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Men's Jackets and Vests

One of the most striking transitions in Seminole clothing is from the ‘Medicine Man Coat’ to the modern men’s jackets and vests. Of the two, the men’s jacket is seen more often than the vest. This seems to follow the trends of the more general American men’s fashion. The men’s jacket still retains much of the ‘Eisenhower’ cut that it first mimicked in the 1950s – cut at the waist, a small collar, and wrists where the cloth gathers, a zippered closure. There are 3 to 4 patchwork rows, usually of different designs, with strips of fabric and ric-rac. The designs repeat on the sleeves. The entire design of the jacket, then, is made of strips of cloth and cut to shape, making this one of the most complex pieces to put together.

The vest is of simpler design – the patchwork runs across just the front and the pattern is frequently a single patchwork design supported with strips of color, and, of course, ric-rac. The back is a single piece of cloth and the patchwork on the front is more often lined with the same fabric. The vest has a similar place in the Seminole men’s wardrobe that a bow tie has in American men’s wardrobe. That is certain men take to it as their own style while most men rarely wear them.

Both the patchwork vest and the jacket’s use date from the 1950s when tribal members, particularly men, found themselves dealing more frequently with government and other business. The long shirts and Medicine Man coats that the previously wore were not conducive to wearing pants. There is, even in the 1930s and 1940s, a modified men’s long shirt that was plain at the bottom length so it could be tucked in. Ultimately, the shorter jackets and vests won out. Nowadays, these items are worn when Seminole men want to dress up their everyday outfit – they are worn to formal dinners, special events, and important tribal ceremonies.

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