Seminole Women Reenactors’ Guide

 1830's Seminole WomanBy Maureen J. Patrick, © 2008, All Rights Reserved

This is a shortened and simplified Guide. It is not intended to produce a credible and authentic Seminole Woman interpretation, but only to serve as a reminder to experienced reenactors of what constitutes an acceptable “kit,” or to give a basic outline of requirements for new reenactors. It applies to women portraying the Second through Third Seminole Wars (1835-58.) A detailed and comprehensive Guide, fully annotated with historical notes and images, vendor contacts, and drawings of correct period reenactment attire, is available from Maureen J. Patrick. Participants who are new to the endeavor should acquire and follow that or a comparable Guide to be sure they will be accepted at events and portray women of the period accurately.


The dress

            A two-piece dress in period correct cotton fabric: patterns or solids, with top and bottom mixed or matching. Very full, simple, (un-tiered) skirt with drawstring waist. Skirt hem falls to ankle bone or top of foot. Long-sleeved top with 3-4 inch contrast ruffle (with a narrow contrast band at placement edge) at shoulder level, rounded to breastbone in front and coming to “V” in back between shoulder blades. Sleeves with narrow (approx. ½ - ¾”) cuff and an optional one-inch ruffle at wrists. Wood, mother of pearl, brass, or pewter button at cuff. Scooped neck opening just large enough for head to pass through easily. Blouse hem should barely graze waistline of skirt; can be an inch or so shorter. (Bare skin will show when arms are raised.)


            Period correct (glass trade) bead necklaces from collar to mid-torso. Twenty or fewer strands would be appropriate. Silver or brass ring or washer brooches on blouse front and ruffle. Silver, brass, or copper plain finger rings. Silver, brass, or copper wire cuff type (not bangle) bracelets. Silver (nickel or sterling) ball and cone earrings; women had multiple piercings going right up into ear cartilage.


            Seminole women usually went barefoot and bare legged, winter and summer. If mocs are worn to cope with cold weather or bad surfaces, they must be the Seminole (Southeastern) style, center seam, pucker toe mocs. These are the ONLY correct moccasins or footgear. Seminole women did not wear leggings.


            A simple loose plait or twist of hair, tied at the end with a strip of cotton or linen, or a silk ribbon, and preferably tucked up into a conical bun at the nape of the neck, is appropriate. If you have short hair, you should use a well-camouflaged clip-on or pin-on braid or hank and turn it up into a bun just as you would your own hair. Seminole women did not wear their hair unbound.


            The only period correct make-up is NO make-up. If you use tinted sunscreen or foundation, it should be extremely subtle. No fingernail polish.


            Seminole women did not wear under garments as we know them today. If you feel you must wear underclothing, there should be no visible evidence (bra straps, panty lines, etc.)

Cold weather attire

            For warmth, all Southeastern Natives wore blankets. Men sometimes wore decorated blankets (matchcoats); women’s blankets were probably plain. The blanket is around 2 ½ yards of plain 100% wool blanket weight cloth in dark blue, red (scarlet), green, brown, or white, and is worn by wrapping around the body under the arms, then bringing the spare yardage over the left shoulder. This leaves the right arm free. The blanket can also be worn over the shoulders like a shawl and/or pulled over the head in very cold or inclement weather.


            Basket making, hand-sewing garments, hand weaving, beadwork, gourd work, child care, food preparation and cooking are all traditional women’s activities. Women made and embellished all the clothing, ordinary and elaborate, for their families, and made many other decorative and useful objects.

Children’s attire

            Seminole boys and girls generally went naked until the age of seven or eight. In a modern-day interpretive situation, it is possible to dress very young children (of both genders) in a man’s or boy’s cotton, period correct shirt. After the age of seven or eight, children dressed like adults.


            A small period correct knife (carried, not worn) is correct; these were desired by Native women and appear in traders’ inventories. Sewing and beading tools (needles, linen or cotton thread and/or sinew, period scissors, awl) are correct and were prized trade goods. A basket is a good way to store/carry items and conceal non-period correct items (such as car keys, hand sanitizer, etc.)

Please do NOT wear or use: Sunglasses, wristwatches, cell phones, non-period correct eyeglasses, handbags, or shoes; NO Plains Indian or any other Native style jewelry, footwear, clothing, or accoutrements; NO Seminole or other Native men’s weapons or ornament/clothing; NO early to mid-20th Century Seminole women’s attire (patchwork skirts, long [or sheer] caped tops) or ANY item (for wear or use) that does NOT fit into the Guide as provided above.



The Well Dressed Seminole

Seminole Women Reenactors' Guide