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© McCord Museum
Parka and trousers
Eastern Arctic
Inuit: Nunatsiarmiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1897, 19th century
Seal fur, canvas, sinew
49 x 119 cm
Gift of Mrs. R. Fairbanks and David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Inuit Clothing

Specialized hide and fur clothing is probably the most important technological innovations of the Inuit to ensure their survival in the Arctic environment. A family's health and survival depended in large part in a woman's ability to sew garments that would keep family members warm in frigid winter temperatures (-40o to -60o C). These garments also enabled men to hunt and travel during the difficult winter season.

The basic reason for the effectiveness of Inuit clothing is layering. An outfit consists of an inner parka (atigi) with the fur facing the wearer's body and an outer parka (qulittuq) worn over this with the fur facing out. The layer of air trapped between the atigi and qulittuq acts as insulation, and the loose-fitting garments allow freedom of movement and the circulation of the warm, trapped air. Europeans quickly realized the superior qualities of Inuit clothing and commissioned Inuit seamstresses to make garments, boots and sleeping bags for them.


These two sealskin garments, a man's qulittuq (parka) and qarliik (trousers), are traditionally worn during warmer, wetter weather because they are lightweight, shed water and do not shed when damp. The parka has a straight cut, side vents and a pointed hood. The back is longer than the front to protect the wearer from wind and snow. This outfit has various European elements: cotton pockets, fly-front trousers and wooden buttons to hold suspenders.


This outfit was acquired in the Nuvummiut Tariunga (Hudson Strait) region.


Dr. William Wakeham was sent by the Canadian government's Department of Marine and Fisheries on an expedition to Hudson Strait to assert Canadian rights over Baffin Island and the Arctic Archipelago. He commissioned and wore this outfit while sailing the S.S. Diana through these Arctic waters in 1897.


This sealskin ensemble was probably made by a Nunatsiarmiut (Baffin Island) seamstress for Dr. William Wakeham.

© Musée McCord Museum