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Survival in the Arctic would not have been possible without clothing made from animal pelts and furs.
Traditional Inuvialuit clothing provided more than just protection from the elements. The shapes and decorative elements of garments revealed gender and social identity, and provided connections to the spiritual world.
Caribou hides were preferred for making clothing, with skins and furs from other animals used as trims and decorations. A full set of traditional Inuvialuit clothing consisted of an inner parka (ilulliq) with the hair on the inside, an outer parka (qusunngaq) with the hair on the outside, calf-length breeches (kamikluuk) or full-length pants (qarliik), boots (kammak) and mitts (aitqatik) or gloves (adjigaak).
Preparing and sewing skins was time-consuming work, and after cloth became available from traders women began making clothing for their families from cotton, canvas and other fabrics.
She was very talented in making clothing. She made beautiful clothing for her husband. She was so pleased with him and he took care of his wife very well. She was so happy, she sewed summer caribou parkas, mukluks, and she made beautiful trimmings on them all.
- Agnes Nanogak Goose, 'Orphan and Grandmother’, (COPE/NWT Archives/N-1992-253).
Today, fabric parkas, trimmed with fur for protection from wind and snow, are more popular - rather than entirely made from animal furs and hides.
During the winter, women wear two-layer Mother Hubbard style parkas, decorated with individual Delta braid designs and trimmed with a sunburst ruff of wolf or wolverine fur. Men also wear two-layer parkas made of fabric and often a muskrat hat to keep their head and ears warm.
Boots (mukluks) made of caribou skin, sealskin, rabbit skin or muskox wool provide water and wind protection for the feet. Fur mitts, sometimes with braided strings that attach to the parka, help keep hands warm.
In the summer, both men and women wear an atikluk - the outer shell of a parka - which is not only cooler in hot weather but also offers protection from northern mosquitoes.
Moccasin dancing slippers made of moose hide, sewn with sinew and featuring colourful beadwork are a must for Old Time Dances.
Traditonal Inuvialuit clothing is still very common and visitors to Inuvialuit communities often enjoy seeing the needlework talents involved in the creation of these garments.