|A gorgeous beaded amauti- the hood would be worn down for carrying babies.|
|A Nunatsiarmut-Inuit sealskin parka and trousers. McCord Museum.|
This section of the article is dedicated to my friend, Jade Luiz, who is a Portland, OR native experiencing her first winter on the East Coast. She still thinks snow is interesting- bless her...
Of course, nobody knows how to handle snow and cold better than the various indigenous peoples of the Arctic, who not only managed to survive in the harsh climate, but thrive- mainly with the help of animal products (a high-fat diet, hide or fur clothing, and oil for burning lamps. There was no such thing as a vegan Koryak). When Western explorers made their races to the poles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they commissioned Inuit and Koryak artisans to outfit them with their traditional, perfectly adapted snow-wear.
|A group of Koryaks in 1915, Northern Russia|
|Felt and leather Nenai boots from Northern Russia|
Seal and caribou were also used for that most quintessential of Arctic outerwear: the qulittuq (AKA parka or anorak). The parka was worn in cahoots with an inner jacket called an atigi in an effective insulation strategy: the atigi was worn with the animal fur facing in and the parka had the fur facing out, effectively trapping warm air between the body and the outer layer. In fact, these garments were so efficient that vents had to be put into parkas to prevent hypothermia due to sweating. They were often decorated with embroidery, beading, and fur tufts. But don't forget about baby! The amauti was a parka modified with an extra, deep hood for carrying babies and small children close to the warmth of their mothers and under their watchful eye. The hood was deep enough to be pulled over up in times of storm or at night and roomy enough for mom and baby. They've made a comeback in Canada, Greenland, and even the United States today!
|An Inuit mother wearing an amauti containing a dozy child.|
|Made in the 1860s, courtesy of the McCord Museum|
These sweet pieces of native tech were carved from bone or wood and protected against that joyful sensation of snow blindness, improved central vision (by reducing the peripheral), and were also shown to improve problems like near-sidedness.
|Screw the future, the past is so bright you've gotta wear shades!|
In 1824, the Mackintosh company of Scotland revolutionized outerwear with their coat of rubberized cloth; the first modern raincoat. However, people have been successfully coping with wet weather for some time- and much of it thanks to the wonders of plants.
As you may recall, the Native Americans of the Northwest Coast of the United States used spruce and cedar fibers to create naturally waterproof hats and cloaks (in fact, even after Western clothing had been introduced to many tribes in the 19th century, they still preferred to keep their raingear as it was far superior). Well- other cultures the world over were also making wet weather clothes out of plant fiber: from South Pacific islanders, to Japan, to Central Asia, all the way east to rural Spain. The Maori of New Zealand wore a cape called a he pake, made of loose hooked grass and often worn as an alternative to the ceremonial feathered capes in addition to rain duties.
|A Maori woman in a he pake- which looks a bit like a shag carpet.|
|A man wearing a mino in 1885|
Creating waterproof fabric was also a goal of the Japanese, having been inspired by Mackintosh or other European inventors' raincoats. This Meiji-era cotton raincoat is made in the style of a Japanese garment (save for the lapels, a Western feature) but coated in persimmon juice and natural oils (from plants and animals, such as fish). Japanese raincoats were also made from silk and even paper, using the same process of oil-coating.
|It almost looks like it's made from thin leather- ideas anyone?|
|A geta shop in 1890s Japan.|
Why don't we dry out a little bit? Normally one doesn't associate hot weather with a need for outerwear, but in desert environments it's essential. The Bedouin and Amazigh peoples of the Middle East and North Africa have developed clothing to aid them in this arid, hot climate using insulation principles similar to the Inuit and Koryak.
In addition to protecting the body from the abrasion of wind and sand, enveloping garments such as abas (overcloaks), thobes (voluminous robes and gowns), and tajellabyt (men's hooded tunics) trapped cool air amidst their layers, which were composed of wool or linen. Natural fibers such as these wick sweat away from the body.
|Sargent's portrait of a Bedouin man, wearing loose white layers, perfect for keeping cool.|
|The French Camel Corps, making several nods to the locals in their layered, lightweight dress.|
-Directions on how to make your own geta written in a snarky manner this blog approves of.
-The McCord Museum of Quebec Canada has an extensive collection of clothing of the Arctic peoples, just click on the geographic areas to see the local artifacts.
-Make yourself a pair of cozy felt boots with this tutorial from the Renaissance Tailor. Warning: the process is quite extensive, so not for the faint of heart.
-A blog post about amauti and their resurgance with modern moms. It would be a great way to carry wee ones around a convention or event!