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Wôbanaki Girl's Clothing from 1700

As a very young girl or boy, a Wôbanaki child might wear only a breechclout or nothing at all in the warm weather. Otherwise, they would dress the same as their parents. Wôbanaki people slept in whatever was most suited for the season. In the winter this would mean wearing several layers to bed, and in the hot weather a child might sleep without clothing.

Among the numerous items available through trade in the 1700s were wool and linen cloth, ready-made shirts, knitted wool hats and mittens, glass beads, brass kettles, and metal axe heads and knife blades. Native American people in New England would trade with the French in New France or the English in the American colonies. Items they received might come from England, France, Holland, or as far away as India.

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model wearing white shift and combing her hair while looking in mirror


This girl wears a linen shift. It is a trade item and is the same style worn by French and English girls. European girls wore shifts under their petticoats (skirts) and covered them up with other layers of clothing. Wôbanaki girls and women typically wore shifts and shirts outside of their skirts or petticoats.

bone comb and wooden framed mirror

Comb & Mirror

The comb and mirror are trade items. The Abenaki call a mirror a “pipinawiakwigan”.. The comb this girl is using to comb tangle from her hair is called a “naskuahon. ” It is made from cow horn.

model wearing white shirt, dark skirt and red leggings

Wrap-around Skirt

This skirt is made of wool cloth and decorated with ribbons. The skirt wraps around the waist and a sash is tied on to keep the skirt in place. Wrap skirts and petticoats are called “labizowan”.

close up of red woolen leggings tied with sashes


These are wool leggings, called “medasal”. They are tied to a belt at the waist to keep them up. Leggings were worn for warmth and to protect one's legs when walking through scratchy undergrowth.


These are summer-weight moccasins with a center seam. They are made from the hide of a white-tailed deer. The Abenaki call all kinds of shoes "mkezenal". The English adapted this word into “moccasin”.

colorful woven sashes

Sash & Garters

This girl wears a sash around her waist and garters, called “kiganibial.” They are tied on just under her knees. The sash and garters are made from wool yarn, using a technique called "fingerweaving". As the name suggests, fingerweaving is a way to weave by using just the fingers, instead of weaving on a loom. The garters help to keep the girl's leggings in place.

leather thong with brass rings tied onto it


This girl wears several necklaces, made of glass beads and one made from brass rings. A necklace is called a “nôpkoan”, a thing that circles. These rings were called "bagues a cachet" (plaque rings) by the French, and were given to Native people by traders, soldiers, politicians, and Catholic priests.


model wearing hooded red coatCapot

The French people call this kind of hooded coat a "capot". It overlaps in front to button at the shoulder, and a sash holds it closed at the waist. This capot is made of wool.

small brass kettle


This kettle is made of brass and was received in trade. The girl can use it to help her mother cook. Or, it can be cut up into shiny metal to be used for jewelry.

braided dry grass

Braided Sweetgrass

This is a braid of dried sweetgrass. As the name suggests, the grass has a sweet odor. It would be used to decorate baskets and give them a pleasant smell, and it would also be burned during ceremonies as a kind of incense, or smudge to clear the air of any harmful energy.


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