A Basic Guide to Cherokee Clothing

The Cherokee people are a small community of people. They are very community-based. They still carry out their cultures down to generations. Some of the traditions include making baskets, using dyes. making dyes in a pot, making marbles, and of course, cooking their unique traditional dishes. Among the things that stood out for the Cherokee people is their clothing. The Cherokee people have a unique dress style and clothing. However, in this stitch fix review, it is clearly mentioned that one style has stood out throughout the years, the Cherokee ribbon shirt and the tear dress.


The tear originated from the era of Trails of Tears. During this time, the women were no longer allowed to own anything and most of their belongings and personal items were confiscated. They had no scissors to make clothes; instead, the materials were torn from larger pieces of fabric. The dress, therefore, got its name from that. It is pronounced in two different ways. Tear as in trails of tears and tear as in a torn fabric.


The dressed is styled using the calico print. It has an appliqué diamond patterns around the skirt and on the yoke located on top of the flounce. The design can be modified by the seamstress to make triangles, circles, or even a seven-sided star that is sacred to the Cherokee people.

The sleeves were ¾ length; this was to allow the woman to continue with her household duties such as grinding nuts without the sleeves getting in the way. The skirt was mid-calf; this was to ensure that it is decent but not long enough to gather dew or dirt. The top was button down; this was for ease while nursing and taking care of infants. Little girls’ dresses were fastened at the back; this was to allow them to play without worry of their clothes opening.

The tear dress is unique and valuable to the Cherokee people. The ribbon shirt for males has become very popular in several tribes. The ribbon shirt is made from calico fabric. It has ribbon designs at the front and at the back. The sleeves are ¾ length just like the tear dress for women. For the turban, it’s made from calico as well and is still worn by some men presently.

Today, these dresses have been modified according to preference. Dresses can be worn up to floor length and the sleeves up to full length. There is an exception for stomp dance shell shakers. Their dresses were calf length to allow room for the accessories and shell shackles.


The official garment for the women is the tear dress. It is worn on tribal occasions that are special and on weddings. Gospel singing groups for the Cherokee people also wear the tear dress for women and ribbon shirt for the men. Even the Cherokee national choir has the tear dress and the ribbon shirt.

There are tailors who make both the female and the male Cherokee clothing. Usually, the measurements are taken from each individual. There is no standard pattern per dress size if the tailor or personal stylist is experienced. These tailors are usually found locally as well. If you’re interested to get to know the culture of the Cherokee people more, you can visit museums and meet the local Cherokees for a more in-depth experience.

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