Northern Women's Breastplates
by Terry Bousquet
published as CIHA Indian Craft Series No. 11
These breastplates dated between 1895 -
1925. The most popular period they were worn was 1910. There are two basic
styles of breastplates. The one style uses glass beads just at the bottom
and top of the breastplates, with hair pipes in between.(A) The second style
has a row of hair pipes then a row of glass beads, then a row of hair pipes,
and so on.(B)
Normally the breastplates are 20 to 24 hair
pipes wide. Always use an even number of hair pipes. The length of the
breastplates varied. On the first style there are leather spacers between
each row of hair pipes. On the second style there is a leather spacer
between the beads and hair pipes. The spacers were usually about ¼ inch
thick and about 3/8 inches wide. For a 20 hair pipe wide breastplate the
spacers are about 10 inches long. The first style of breastplate normally
has 7 long spacers and 6 short spacers. The second style usually has eight
long spacers and 6 short spacers. Of course this will vary in the height of
the girl. For the first style of breastplate you need at least 200 hair
pipes. For the second style you need at least 120.
The last row of the breastplate was left to
dangle against the dancers legs. Many things could be put on the bottom of
the breastplate. You could use thimbles, glass beads, hawk bells, pennies,
or shoe buttons, or a combination of a couple of these things.
For the first style of breastplate you need
in the neighborhood of about 600 glass beads, and for the second style some
where around 1,600 glass beads. These amounts will vary depending on where
you put the beads.
The proper way to string the breastplates
is with buckskin, but you may substitute with a heavy cord of some kind.
I have found that the easiest way to string
the breastplates is to string each row separately, and knot it at the back
of your neck. The knots will be hidden by a ribbon trailer that is worn down
the back, There is one other way to do the stringing. You can string up one
side and come down the other and have all your knots at the bottom.
Very rarely will you see women wearing
these breastplates. Most of the younger girls want to do the more modern
steps and the long breastplates hamper their dancing.