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Clothes

The Lithuanian national or folk costume of the present time was formed at the turn of the 19th century on the basis of the festive or holiday dress, which tended to differ considerably from parish to parish. At the turn of the 20th century the Lithuanian national costume, particularly women's dress, was considerably influenced by urban traditions.

Today national costumes are usually worn by the participants of folk music and dance concerts, religious processions, various public festivities.

Most of the national costumes today are produced according to the design made by professionals and only a small number of them are woven by craftsmen. There are ethnographic groups which consider that one or two elements of the ancient dress are enough. Recently the tradition of making one's own national costume has been revived and is gaining ground.

According to their characteristic features Lithuanian national costumes can be classified into several regional varieties: those worn in Aukstaitija, Dzukija, by Kapsai, in the Klaipeda region (Lithuania Minor), Zanavykija and Zemaitija. The national costumes of each region have their particular weaving technique, pattern, colour, accessory ornamentation, style of tailoring and manner in which they are worn.

Men's dress differed from region to region less then that of women. The entire outfit consisted of a shirt, trousers, vest, lightweight coat, greatcoat, sheepskin coat, head dress and footwear. Men's shirts usually had long sleeves and were made of thick linen or tow cloth. They usually had a stand-up collar of cotton cloth embroidered in black and red cotton stitch. Up until the 20th century trousers were made of homespun linen, wool on linen or on cotton, or wool. They used to be of medium width. Trousers for everyday wear had a drawstring while those for holiday use had a waistband. Dark or grey cloth of solid colour was used to make winter trousers. Summer trousers were made of white or white-on-blue checked cloth. In winter, spring and autumn or on longer trips men wore greatcoats, lightweight coats and, later, jackets over the vest. Greatcoats used to be double breasted and grey in colour. Strips of matted woolen cloth in a contrasting colour, plaited narrow bands, cord or leather were appliqued to the edging, cuffs, collar and pockets. Trousers and greatcoats were girded with sashes around the waist. Many kinds of caps were worn by the country men, but in warm weather Lithuanian men, young and old alike, preferred straw hats.

There were several kinds of traditional footwear in the countryside, but the most striking of all were, perhaps, solid wooden shoes called klumpes, which appeared in Lithuania in the 18th century and were ma- de of soft wood that did not split or crack. In Zemaitija people wore so- lid wooden shoes up until the middle of the 20th century. There are even folk dances which are danced by young dancers who wear clogs (e.g. klumpakojis).

Women's dress was more colourful and varied than that worn by men. The clothes of a Lithuanian woman reflected her industry, accomplishments and sense of beauty. Women's costumes consisted of a skirt, shirt, bodice and an apron. The outer garments consisted of a greatcoat or a sheepskin coat and a head-dress.

The women of A u k s t a i t i j a preferred light colours, particularly white. Their skirts were mostly checked, aprons were woven of light-coloured linen with horizontal patterns in red cotton at the bottom. The background of the apron was checked, striped or patterned in cat-paw motifs. The front, sleeves, shoulder tabs, collar and cuffs had horizontal red cotton stripes of equal or unequal width, woven in float, overshot, twill diaper, or pick-up patterns.

The distinguishing feature of the Z e m a i t i a n women's and girls' holiday attire was the abundance and variety of costume pieces which were of sharply contrasting colours. A typical costume consisted of a characteristically tailored bodice, a vertically striped skirt, an apron, which was also striped vertically with horizontally patterned bands. It was customary in Zemaitija to weave shawls of various sizes to be worn on the head and over the shoulders. Solid wooden shoes (klumpes) were the typical Zemaitian footwear. At the turn of the 20th century contrasts in the colours tended to become less sharp.

The women's folk costume in the K l a i p e d a region were mostly dark in colour and revealed several characteristic features which distinguished them from the other provinces of Lithuania. Skirts had narrow vertical stripes or checks. The most typical feature of the aprons was their single panel which was usually white in colour (dark aprons appeared in the second half of the 19th century) with vertical stripes and a wide-patterned band at the bottom. The shirts worn in the Klaipeda region had a uniquely gathered neckline. Pick-up patterns, found not only on the bottom portion of the sleeves and cuffs, but also in a wide band below the shoulders, had designs such as clovers, tulips and oak leaves. The most characteristic feature of the women's costume in the Klaipeda region, which distinguished them from those of other areas, was the intricate pick-up patterned sashes and stoles. The stole, consisting of two panels, had a narrow lengthwise insertion, called perdrobule of a palm's width was usually embroidered in white plants motifs. Almost every woman and girl in the Klaipeda region had an especially decorative handbag, called delmonas, which they fastened at the side or front of the waistband.

S u v a l ki a n costumes stand out for their splendour and rich colours. Skirts have vertical stripes, aprons are adorned with pick-up patterns such as stylized lilies, clover leaves, peas and suns. Skirts are often adorned with openwork. There are two kinds of Suvalkian costumes - those of the Zanavykai (the northern part of Suvalkija) and those of the Kapsai (the southern part). The boundaries of the area in which they were worn coincide with the boundaries of the respective subdialects.

The most splendid part of the Zanavykian women's costume is the apron, adorned with patterns made up of vertical lines of stylized lilies. Beside the openwork, the shirts are beautified with lilies embroidered in red cotton. Zanavykian women also wore embroidered stoles. In their colours and weaves costumes worn by Kapsai women were similar to those worn in Zanavykija. Shirts were usually embroidered in white, and aprons were even richer in colour then those of the Zanavykian women, the lilies woven into them were somewhat smaller and we- re laid out in groups along horizontal lines. Differently from the bodices worn by women in the other parts of Lithuania, those worn by the Kapsai women were rather long, girded with broad sashes.

D z u k i a n skirts were checked, aprons were checked or striped, wide sashes were woven in pick-up technique. In the eastern part of Dzukija white linen aprons predominated, just like in Aukstaitija.

In the 19th and 20th centuries amber necklaces became a highly sought-after accessory of every woman wearing a folk costume.

The head-dress worn by a married woman was usually different from that worn by an unmarried woman. The latter wore either no head-dress at all or a head-piece made of ribbons and beads of various colours. In the 19th century married women were not supposed to appear in public bare-headed. They wore either a kerchief, or a cap, or a head-dress called nuometas (in Aukstaitija), which was a symbol prominent in the rites of initiation into the status of a married woman.



next previous contents
Next: CALENDAR CUSTOMS Previous: Food

J. Kudirka "THE LITHUANIANS"

Copyright ©, 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.