Native American Clothing Hardcover – 16 Nov 2009
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[starred review] This is a wise author who allows his pictures to represent one thousands words--and more.--Barbara Jacobs"Booklist" (12/15/2009)
The essays are scholarly without being complicated.... A good introduction to Native American culture and North American history.--Valerie Nye, College of Santa Fe, New Mexico"Library Journal" (12/01/2009)
The book's large format and beautiful color images makes this title a worthy addition to any collection.--Molly Krichten"Library Journal" (02/01/2011)
A fashion book with a difference, this gorgeous coffee-table book featuring more than 300 colour and black-and-white photographs of native dress through the ages is penned by a Canadian anthropologist, art history professor and museum curator whose detailed and passionate commentary breathes life into each depicted artifact. Clothing as history.
Brasser writes with solid foundations and with clarity about this subject. This survey comes alive for us first with the 300 illustrations. They are sumptuously presented and include early paintings of Native Americans and scarce portraits of tribal leaders dressed in their regalia. Theodore Brasser lays out a plush pictorial history of tribal groups in 12 regions across North America in [this] weighty, 368-page hardback. [In] this lush, beautiful volume...Brasser breaks the collection into 12 regional groups which represent unique habitats...moving in the direction of European contact, from south to north and from east to west. Each chapter includes a detailed map, the names and localities of various tribal groups, and relevant history, including what is known of pre-contact histories and the region's interaction with Europeans. Throughout, Brasser includes paintings made by European artists...illustrating how native peoples were clothed and decorated at the time of initial contact. Historical essays describe a series of mostly tragic events, emphasizing the improbable survival of so many beautiful garments, bowls, rugs, bags, belts, and other artifacts. Featuring an amazing breadth of clothing design, motif, and technique, Brasser's volume makes an excellent cross-collection resource for anyone interested in indigenous art or Native American history. Author Brasser (former curator National Museum of Ethnology, Netherlands, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa) provides a lavishly illustrated history and visual record of the clothing of native people from 12 regions of the North American continent. The 300 photographs, many of them published for the first time, are set in historical contexts covering topics such as agriculture, ceremonies, craftsmanship and materials, cultural identity, diet, the division of labor, hunting, migration routes, mythology, shamanism, and others.
Lavishly illustrated with more than 300 photographs from both museum and private collections...This is truly a gorgeous and thoroughly engaging book!
[starred review] By their garments shall you know them. Brasser shares his substantial knowledge with readers as he meanders through 49 states and Canada and parts of northern Mexico to document the history of Native peoples. More than a runway of clothing, the more than 300 color photographs illustrate the similarities and differences among more than two dozen tribes. The author includes archival photographs, plus pictures of weapons, baby cradles, pottery, and baskets, in addition to the illustrations of beaded moccasins, skin shirts and skirts, elaborately plumed headdresses, and the like. The 12 chapters divide the three nations by geography, with early historical facts, maps, spiritual beliefs, and everyday customs, notes about language and assimilation as well as, sadly, the impact of climate change. This is a wise author who allows his pictures to represent one thousands words--and more.--Barbara Jacobs"Booklist" (12/15/2009)
This title presents 200 high-resolution color images of clothing, including shoes, scarves, hair ornaments, m asks, leggings, and belts, created primarily in the 19th century by native North Americans. Divided into 12 chapters covering native culture, climate, and information about the arrival of Europeans, the essays are scholarly without being complicated. This detail-rich anthology is Brasser's (art history, Carleton Univ. and Trent Univ.) second book on Native American art and is padded with his scholarly background for the National Museum of Ethnology, Netherlands, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. A good introduction to Native American culture and North American history.--Valerie Nye, College of Santa Fe, New Mexico"Library Journal" (12/01/2009)
One can't summon enough superlatives to describe this truly beautiful, definitive history of aboriginal clothing, organized into 12 regions covering all of North America. More than 300 superb photos document the artistry and ingenuity of indigenous people through artifacts such as leggings, moccasins and headdresses. Author Theodore Brasser, an academic and former curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, expertly traces the social and historical context of everything from Inuit parkas to Hopi masks in this simply stunning volume.--Alison Mayes"Winnipeg Free Press" (12/05/2009)
Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History is a one-stop compendium of images of and information about the clothing and decorative arts of the First People of all North American regions. The book introduces each region with relevant historical and geographical context. Images are typically captioned with comprehensive information.... It is well indexed, and the photo credits will lead researchers to collections and museums to further investigate.... The book's large format and beautiful color images makes this title a worthy addition to any collection in need of information about Native American art and customs, or clothing tradition and design. While image-intensive books such as this one are typically expensive, Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History gives collection developers more bang for the buck, as it is a highly usable and beautifully formatted work, suitable for middle school through college-level researchers.--Molly Krichten"Library Journal" (02/01/2011)
About the Author
Theodore Brasser was a curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, professor of art history at Carleton University and professor of anthropology at Trent University. He has written extensively for "American Indian Art" magazine and numerous museum and scholarly publications.
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In contrast, Brasser, a former curator with extensive experience looking at museum collections around the world, spends much of his time challenging, clarifying and adding to what we know about the historic material culture of Native American peoples. This book is full of color images of garments and related cultural material-not JUST clothing (although there is plenty of that) because clothing doesn't exist in isolation! To understand design styles, material histories, and meanings it is necessary to look across forms, and to look at earlier styles in say, dresses, as well as stylistic influences from other groups. Clothing is a product of living cultures and historic changes.
Because he pays attention to such things, this book presents a much more sophisticated and informed view of Native American garments than the average overview of tribal styles. I'm giving it 5 stars to compensate for the other review.
My only complaint about this book is that it mentions powwows only twice, the second reference being how popular they are for Native Americans to inculcate their young people into the traditions and to celebrate their heritage. While the book does discuss dances of various tribes, there is no mention that Native Americans are the only ones who can legally own--and harvest from dead birds--American bald eagle feathers as specified in all the major treaties with the government. Since Native Americans active in traveling the powwow circuit, as the book describes, I would think photographing and examining these often antique and always authentic articles would be useful.
That said, as a museum reference the book is outstanding: glorious, detailed photos of many, many articles of dress along with art objects, household goods, baskets, pottery, toys, and articles of religious and spiritual significance. The discussion of the various areas all over North and a little in Central and South America bring the common traditions and distinctions to light. Nice, nice book.