Cherokee woman and child dressed for the photographer.
Cherokee woman and child in everyday attire.

Cherokee women
Older Cherokee women, notice the sturdy leather shoes.

Cherokee woman 1900
Cherokee woman, 1900

Cherokee 1888
Cherokee woman, 1888.

Photographs recorded the changes in Cherokee clothing as the 19th century progressed, leaving little guesswork as to what that clothing looked like. By the mid to late 18th century, most Cherokees dressed little different than their European neighbors.

Ladies’ dresses from the mid-19th century were usually of cotton, wool, linsey woolsey, etc. (natural fibers) with the shoulder seam dropped 2 or 3 inches off the shoulder and was placed a little toward the back rather than from neck to sleeve edge running exactly across the top of the shoulder, buttoned up the front or fastened with hooks and eyes, long sleeves (with or without cuffs) and usually about ankle length. The dresses usually had a white collar, and slightly less often white cuffs.

By the late 19th century the shoulder seam was placed at the shoulder instead of dropped off the shoulder, and the seam from neck to sleeve edge was across the top of the shoulder instead of slightly toward the back, but otherwise working (everyday) attire changed little otherwise.

Aprons, shawls, etc. were pretty similar to those of white women in the area. They may have retained their native jewelry, opted for broaches and other items common in white culture, or even a combination of the two.

The so-called “Tear dress” was not found in any primary sources and is not authentic to the 18th or 19th century.