At last night’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show, Karlie Kloss took a turn down the runway in a leopard print bikini, loads of turquoise and silver jewelry, and one accessory that’s sure to cause some controversy — a Native American headdress. This is a sensitive time to play Native American dress-up: No Doubt just pulled its video for “Looking Hot” from television and YouTube after Gwen Stefani came under fire for her appropriation of Native American imagery, and this week the Denver boutique Goldyn was criticized when it released a lookbook featuring models posing in front of teepees while wearing Plains Indian-style headdresses. Aside from the issue of whether or not it’s actually legal for designers to use Native American symbols in their work, the use of headdresses in fashion shoots and runway shows is particularly troubling because the garments have so much spiritual and cultural significance. Traditionally, you can’t just wear a headdress, you have to earn it. So when a model casually tosses one on over a bikini to sell products, it comes across as more than a little tone deaf, and it recalls all of the other ways Native Americans have been victimized in this country.
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