Book Review | Native Fashion Now: North American Indian Style by Karen Kramer

Previously authored for and published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Reviews in May 2016.

 

Accompanying the exhibition Native Fashion Now, the first extensive traveling exhibition of modern fashion representing indigenous North American designers, this book honors contemporary Native American fashion throughout the past sixty-five years. As Curator of Native American Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum for over twenty years, Kramer is clearly well versed in her field. This text fills a gap present in the formal literature about contemporary Native American fashion since the publication of Native American Fashions: Modern Adaptations of Traditional Designs by Margaret Wood in 1981.

By showcasing the works and backgrounds of dozens of Native American artists, Kramer reveals the ongoing evolution of Native artists choosing to use fashion as a vehicle for individual, social, and cultural expression while respecting cultural tradition and values. She stresses the diversity that exists among Native Americans of different tribal and mixed backgrounds and their collective efforts to break down stereotypes surrounding American Indian apparel.

In accordance with the exhibit, the book categorizes artists into four defined groups: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, and Provacateurs. Textual contributions from three field experts provide astute details about selected exhibit pieces. Brief insights into the work of most artists are given, and quotes from a handful are also included.

Full page, high quality, color photographs comprise the majority of this book. Reproductions are visually stunning and the captions are thoroughly informative. Dust jacket photos are eye-catching, and the book’s coffee table size is fitting. The thick, glossy pages and a solidly stitched binding result in a durable, high-quality volume. In addition to photography credits, Kramer has included a selected bibliography for additional research leads and a comprehensive index that allows the reader to access information from a variety of angles.

Appropriate for all audiences, the text is well written and logically organized. It would be an excellent reference piece for anyone researching Native American fashion, fashion collaborations, the use of cultural symbols in fashion, or stylistic evolution in Native arts. Moreover, this book belongs in all academic libraries providing resources for students in Native American studies or art and design.

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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