Object photography

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Object description

  • Diné (Navajo) artist
  • Biil (two-panel rug dress), late 19th century
  • Wool, dye
  • Southwestern United States
  • L: 56 in, W: 30 in, D: 19 in (L: 142.2 cm, W: 76.2 cm, D: 48.3 cm)
  • Museum purchase with funds donated by Merry Glosband, The Leavitt Family, Franklin Sayre and Ellen and Stephen Hoffman, 2008
  • E303648.AB
  • Worn everyday by Diné women in the past, and today for special occasions only
  • Construction and iconography reflects distinct Diné aesthetic

Created by sewing together two identical handspun, finely woven wool panels, this side-seam style bííl dress dates to the 1700s when two deer hides were sewn together. In the 1880s, Navajo women began using commercial dyes in lieu of blue clay, indigo, and cochineal. The woven symbols represent sacred elements in the Navajo cosmos such as mountains, water sources and clouds, and the woman wearing the bííl would embody the female attributes of those elements.