Ribbon Skirt Project

“This isn’t fast fashion, this is first fashion,” said Acosia Red Elk at New York Fashion Week 2023.

The Ribbon Skirt is a symbol of Native survival and identity. Over the past several months, our Chief Cultural Officer, Community Wellness Team, and photographer Irwin Lewis have been working together to create stunning portraits of women within our community wearing their Ribbon Skirts. This project is a representation of healing through Native American traditions and modern-day reclamation of culture that gives our people hope and a reason to live. In this way, Ribbon Skirts are an active form of suicide prevention.

The Ribbon Skirt is a blend of European materials and designs with Native American dresses, like the T-dresses, Buckskin dresses, and ceremonial skirts of the Plains and Woodlands. Some only wear their Ribbon Skirt to Ceremony or Sweatlodge; some believe the longer your skirt the closer you are to Mother Earth, and many wear it every day as a way to reclaim their cultural identity. We want to honor and respect each and every difference and similarity in the traditional use of the Ribbon Skirt between our tribal nations. As shown by the Native women who participated in this project, we now see the Ribbon Skirt as a celebration of resilience and strength.

This is how one piece of clothing can unfold over centuries, encapsulating the beauty of its traditions and uses. Our intertribal community in the Bay Area is proud to wear this distinctively powerful piece of regalia. Everyone may connect to the Ribbon Skirt differently, but one thing they all have in common is when they wear it, they embody the strength of their ancestors who came before us and inspire generations to come.