Arts of the Americas
Wool cloth, elk teeth,(or teeth carved from horn) silk ribbon, brass and tin sequins
late 19th-early 20th century
Charles Stewart Smith Memorial Fund
Dark blue wool cloth dress with three bands of ribbon trim in red and white along the bottom hem and sleeves. Individual teeth are tied in a yoke pattern on the front and back of the dress. The dress has rows and circles of brass and tin sequins on the skirt. Purple, ribbed silk binds the neck. The bottom hem has a geometric cut edge so that it dips lower on each side than the front and back, a reference to historical hide dresses where the legs of the animal would be kept and oriented to the sides of the dress.
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Sioux. Dress, late 19th-early 20th century. Wool cloth, elk teeth,(or teeth carved from horn) silk ribbon, brass and tin sequins, 49 5/8 x 36 1/4 in. (126 x 92.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Stewart Smith Memorial Fund, 46.96.13. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 46.96.13.jpg)
overall, 46.96.13.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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What kinds of teeth were used on garments like this to decorate it?
The teeth you see on this dress come from an elk. It was a very popular design on Plains women's clothing in the 19th century.
The large number of teeth on this garment indicates that its owner was of relatively high status. One elk only yields two teeth of this type so they required a lot of effort to obtain.