Métis Clothing

Métis clothing originated with the coming of the fur trade and the clothing used by the Coureur des Bois. The Coureur des Bois combined First Nations and European styles of dress into a new adaptation designed for the fur trade travels.

A most distinctive element of Métis dress was the sash. The first sashes originated in the Quebec village of L’Assumption. From this location, they became popular trade goods in both Quebec and among the Métis in the West. From this origination, the Métis began their own sash creations in the Red River area. As the Métis migrated west and south from Manitoba, they transported the Métis sash with them as a distinctive symbol of their culture.

The typical sash is made of brightly coloured wool and is worn as a wrap around the midsection of the torso. One traditional use of the sash was to keep a coat closed. The fringes on the sash served not only a decorative purpose, but served as extra sewing thread while traveling. It was common for the sash to contain both a hunting knife and a fire bag. When not used as a wrap, the sash could serve a variety of functions from scarf, washcloth, towel, saddle blanket, rope, or tourniquet.

Traditional Métis dress also included three kinds of coats. One was the capote, or capot crait-rien. The capote was a shoulder season garment with a hood, and was commonly constructed from a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The other distinctive coat was the buckskin jacket. Many buckskin jackets were produced for sale by Métis women and included extensive beadwork and fringes. The third design of coat was the Red River Coat. This hide coat design was adapted from the Cree apparel, and included a more European cut, epaulets, and the ever-present Métis beadwork floral patterns, quillwork, and embroidery.

Another article of Métis clothing that was decoratively beaded were leggings. Leggings, called mitasses, were worn over pants and were made of leather or velvet. Their decoration included both beadwork and embroidery.

Métis hats and caps were also distinctive in their design and artwork. They were often made of either fur skins and/or cloth. Decoration included quill work and beadwork.

Métis footwear often included moccasins, which were adapted from those worn by the Plains Indians. Métis moccasins came in a variety of designs and typically included classic Métis embroidery and beadwork.

The Métis gift for clothing decoration was evident in the multiple bags they used for carrying gun powder or tobacco. A classis design was the bag carried on the shoulder called an Octopus pouch.