Northern Women's Breastplates
by Terry Bousquet
originally 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.


Northern Women's Breastplate - Illustration 1

Northern Women's Breastplate - Illustration 2

Breastplate Neck Treatment Illustration

Supplies Needed for Making Breastplates
We carry all the supplies you need for this craft project. Here are some quick links:

Bone Hairpipe
Plastic Hairpipe
Leather Spacers - For cutting your own spacers
Pre-punched Breastplate Spacers
Buckskin Thong
Scrap Buckskin - For cutting your own thong
French Brass Beads
Czech Glass Crow Beads



Last modified on April 29, 2019
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