Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Indianizing Fashion:
The Legacy of Traditional Techniques

IAIA Traditional Techniques Fashion Show, ca. 1977. IAIA Archives

While Traditional Techniques began as an introductory course in 1962, it quickly became one of the most popular classes on campus. Male students were enthusiastic about the course as well, resulting in high enrollment numbers and participation in events. The students came from a variety of tribal backgrounds and this diversity was expressed in the garments they produced, displayed, and donated to the Institute. At IAIA, as opposed to other art schools, students could learn about Native clothing techniques and incorporate this knowledge into their fashion designs while experimenting with contemporary methods. Instead of creating items with no Native American influence, students were encouraged to produce garments that demonstrated creative adaptations of age-old practices and extend tribal clothing traditions into the contemporary realm. The students could both modernize and Indianized their designs, and they were recognized as playing an important role in creating new garments from traditional styles.