Latvian   FolkDress
Latvian                                                                                       Folk                        ...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                                                                       ...
Latvian   FolkDress                                          made in plain weave or twill.                                ...
Latvian                                                                                                                   ...
14th-17th century    German crusaders arrived in the first half of the 13th century and the                               ...
Latvian   FolkDress          Latvian            Ethnic          Dress                        Alsunga dress from           ...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                                                                       ...
Latvian   FolkDress          Winter dress from Vidzeme, 19th century.          In winter both men and women wore long, hom...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                                                                       ...
Latvian        Folk     Dress18         19
Latvian   FolkDress                  VidzemeThe brightest garment of women’s dress in Vidzeme was the skirt,           whi...
Latvian   FolkDress                   KurzemeApart from the traditions of Latvians and Livs – the indigenous people       ...
Latvian   FolkDress                   ZemgaleZemgale dress bears some traits of Finno-Ugric traditions, especially       c...
Latvian   FolkDress                   SēlijaSelija or Augszeme is the smallest ethnic region as most of the Selonians     ...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                                                                       ...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                            For centuries the craft of making clothes f...
Latvian   FolkDress                                                                                  A photo from the film...
Latvian   FolkDress          “Vilki” in the 1990s. Since then the making and wearing of ancient dress      years the Folkl...
Latvian   FolkDressFurther reading:1. Bremze, Zile, Velta Rozenberga and Ilze Zingite Latviesu tautas terpi.  Vidzeme = La...
The Latvian Institute promotes knowledge about Latvia abroad. It produces                                            publi...
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  1. 1. Latvian FolkDress
  2. 2. Latvian Folk Dress Ancient Latvian Dress 7th-13th century 14th-17th centuryFolk dress in Latvia has played and still plays an important symbolic role in the Latvian Ethnicpreservation of national values and cultural heritage and in the creation of a Dressfeeling of unity of the people. This occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, when the 18th-19th centuryindependent Latvian nation was founded for the first time and interest in folk Regional differencesdress was born; during the years of Soviet occupation; and after the renewal of VidzemeLatvian independence in 1991. Today folk dress has a different application than Kurzemein earlier centuries and now it is worn only on festive occasions or during per- Zemgaleformances. Nevertheless the great amount of interest that Latvians express in Sēlijafolk dress has helped to preserve, research and popularise it. Latgale Post- ethnographic period 1
  3. 3. Latvian FolkDress Ancient Latvian Dress Aizkraukle hillfort, populated in the 1st millennium AD. 7th-13th century During the 7th-13th centuries, the territory known today as Latvia was already inhabited by its indigenous people: Baltic and Finno-Ugric tribes.There are two popular historic periods of specific traditions that This was a period of freedom and relative prosperity. During this time, nocharacterise Latvian dress: costume of the 7th-13th century that is often written or drawn records of people’s dress were created. Therefore thereferred to as “ancient dress” and clothing worn in the 19th century and only evidence of dress can be found through the help of archaeologicalreferred to as “ethnic” or “ethnographic dress”. excavations.The Late Iron Age (9th-13th century) saw five main tribal realms In the 7th-13th centuries there was a tradition of decorating people’sestablished in Latvia. The Baltic peoples comprised Sēļi (Selonians), dress with bronze rings and spirals and of wearing bronze jewellery. ThisZemgaļi (Semigallians), Latgaļi (Latgallians), and Kurši (Couronians). In tradition spread from Finland in the north to Prussia in the south butaddition the Finno-Ugric Lībieši (Livs) were divided into Livs inhabiting had its most developed forms in the eastern part of the current Latvianthe shores of the country’s principle rivers, the Daugava and the Gauja; territory. The richest and most ornate garments and jewellery date fromand Livs in north-west Latvia, who differed in dress from the other two the 11th and 12th centuries. Bronze helps to conserve the cloth that itLivonian peoples. Latvia’s five modern regions take their names from the lies alongside, and therefore thanks to this tradition, many parts of clothdominant tribal group to form Sēlija, later Augšzeme, in the south-east, have been comparatively well preserved and thus allow the researchersZemgale in the mid-south, and Latgale in the east. Kurzeme in the west to reconstruct festive apparel with a great deal of credibility.and Vidzeme [Middle Land] in the central and northern parts are the From the 7th-13th centuries both men and women wore clothing thattwo regions where the local Baltic people assimilated the Liv people and was made from locally grown flax and fleece; shoes, belts, caps etc. weretheir traditions. A certain cultural exchange always existed among the made from leather and furs of domestic and wild animals. All clothingregions. was made at home while some of the jewellery was imported from Scandinavia, ancient Rus and even the Arabic world. Cloth was most often Ancient Latgallian dress of the 11th – 12th centuries.2 3
