA 1875 Please allow me a short preamble here. This dress exemplifies not only the time, effort, and attention to detail that is apparent in all Plain's beaded work, but also the loving care and sense of pride that is prerequisite to making such pieces successfully. We tend to romanticize, and therefore distance ourselves from, the lives of these people who lived so long ago in a world so very different from our own. But human is human. This dress was made; each fringe cut, each bead sewn, for someone that was very special to the maker. This fact permeates every square inch and every long hour invested into the making of this dress. Yakima beaded deer tail dress sewn in four pieces. Two full Native tanned deer hides make the front and back of the dress. The hair is left in tact at the feet and cut into fringes. The hides are fringed at all seam edges. The tails of the deer with the hair trimmed have been sewn on below the neck at the front and back for decoration. The yolk of the dress is also Native tanned and cut from the underbellies of the deer. The hem of the dress has two tabs in the center cut from the neck of the deer on the front and back. In addition Four tabs of deerskin are sewn to the hem of the dress; two small tabs at the side seams and two larger tabs midway between the center and the sides. Above these tabs are red trade cloth squares, cut the same size as the tab below it and sewn to the dress, outlined at top and sides with a strip of dark blue translucent beading with a strip of white beading with vertical double green stripes interspersed across the bar sewn on to hide the seam below the cloth. The smaller squares of cloth close to the seam sides are topped with a row of tin cones at each side. All sewing of the skins is done with an awl using buckskin thongs for thread. The yolk is entirely painted in yellow ochre. The front and back of the collar is trimmed with red commercial cloth and beaded approximately 1 inch in width in a geometric design of bars and checkers in greasy yellow, rose, green, red white-hearts, and transluscent dark blue. The tops of the shoulders are also beaded fron the neck to the sleeve in a wide light blue strip. A 1/2 inch wide strip of beading follows the yolk line to the sleeve in wide triangles of black, translucent red and green in a repeating colour pattern of black, red, black, and three green against a white background. At the deer tail decoration of the neck, red ochre paint outlines the tail and buckskin fringes are woven through the seams at the tail to hang down the front and back of the dress. Originally these fringes were decorated with trade beads, but only two large light blue trade beads remain on one of the fringes at the front of the dress. At the end of each sleeve is tied a long red-dyed horsehair tassel. There is a bead design on the front and back of the dress of two rows of five free-floating horizontal bars at the outer side of the waist. These alternate in colour with each vertical bar beginning with the red white-heart bar at the top, then greasy yellow below, etc. Above and below the bars on the front and back two rows of five diamonds, one row above the bars and one row below. The diamonds above are green and those below are light blue. Below each diamond is a long buckskin fringe punched through the dress with an awl so that both ends hang outsideare re beaded diamonds. Another row of diamonds appears on the front and back of the dress above the hem with five green diamonds in the center flanked on either side by three more in light blue with fringes hanging below these as well. The entire hem is lined just above the fringe with a strip of beading in medium blue that follows the hem to the trade cloth tabs, over above these and back down to the side seams. Above this the beaded line is doubled in the front only, with about 1/2 inche in between the two that is painted with red ochre. Small tabs at the center front and back are gathered and tied into fringe bundles with a strip of the red trade cloth. It measures 54 inches long, 57 inches wide from sleeve to sleeve.
Condition: Almost all of the fringe has worn awayn th, about 1/2 inch apart following the tab design of the hem. The dress is in very good condition with exception of the few items mentioned above.