I wouldn't have believed it possible to make a coat out of something so fragile as fish skin, but it seems it was routine in times past in Siberia.
Along the lower reaches of the Amur River, where the water empties into the Pacific Ocean, the climate—unlike most of Siberia—is wet. To keep dry, the indigenous Nivkhi shrugged on fish skin coats like the one pictured here. These ingeniously constructed coats are a testament to the people’s holistic approach to natural resources; they also tell the story of a worldly culture and a wild place.
Fish skin is light, flexible, strong, and easy to work—the Gore-Tex of its day. Matchless as rainwear in milder seasons, layering fur close to the skin kept people cozy in winter. A Nivkhi woman—for only women sewed—prepared 100 salmon skins for this particular coat. She would have scraped away the flesh before washing the skins in salt water (women keeping the craft alive today use soap), then drying and beating the skins before piecing together the coat with thread fashioned from fish skin or sinew. “When it gets wet, [the thread] expands and fills the hole made by the needle, making the seams watertight,” says Cunera Buijs, the museum’s curator of Arctic regions. “It’s so clever.”
There's more at the link.
I'd never heard of clothes being made of fish skin, although I've owned a knife and a sword whose makers used shark skin to cover their hilts (it provided an excellent gripping surface, rough and raspy, a bit like a fine sandpaper). I wonder whether modern clothes manufacturers could learn anything from this ancient "technology"? Could we improve modern synthetic materials by "cloning" some of the qualities of salmon skin?
Fascinating questions . . .