  4. 4. Latvian FolkDress made in plain weave or twill. foot and up to the knee. Woollen leg-wraps were sometimes decorated graves irrespective of their age. The primary piece of clothing for both sexes was a collarless shirt made with bronze. Footwear consisted of leather shoes (with a sole), boots or As there were no pockets in the clothing of the time, one of the from linen in the form of a long-sleeved tunic, long for women, shorter simple one-piece shoes tied with laces. For keeping themselves warm, most important accessories was the belt or sash, which not only held for men, slit and fastened at the neck with a brooch. Sleeves of the shirt people would also wear capes that could reach 2,2 m in length. Capes garments in place, but was also used to attach the small necessary items and other garments did not end in cuffs. Bracelets worn over the shirt were usually fastened with large fibulas, mostly in the form of a horse- that people carried with them (knife, purse, keys, tablets, drinking horn, held the sleeves around the arm tightly instead. Men’s graves offer an shoe. A special cape or shawl for women was a woollen piece of cloth, etc.). alternative practice, showing thin leather thongs up to a metre long approximately 0,7-1,2 m in size. This was often ornamented with bronze Children’s clothing followed the adult principles however it is most likely strung with bronze spirals. These laces tied several times around the rings and spirals and tablet-woven bands with picked ornaments which that small boys did not have trousers. In addition the jewellery worn sleeves (more often on the left arm) and thus had the same function made this shawl the most exclusive garment for women in eastern by small children usually did not contain certain types, i.e. crowns, neck as bracelets. Latvia. It was fastened over the chest with a horse-shoe fibula or a pin. rings and pins. Men would also wear linen trousers while women would wear a woollen People’s head coverings included linen/woollen scarves or bronze As to the colours of the dress, the garments were usually monochromatic skirt that was just a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body crowns for women and linen, woollen or fur caps for men. Head with the exception of the rich women’s blue and white tartan shawls of and fastened with a tablet-woven sash. coverings were often decorated with bronze spirals. The most popular the 12th and 13th centuries. Linen garments were natural grey or white, Above these primary garments both men and women wore a woollen form of women’s metal crowns was composed of wire spirals threaded while woollen garments were seldom left white, with an exception tunic-shaped coat with a V-neck. A woven sash for women and a leather onto lengths of spun wool, held together at intervals with figured metal of some female shawls. Natural dyes of local origin – barks, leaves, belt for men were worn over the coat. The most prosperous men’s belts plaques. The multiple strands of wool separate and form dividing tails to grasses and roots that were gathered in the wild – were used for dyeing were richly decorated with bronze, with pendants added, and such a increase the decorative area. Ancient costume researcher Anna Zarina woollen yarn. Brown was probably achieved with the same plants as in belt was the most exclusive piece of men’s jewellery. suggests that metal crowns were worn by young girls and women of all the nineteenth century – namely various tree barks (oak, alder, juniper), Ancient Latgallian and Semigallian bronze jewellery, People walked with bare legs on regular days, while for festive occasions ages, also after marriage. This pre-Christian tradition can be observed in other plants like various species of Potentilla, St John’s Wort (Hypericum 10th – 12th centuries. they wrapped their legs with linen or woollen cloth starting from the archaeological excavations where crowns are found in most women’s perforatum L.) and broad beans, amongst others. Folklore texts suggest4 5
  5. 5. Latvian Folk of protection, fertility, and well-being. Dress There were no remarkable regional differences between the dress of the local Baltic tribes, while more variation could be observed in jewellery. The most typical Semigallian item was pins with cross-shaped heads for women and silver neck rings for both women and men. One of the characteristic pieces of Couronian jewellery was a richly decorated drinking horn attached to the belt of men, women and even children. Latgallian women used a neck ring with plated overlapping ends, and later added flat pendants. Other kinds of jewellery included: the typical Latgallian male “warrior’s” bracelet; groups of different fibulas; pins; bracelets; necklaces, multiple chains, or cowry and glass beads were also popular for women. Rings for both men and women - especially the very popular spiral rings - appeared through the 3rd to 16th centuries. Graves between the 10th and 13th centuries reveal rings worn on all ten fingers.the use of brown might have had a mythological meaning of protectionand healing. Red was coloured by the lady’s bedstraw plant (Galiumverum L.) and marjoram (Oreganum vulgaris L.), traditional and importantdye plants for red. The most popular plant for yellow was Stag’s-hornStubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum L.) and Yellow Chamomile (Anthemis fur caps. Wealthy people could afford naalbinded mittens and socks.tinctoria L.). Green was most often dyed with yarrow (Achillea millefolium In the 12th and 13th centuries a new form of women’s crown appearedL.) and leaves of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth syn. B. verrucosa Ehrh.). – it was made of red or brown woollen cloth and ornamented withFor the colour blue, a specially grown plant, woad (Isatis tinctoria L.), The Livs, a Finno-Ugric tribe that inhabited the lands around the Gulf of glass beads. This form of crown for young girls survived until the 19thwas used. The most popular colours for woollen garments were brown Rīga in the Baltic Sea, developed a distinctive tradition in women’s dress century.and blue. According to the archaeological record, most women’s skirts and in clothing decoration. The most common form of the Liv women’swere coloured brown and most shawls, especially those decorated with skirt was similar to that of the Vikings, namely – a pinafore or apron dress,bronze, were coloured blue. Men’s and women’s coats were most often usually coloured blue. It was held together on the shoulders with the soeither brown or blue; the same can be said for men’s capes. A natural