From the Three Tiered Navajo Skirts to Contemporary Sewing: Holistic Well-being Through Dress Making
Johnnie Bia, Jr.
the three tiers of the skirt that trace our Diné women's journey through their childhood, adulthood, and elderly years. And as of late, we have seen a rise in contemporary takes of this style walk the fashion run ways from Arizona to New York to Europe. Despite its travels, the Navajo tailors and seamstresses continue to root themselves in the cultural nuances of this cultural arts practice. I am in no way close to a tailor, but I do know someone who is!
and old style pleats on the bust, the back, and the sleeves of each blouse. Shayne’s strategic plan to attaining success in his future with sewing is built around a self-owned small company. So in the future hiring staff will be beneficial. Together they could maybe triple or quadruple their work and their earnings each day rather than one person making one garment and finishing it for the next 2 to 3 days.
Sewing contributes to his overall physical health. He explained - you are always on your feet, always having your hand gestures move softly, quickly, steadily, and constantly. Some positive activities outside of the act of sewing that can enhance your work is eating healthy. Through proper nutrition you make sure you get your vitamins, water intake, and also protein intake with fruits and other organic items. One unique aspect that Shayne brought up was keeping up with your hygiene as another way to improve your work - when you are working, showering at least twice a day, one in the morning when you get up and then always one at night before you sleep is important. You may think this is a lot of showering but... because you don’t know what chemicals and fibers are on each fabric, its better to shower after each project for your health.
Shayne is satisfied of what he does because he can actually create an item or garment for someone who cannot create it themselves. But each piece is so unique that it brings to them a unique feeling of having something created just for them.
Meditation also helps positively build your mental health, not only during the project but also before. Mediation is your quiet time, where you can actually think clearly and prepare yourself for your next garment order. It also helps you to trouble shoot any issues that you may have run into.
From a spiritual perspective, Shayne learned his sewing techniques from his great grandmother and he will always be able to take those teachings with him wherever he goes. In this way, what he sews not only connects him to his grandmother but he also extends his grandmother's teachings to those who receive his work. In addition to the connections to his grandmother, Shayne feels a sense of connectedness and pride for the value of Navajo culture. In doing his work and creating new garment, he always has tied his beliefs into Navajo culture and history because that is how he creates his garments and designs. For these reasons, he is actually creating work that coincides with tradition - from old style traditional wear to contemporary and modern wear. Finally, he also points out that prayer is also something that you can do while you are in the midst of your sewing because that’ll help you so many ways. Prayers gives you more spirit and sets your mind in your current sewing task.
In conclusion, as a tailor or a seamstress, you impact both your own holistic well-being and that of the clients or recipients of the clothes you make. This makes perfect sense to me - I know how I feel when I put on a freshly pressed shirt made especially for me. It makes me stand just a few centimeters taller and feel just a bit more confident. We have come a long way since our days of loinclothes and rug dresses, but our clothing today and sewing of those clothes utilize many of those skills and techniques that help to reconnect us to our Dine holistic self. Thanks, Shayne, for all your insight! And stay tuned, blog readers, Miss Navajo will be hosting a skirt making workshop this summer as part of her Cultural Arts Holistic Well-Being Workshop Series :)
If you are just now joining our blog series, please take some time to review some of the past Holistic Well-Being blogs from this 10 - week series!