Tag Archives: Fashion faux pas at Pow Wows

Fashion Faux Pas We (Still) Need to Avoid at a Pow Wow

“At a pow wow, wardrobe choices often depend on your role at the event, but whether you’re dancing, singing or just watching, there are fashion faux pas to avoid.” A. Landry, ICT, July 2022 

Excerpt: 10 Fashion Faux Pas to Avoid at a Pow Wow By Alysa Landry , ICT, [Updated 2018] Original Mar 21, 2015

“Some universal standards apply at all pow wows, regardless of location, weather or purpose. Here are some tips to keep you from committing embarrassing – or offensive – fashion blunders:

Ripped, ragged or sagging pants

Pow wows represent a mixture of the social and the spiritual, said Reno Charette, a women’s traditional dancer and director of American Indian outreach at Montana State University Billings. If you’re not dancing, casual attire is appropriate, but it should fit properly and be in good repair. ‘Our young men go around with their pants hanging low,’ said Charette, who is Crow and Turtle Mountain Chippewa. ‘That’s especially bad when they’re in the drum group and they lean forward.’

Shorts or miniskirts

Showing too much leg is inappropriate for anyone in the arena, including spectators, Charette said. Even in 100-degree weather, Daisy Duke-style shorts or miniskirts should be avoided.

Swimsuits, halter tops or bikini tops

Regardless of where they are in the arena, women should avoid tight clothing or anything that shows cleavage, Charette said. That includes halter tops, bikini tops and spaghetti straps… ‘We know it’s hot, but please cover up,’ she said.

Bare feet

Wearing shoes isn’t just a fashion statement, but also a safety precaution, Charette said. She recommends spectators wear closed-toed shoes to keep feet clean and safe…’For singers, regardless of how hot it is, wear long pants and nice shoes,’ he said. “The general rule is that you don’t want to show skin, so a long-sleeved shirt is also appropriate.’


Just as styles that are too casual or revealing should be avoided, so should clothing that is too dressy or formal. ‘There’s a line between too casual and too dressy,’ said Sammy Tonkei White, a Kiowa emcee, who has been working with pow wows since 1959. ‘Just as young people who are not dressed appropriately should leave, it would look funny if an Indian got up and danced in a tuxedo.’

Anything that sends the wrong message

Pow wows often are open to the public and outsiders are welcome, [Erny] Zah  a singer and emcee who has traveled the pow wow circuit all over the country said. But the burden to educate the masses falls on participants – the organizers, emcees, dancers and singers – who are tasked with providing an authentic Native experience in an inauthentic world.”