Jun 17, 2005

Woman’s Two-Piece Dress (Biil’éé)

Woman’s Two-Piece Dress (Biil’éé)

c. 1880–85

Wool: tapestry weave

Overall: 145 x 99 cm (57 1/16 x 39 in.)

Educational Purchase Fund 1929.921


According to D. Y. Begay, the contemporary Diné (Navajo) weaver, every Diné woman should own a bill’éé (dress), which holds spiritual power, confers protection, encodes stories about the aesthetic of Diné culture, and ensures her place in society. This example is made of two matching panels attached on the sides and shoulders, a type that developed from single-panel dresses in the late 1700s. Originally gathered at the waist with a woven belt, the dresses also can be cinched with silver concha belts of Diné creation. Today, the bill’éé continues to respond to fashion trends and is worn on special occasions.

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