About Karankawa Clothing

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The Karankawa was a tribe of Indians living in modern day Texas. Reportedly, the tribe existed since the mid-16th century. They often settled in one area, moved for a few months and then returned back to their first settlement. The tribe seemingly disappeared in the 1850s when historians noted that no one from the tribe still remained.

1 Considerations

There are times when the Karankawa wore no clothing, especially when the weather was warmer. Since they lived in a humid area of Texas, it was easier at times to wear little to no clothing. Historians say that the children often went naked in the summers and that the men seldom wore clothing as well. Men and women would cover themselves with tattoos for modesty, but often left the clothes for colder days.

2 Types

The men and women of the Karankawa tribe wore different clothing. One thing in common was that both genders usually wore nothing to cover their top half. The men of the tribe would wear plain cloth or deer hide pieces tied around their waists. The women often wore long skirts made of large grass pieces tied together. The skirts were usually long enough to touch the ground, to protect their bodies from insects and animals.

3 Function

The Karankawa tribe believed that the purpose of clothing was to protect their bodies from dangers in the environment, such as animals and insect bites. As mentioned, they often didn't wear clothing during the summer months and only wore little clothing when the temperatures dropped. They would cover their upper bodies in grease or oil to protect against nature, but covered their lower bodies in long skirt-like pieces.

4 Features

Women who belonged to the Karankawa tribe were given skirt-like clothing from the time they were born, though these pieces weren’t always worn. As they grew older, they created their own similar pieces to wear. The skirts were sometimes made of deer skin or the hide of the deer after the tribe consumed the meat. More common were skirts made of moss that was woven together and tied around the waist. At times the deer skin and moss were woven together to create a more durable piece.

5 Theories/Speculation

Historians speculate that the Karankawa Indians focused more on tattoos and body paint than clothing, mostly due to the weather. The area of Texas where they lived remained hot and humid all year long and clothing only made it worse. Tattoos allowed them to hide their nudity and the body paint protected against the environment.

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.