Inuit and the Fashions of Nunavut

The new Inuit fashions emerging from Nunavut are very exciting.

Sewing jackets with matching wind pants, amautiit (large pouched at the back of the woman`s parka, used for carry our new-born till too big to fit, or too heavy), children`s clothing, teens, this trend is becoming popular among our young people.

When looking back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the girl would have different styles of atigi (inner top wear usually made from caribou skin) and qulittaq (outer to the inner top wear) all the way up to maturity.

Very feminine designs for girls were worn all the way to adulthood for some, according to who their clothing maker was, of-course life did have their great and not so great designers then.

This kind of style and other traditional clothing styles carried on for centuries. All the while improving in comfort and decorations.

Many Inuit still make amautiit and some of them are also coming up with fancy and stylish different looks, but with the same main purpose, carry a child comfortably.

This is very exciting to see. Take Leah Otak for one. She works at the Iglulik Research Centre in Iglulik, Nunavut, Canada and is in the process of transcribing old recorded Inuit oral history dating back to 1986. She is doing something about and that`s a great step in the right direction.

Long term plans after the transcriptions done is make them available as educational materials and used as teaching Inuit traditional knowledge, known in Nunavut as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. These are valuable steps Leah Otak is taking in preserving Inuit culture and language.

Inuit fashions of Nunavut has three strong components to clothing making, comfort, durability and beauty.

Availability of different types of fabrics, thick lining to thin, furs, trims all play a role in how Nunavumiut create such fashionable clothing today.

Though Inuit fashions may speak for themselves, clothing makers should start some recording so the long history of our traditional clothing will support it`s existence and place in history.

When I was growing up in Piqsimaniq, in the Ukkusiksalik area, everybody wore caribou clothing and seal skin kamiit.

Women wore caribou mitts while hunters wore sealskin mitts, the men also wore caribou skin mitts when on land.

Arctic Boys and girls wore caribou skin mitts and caribou skin jumpsuits with a separate caribou skin hat. Boys and girls had different hat and clothing designs.

From that childhood time, I have seen many changes in Inuit fashions in Nunavut.

Today when I see young people making jackets that look so cool and fashionable, it is so easing to the mind and very exciting to know sewing skills among young people is rising.

These new emerging seamstresses see no limit to creating how they want to with what they can get their hands on the types of materials and accessories.

Some are keepers of the old styles, while others create differently and both do as they please. Some make new trends and new trends are quickly followed.

My mom Angugatsiaq was truly are great seamstress with traditional clothing while her older sister was better than her when it came to making contemporary clothing.

Because of this my aunt Udlatitaq would get her younger sister to make or get her to help her make traditional clothing.

I started sewing parkas at the age of 14 when mom finally got an electric sewing machine.

I wanted to explore with new materials and trying new patterns never used in the north before.

Some were good in terms of warmth, while other materials were not suitable to our environment.

Now that I am older I like to see the styles of yesteryear, but will most likely I will never turn back to new ways now, as it is fun to make something no one else has.

This is the glory of designers, they can produce to their liking, to their satisfaction, but more importantly to the satisfaction of their customers.

There are fashions shows lined up at the Canada`s Northern House and one can see fashions from the old but mostly from the new from Northwest and Nunavut Territories.

When one understands Inuit culture, one can appreciate the beauty of the designs, just as we too enjoy other cultures` designs from around the world.

It is very interesting that different cultures have certain colors that are identifiable to them. Peoples are so beautiful.

Taima for now.

Theresie Tungilik

1 Comment

  1. Mara Feeney
    Feb 15, 2010

    Theresa–fun to see you writing about Inuit sewing and design. One of the characters in my novel “Rankin Inlet” is a young seamstress who respects traditional ways but experiments with new designs.