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Arapaho women were in charge of making the clothing for their families out of animal skin. They used everything from deer to elk to buffalo. First they would have to scape all of the flesh off of the hides, then they would strech the skins on to pegs to dry stiff. This was called rawhide. The Arapaho women then took this rawhide and tanned it, turning it into soft buckskin. Finally, they cut the buckskin into smaller pieces and sewed them into clothes using sinew thread.

During the earlier days, when the Arapaho lived in the North woods, the women would wear a simple buckskin skirt and a poncho-style shirt. Later, when the Arapaho lived primarily on the plains, the Arapaho women wore moccasins, knee-length leggings, and a dress. The dress would be ankle-length, fringed with buckskin. For ornamentation, they used porcupine-quills, paint, elk-teeth, and beads. Their knee-length leggings laced in the front and were often decorated with yellow ochre and bands of quillwork.


Arapaho men wore a breechcloth, sometimes a shirt, hip-length leggings of deerskin, a robe and moccasins. The breechcloth, or breechblout, consisted of a rectangular piece of buckskin that was drawn between the legs and then tied around the waist. When the Arapaho men did wear the hip-length leggings, they had bands of quillwork and long fringes on the sides. The shirts were also poncho style, just like the women's, and were fringed with buckskin. In the 19th Century, the Arapaho men began wearing breastplates made out of hairpipe beads. Warriors often wore necklaces. They were symbolic designs that they based from their dreams.
Arapaho leggings, 19th century. Univ. of Colorado Museum #39459


Both the men and women moccasins were made out of rawhide soles and buckskin tops. The Arapaho’s clothing had no pockets so they had to carry all of their belongings in pouches that they then tied to belts or thongs on their clothing. They also wore earrings made out of shell, bone, or of feathers. In fact, the Arapaho were given the nicknames, “Big Bead,”or “Blue Bead Indians”because of their adoration of big blue beads. It is not known but they could have been made out of turquoise that they obtained through trade.

Designs on the clothing often depicted spiritual beings. These would include geometric patterns of diamonds, triangles, arrows, and stripes.

Arapaho moccasins, 19th century.
Univ. of Colorado Musuem #10367


During the winter months, the Arapaho kept warm by wearing buggalo-skin robes that they draped over their shoulders and then tied together in the front with thongs. These too were decorated on the tanned side. The designs would either be painted or made with quillwork. To help them walk through snow, the Arapaho made snowshoes with wooden frames that were laced with strips of rawhide.