The Necktie Has Nothing On This

When a man “dresses up” in the contemporary, western sense of the phrase, he generally puts on a suit and tie. If he intends to bump it up a notch, the tie’s design will be more dramatic than his standard work-a-day fare. Or, for really fancy occasions, he’ll don a tux, and he may choose a tie that knots into a bow.

While each of us can think of various celebrities and others who might add more creative items to their costuming, for the general male population, standard ties are about as ornamental as dressy guy neckwear gets.

So it’s always enchanting to examine the ceremonial dress of other cultures, and from earlier times, to see how gender doesn’t necessarily define who gets to wear the fun stuff.

Take today’s mystery artifact, pictured to the left. Fairly quickly, our Facebook guessers determined it was some kind of regalia, and several understood they were looking at a collar. But only one got so specific as to claim Penobscot Indian provenance–something a chief would wear during special ceremonies.

That is indeed the answer! This “cape collar” dates from 1870 and features medicinal and plant motifs. Penobscot men wore cape collars and cuffs for dances, ceremonies, inaugurations of governors and chiefs, and other special occasions. Read more about the item by clicking on the image or by clicking here. The cape collar is also included in the Maine Memory exhibit Gifts from Gluskabe: Maine Indian Artforms — in Part III: Birchbark, Beads and Continuing Traditions — which features many other fantastic items.

And speaking of “dressing up,” there’ll be all sorts of gorgeous items, ceremonial and otherwise, that you can see up close and personal beginning June 24 in our upcoming new museum exhibit, Dressing Up, Fitting In, Standing Out: Adornment & Identity in Maine. Mark your calendars!

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