Week 8- Clothing
Clothing of the traditional Inupiaq was mainly made of caribou skins. The ladies were expert seamstresses making a set to fit a person so it is non-binding while not being too large and drafty. Spring time and fall time people would use parkas and leggings sewn with the hair side in. During the warm summer months the parkas would have the hair on the outside. During the winter months the parkas were combined into one unit so there would be hair next to the skin and the outer parka would have hair on the outside for double protection against the weather. The hoods of parkas were fur lined to protect against the wind. Hunters would usually have a ringed ruff of wolf skin on their hoods.
Woman would make themselves fancier ruffs of wolverine and wolf combined for a sunshine effect. Fancy parkas were made out of squirrel skins or muskrat skins. Seal skins were also used for parkas.
Mukluks (called kamak in our language) were made from various skins. Dried seal skin leathers were used for the soles of the boots. People would use skins of caribou legs to make long boots. Some women could sew sealskins into waterproof mukluks. Coastal people would sometimes make polar bear mukluks from the legs of the bear. Inland people would make their boots with the legs of the wolf.
Mittens would be made from wolf heads. Other furs would be used in addition to leathers. I have seen photos of mittens with fingers for the thumbs and index finger made of leather and trimmed with wolverine fur. Hats were made of beaver and other furs that were available. I have seen photos of detached hoods made of fur used in addition to parka hoods. Rabbit skins were used for children's clothing.
Long ago our women were skilled enough to make waterproof raincoats of animal intestines. There is still one woman in my village who knows how to do this. Before western contact clothing was trimmed with contrasting furs, and porcupine quilling. Dark wolverine skin is still used to trim squirrel and muskrat parkas. Most of the furs used were from animals that were staples in the Inupiat diet- caribou and seal. After western contact women started making trim out of black and white calf skin in geometric designs. Parkas with fur inside were covered with clothe parkas- usually in a design that has a pleated bottom with large pockets in front trimmed with rickrack for ladies and straight plain outer parkas for the men.Â I have seen photos of socks made from woven grass to help line the mukluks. Softer grasses were used as stuffing in the boots to help insulate.