Creating a Beautiful Native American Ribbon Skirt

Native American ribbon skirts have a long and rich history within indigenous communities. These skirts are a beautiful and traditional representation of the heritage of Indigenous people. Ribbon skirts come in various colors, symbols, and designs and are worn for different reasons including ceremonial or social occasions, such as powwows. In this article, we will explore the history of ribbon skirts in Native American culture and provide a step-by-step guide to creating your own ribbon skirt.

History of Ribbon Skirts in Native American Culture

Origins of Ribbon Skirts

Ribbon skirts have been a long-standing tradition in Native American culture. They are common amongst Plains Indian tribes, including the Sioux, Lakota, and Northern Cheyenne. The skirts are typically made from cotton, chiffon, or other lightweight materials and are adorned with colorful ribbons, which are sewn onto the fabric in a variety of patterns.

Significance of Ribbon Skirts in Native American Communities

Ribbon skirts play an essential role in Native American culture and are worn for special occasions such as powwows, dances, and social gatherings. The ribbons on the skirt represent the individual’s story, and the overall design reflects the cultural traditions of the community. In some Native American tribes, wearing a ribbon skirt is a privilege and symbolizes respect towards their heritage.

History of Ribbon Skirts in Native American Culture

Materials Needed for Making a Ribbon Skirt

Fabric Options

When choosing a fabric for your ribbon skirt, consider cotton, flannel, or chiffon. Cotton is a popular choice because it’s easy to work with and comes in many colors and designs. Flannel is a heavier option that works well for cooler weather. Chiffon is a lightweight option that provides a delicate look.

Ribbon Options

Ribbon comes in various sizes, patterns, colors, and styles. Choose a ribbon that speaks to you and reflects your personality. You can do a solid color or several different colors. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s at least 1 1/2 inches wide so that it’s visible from a distance.

Measuring and Cutting the Skirt

Taking Measurements

Start by taking your waist and hip measurements. For the waist measurement, take the tape measure and wrap it around your waist where you plan to wear your skirt. For the hip measurement, measure around the fullest part of your hips. Record these measurements on paper so you can reference them while cutting the fabric.

Cutting the Skirt

To cut the skirt, fold the fabric in half, with the selvage edges together. Cut the fabric to the desired length. Skirt lengths vary, so decide how long you want your skirt to be and cut accordingly.

Measuring and Cutting the Skirt

Preparing the Ribbons

Choosing Ribbon Colors

Choose a ribbon color scheme that reflects your personal taste. Many people choose colors that represent their tribe or personal preferences. Some popular colors for ribbon skirts include blue, green, red, yellow, and pink.

Cutting and Preparing Ribbon Lengths

Cut ribbon lengths that are 2 1/2 to 4 inches longer than the circumference of the skirt. This will allow for ease when sewing. You can use a variety of ribbon lengths or stick to a uniform size. Make sure to cut enough ribbon to complete the design on your skirt.

Sewing the Ribbons to the Skirt

Securing Ribbons to Skirt Fabric

Start at the waistband, and sew the ribbon onto the skirt fabric, making sure to secure it every few inches. You can sew the ribbon onto the front of the fabric or create a hidden stitch by sewing the ribbon underneath the fabric. Continue sewing the ribbon down the skirt, making sure to maintain a consistent pattern.

Tips for Straight and Even Ribbon Placement

To keep the ribbons straight and even when sewing, use a ruler or pencil to mark the stitching lines. You can also use pins to hold the ribbon in place while sewing.

Options for Finishing the Skirt

Hemming the Skirt

A traditional way to finish the skirt is to hem it. Fold the fabric over a 1/4 inch and press it down. Fold the fabric over another 1/4 inch and press down again. Pin the hem in place and sew it using a straight stitch.

Adding a Waistband

Adding a waistband is another option for finishing the skirt. Cut a piece of fabric the length of your waist measurement plus 2 inches and the width of 2 inches. Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, and sew the ends together. Turn the fabric right side out and iron it. Pin the waistband to the top of the skirt and sew it on.

Personalizing Your Design

Adding Beaded Designs

Beaded designs are a beautiful way to add a personal touch to your ribbon skirt. Consider using seed beads or other small beads to create a design. You can choose to add beading throughout the skirt or on specific sections.

Incorporating Personal Touches

Personal touches such as embroidery or applique can make your skirt unique. You can add designs that are meaningful to you or represent your tribe.

Tips for Wearing a Ribbon Skirt

Choosing the Right Footwear

Consider wearing moccasins or comfortable shoes to complement your ribbon skirt. If you plan on dancing, make sure the shoes have good support.

Coordinating Accessories

Coordinate your accessories with your ribbon skirt, such as a shawl or belt. You can also wear a ribbon shirt to complete the look.


Creating a beautiful ribbon skirt is a wonderful way to honor your Native American heritage and to express your creativity. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can make a skirt that is unique to you and reflects your personal style.


What is the History Behind Ribbon Skirts?

Ribbon skirts have been a tradition in Native American culture for many years. They are worn for ceremonial and social occasions and represent the individual’s story and cultural traditions.

What Materials are Needed to Make a Ribbon Skirt?

To make a ribbon skirt, you will need fabric, ribbon, a sewing machine, and basic sewing supplies such as thread, pins, and scissors.

How Do You Sew the Ribbons onto the Skirt Fabric?

To sew the ribbons onto the skirt fabric, start at the waistband and sew the ribbon onto the front or back of the fabric. Use a ruler or pencil to mark the stitching lines to ensure straight and even placement.

How Do You Personalize a Ribbon Skirt?

Personalize your ribbon skirt by adding beaded designs or embroidery. You can also incorporate personal touches that are meaningful to you or represent your tribe.

What Tips Do You Have for Wearing a Ribbon Skirt?

When wearing a ribbon skirt, consider wearing comfortable shoes such as moccasins and coordinating accessories such as a shawl or belt.

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