As I mentioned in my post about the Camp Fire Girls magazine, Everygirl’s , Camp Fire Girls had “Indian” ceremonial dresses that each girl decorated with her own symbols. As luck would have it, I ran across an older one this week.
The dresses could be purchased from the Camp fire Outfitting Company, and there is an ad for the company in each of my Everygirl’s magazines. In 1929 the gowns were priced from $2.65 to $3.60, depending on the length of the leather fringe at the hem and sleeves. Other items could be purchased, such as moccasins and a fringed leather piece for the neck. Sewing patterns for the gown were also available.
Leather patches were decorated with symbols. Girls were encouraged to make up their own private symbols, but for the symbol-making-impaired there was a book of symbols available for 50 cents.
From the 1918 Camp Fire Girls, manual:
The ceremonial gown should be as beautiful as we can make it but there is the danger of confusing true decoration with meaningless ornamentation. This should not be found a common mistake, for Camp Fire Girls are imbued with the very spirit of beauty. If we will keep in mind that our gown is more than a passing fad, more than a girlhood phase of our existence, that it is, in fact, a proud record, writ large with our accomplishments and ideals, imbued with symbols of dear friendship, memory-hallowed, and alive with the promise of hope fulfilled, we will come into a rightful sense of purpose.
I was pretty amazed to find current photos of teens in ceremonial “Indian” gowns on the Camp Fire website. I would never have guessed that the modern teenager would want to dress up in what is basically a sack with fringe. There are quite a few articles online about how the “Indian” culture of the Camp Fire Girls (and the Boy Scouts) came about as a reaction to the increasing pressures of modern life. I suppose what was true in 1915 is even more true today, but then there’s that tricky cultural appropriation issue. What was a non-issue in 1915 in not so easy to brush aside in 2014.