Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Squaw Dress, Part 2: Tribal Trend

Hope you enjoyed the information about the Squaw Dress of the 1950s. While doing my research I came across a news article about a fashion designer who, amongst other creations, created squaw dresses. So I am now going to feature Lloyd Kiva New. What is most extraordinary about this designer is that he's a Native American, who lived at a time when segregation and stratification were very prevalent which makes his success that much more remarkable.

 Tribal Trend
Cherokee Designer Lloyd Kiva New
 Brief Biography:
-Born in Oklahoma in 1916
-The first Native American to graduate from the Art Institute of Chicago
-Worked as an instructor and administrator at the Phoenix Indian School
-Served in the U.S. Navy during WWII
-Returned to open an art gallery and studio in Scottsdale, AZ
-Best known for his leadership of the Institue of American Indian Arts (1967-1978)
-Besides being an author and a real eastate developer, a painter and a WWII veteran, a poet and a teacher; he was a fashion designer.

New the Fashion Designer
-New revolutionized Native customary clothing in the mid-1900s
-Worked in textile arts, leatherwork and fashion design
-Openned his own boutique in 1945; and a center in 1955.
Kiva's boutique
-New became the first Native American to show at an international fashion show in 1951.
-At a time when the Native cultures were being smothered out, New prospered with his Native designs that expressed the importance of native culture.
-Started by designing handbags based on traditional Indian tribal pouches, within ten years he had expanded to couture.
-He collaborated with other Native artists. Having a Native artist develop a motif, another develop the silk screen, he'd fashion the garment, and another artist create buttons for one garment.
Kiva silk-screening
-In his fashion and accessories he incorporated native design concepts, materials, silhouettes, cuts and color palettes
-He sold Cherokee derived designs to Neiman-Marcus and other stores.
-Gave up his career as a fashion designer in the late 1950s for progressive educational projects.

New's Fiesta Dresses
As authentic Southwestern fashion, which was derived from the tradition of the Indians, was sweeping the nation Lloyd Kiva New was at the fore-front of the trend. The designer remarked on his Fiesta dresses verses those being manufactured by Eastern fashion houses, "Out here we know how to make them. They are a modern expression of an ancient primitive art. Imitations always look phony."

When it came to his creations:
-He designed and printed his own fabrics.
-He employed, and gave many opportunities, to his fellow Native Americans.
-He retained authentic Indian motifs.
-He experimented with earth colors of the Painted Dessert
-He at one pointed added the element of reproducing the patterns of Navajo rugs.
-He also did men's garments, such as shirts and robes.
-He refused to do wholesale manufacturing of his creations.
- Please check out this article: Cherokee Designer Tops in Squaw Fashions where I got the information on his Fiesta Dresses. There is a picture of one of his Fiesta dresses in this article.
Although not a Fiesta Dress, it is a beautifully designed garment of the period.
Kiva desinged handbag, ca 1950
Kiva designed sleeveless shirt, ca 1950
Hope you have enjoyed this featured designer. Please tune in for the last post about a housewife turned career women due to her beautiful Squaw dresses.
Sources for this article:
Southwest Art Article: A Lifetime of Achievement


  1. Thanks for sharing this...great info!

  2. I am LOVING these posts so much!!!

  3. This was really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  4. I own two original 2-piece squaw dresses that were my mother's, plus a 1-piece I found at an Indian flea market. I love them, and I'm thrilled to read your posts exposing their history!! (I wish I still had the dresses I had as a two year old that matched my mom's.)
    (P.S. That would be the Painted _Desert_, not _Dessert_!)