Ojibwa (Chippewa) Beaded Vest

Image of Ojibwa beaded vest.
Detail image of Ojibwa beaded vest.
Colorful floral pattern hints at cultural influences

Clothing worn by Native American men and women was often colorfully decorated, as is the case of this beaded vest made between 1880 and 1900. Beads were first strung together before attaching them to the surface, allowing the maker more freedom in creating curved designs. The floral patterns probably indicate a strong, French colonial influence. The Ojibwa, or Chippewa people, lived in the northern United States and Canada around Lake Superior.

The vest is made of black wool and backed with black cotton trade cloth. It is decorated with beads of dark green, light green, four shades of blue, gold metallic, silver metallic, dull orange, dull yellow, two shades of red, and pink in an elaborate flower motif. The vest was originally edged in red silk ribbon, but most of the ribbon is now missing. There are seven brass buttons, but the vest was at one time sewn together (instead of buttoned) to create a piece that was intended to be collectible, not wearable. It was donated to the Illinois State Museum in 1928.

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