Native Star Quilt Inspired Baby Gap Dress

April 21, 2010 — 1 Comment

My friend Sam spotted this skirt at Gap Kids/Baby Gap, which seems to be inspired by a Native Plains-style star quilt. If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition of quilt-making in Native communities, here are a couple examples:

 

I hesitate to call this an outright “appropriation” because I know I will get push back–”quilts aren’t ‘traditionally’ Native!”…
“Other people besides Natives make star quilts!” “how can you lay claim to a quilt design?!” “It’s called a ‘chevron skirt’–it’s just diamonds!”. But anyone who is familiar with the history and ongoing tradition of star quilt making (and giving) in Indian Country (especially in Lakota/Dakota communities) might think otherwise.

To start, quilting was brought to tribal communities by missionaries, but was quickly adapted to reflect designs that had adorned clothing and dwellings for centuries. For plains communities, one such design was the eight pointed star. These quilts have been around for a long time, as demonstrated by this photo of Chief Red Cloud’s wife, taken in the late 1800′s (look at the bed):

(image via photowest.org)

The quilts still hold deep significance in Indian Country, they are often given as symbols of honor, celebration, or thanks–at powwows, at basketball tournaments, at graduations, at baby showers, you name it. Like this picture of Kyle Langstaff, who received a quilt from his parents in honor of scoring 1000 career basketball points (they even made it in his school colors):

So, for me, the baby gap dress represents a little more than just a cool design. I would venture to guess that most people wouldn’t associate the dress automatically with Natives, but I think it offers an interesting case to bring up the line of appropriation/inspiration and what crosses the line. Would I say this crosses the line? probably not. But I like to make people think about the images they see in everyday life, and this is an example of a product most people would walk by without thinking about any deeper significance.

here’s a picture of the dress in real life:

and the ad on the homepage of gap.com (I will say those are some adorable kiddies):

Gap Kids “Chevron dress”: http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=8743&vid=8&pid=740572&scid=740572002

(Thanks Sam!) 
(and an extra shout-out to my gram and great-granny who passed the Native quilters gene to me!)

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11108146071098063314 Bruce

    I think this show that drawing from our cultures can be done right. It would have been nice if they could have put some background about the design well one step at a time