called tortoise brooches or pins which were connected with chains andgrey colour was more popular for everyday clothing. Other colours – red, various pendants added. The most popular pendants were in the formgreen, yellow – were mostly used for small decorations and in tablet- of a bird; however bear’s fangs were also common. Richly decoratedwoven sashes and bands. knives were also used as jewellery and added to the brooch chains. TheAll ornamentation in every material is geometric, starting with simple lines tradition of decorating their clothing, especially women’s shawls withand crosses and ending with advanced geometric – and almost always tin buttons in addition to bronze is also unique in this area. Liv womensymmetrical - patterns. The most complex design in ornamentation is in did not wear crowns as they usually wore a head cloth that could betablet-woven sashes worn by females, especially advanced in Liv tribes, decorated with bronze spirals and rings or tin buttons. Liv men’s clothingand shawl borders. The most complex bronze ornaments also appear does not show as much variation from that of other local tribes.on shawls, and the front decoration of high status men’s coats. It is fairly To keep themselves warm in winter, people wore fur coats, felt capes and Ancient Liv dress ofevident that ornamentation had some kind of meaning and was not most probably also woollen underwear. Woollen leg-wraps were worn the 11th century.purely decorative. The signs so far interpreted mostly incorporate ideas together with leather boots or bast shoes. Both men and women wore6 7
  6. 6. 14th-17th century German crusaders arrived in the first half of the 13th century and the and socks developed to perfection, reflecting Latvian territories were gradually conquered. Germans remained the regional differences in ornament and taste in colour. ruling class in Latvia until the early 20th century, thus influencing the Starting from the 16th century, imported European broadcloth dress of local people. Under German rule the living conditions of local reached Latvian peasants, and clothes made from it were considered people worsened and the tradition of decorating clothing with bronze to be a sign of wealth. However there is much less jewellery from this disappeared. The use of bronze jewellery also diminished significantly. period, and we can observe that its old forms had mostly disappeared. This led to the consequence that very little clothing was preserved in The only exception is the girls’ crowns that continued to be made either gravesites. Therefore our knowledge of people’s clothing in the 14th- of bronze plate or red fabric that was ornamented with glass beads of 17th centuries is limited. various colours. These crowns had coloured pendants fastened at the However, written and drawn records gradually started to appear, back of them, but slowly these pendants disappeared and were worn reflecting local dress in the 17th and 18th centuries. From these drawings in only a few parishes in the 19th century. Rings and beads made by we can see that the traditions of ancient dress survived to a great extent, guild craftsmen in feudal towns are frequently observed, as are various as many garments are very similar. Linen tunics remained of the same pendants (small animal figurines, coins, animal teeth); unfortunately the cut, as did woollen coats, however a front opening fastened with hooks significance of these pendants is unclear. The older types of fibulas that became more prevalent, especially in men’s clothing. Women’s skirts, were usually in the shape of a horseshoe were superseded by circular in addition to the older style of just a rectangular piece of fabric, were or heart-shaped brooches. One of the most popular items of women’s now also fixed to the sash in small folds. Most of the garments were still jewellery was a string of cowrie shell beads. During this period, the monochromatic, and stripes were rare. Knitwear began to appear in the most creative aspect and largest regional variations can be observed in 15th century, evidenced by the first knitted woman’s cap. Naalbinded women’s head coverings, while other parts of clothing remained fairly items gradually disappeared and the tradition of knitted mittens, gloves uniform.8 9
  7. 7. Latvian FolkDress Latvian Ethnic Dress Alsunga dress from Kurzeme, 19th century.10 11
  8. 8. Latvian FolkDress Latvian peasants in the drawings of J. C. Brotze, end of the 18th century. 18th-19th centuryWe have most knowledge of Latvian ethnic dress of the late 18th and garment worn. Work shirts still looked very similar to the ancient ones.19th centuries as most records and items of festive clothing have been For festive occasions, however, there were now variations of collars, cuts,preserved from this period. This also helps to understand the traditions and embroidery (most often in white, sometimes red and very rarely,of previous generations, as a large part of 19th century festive clothing black). Shirts were pinned with small smooth or relief ring-shaped orwas not created during the lifetime of just one generation. heart-shaped brooches. Sometimes there was a row of brooches downWritten records from the 18th century affirm that the most common the front opening of the shirt. Women’s linen shirts usually consisted ofcolour of Latvian peasant’s dress was the natural white and grey of two parts. The visible upper part was made of fine linen cloth, but thelinen and wool. The records suggest that the favourite colours of lower part that was hidden under the skirt was made of crude linen.Latvians and Lithuanians were white or light grey, and thus they could Above the shirt, Latvian women wore long skirts, coats of various lengthbe distinguished from their neighbours, as Russians preferred bright (longer in the 18th century and waist-length coats or vests in the 19th in the entire territory of Latvia.colours, while Estonians dressed in black. Until the beginning of the century), and woollen shawls instead of cloaks. At the turn or the 19th century, men wore homespun coats, mostly of19th century, when natural dyes were still used, most Latvians’ clothes Often the only jewellery worn by Latvian women were silver brooches a natural grey colour, that were decorated with red, green or blue cordwere natural grey, while for decoration they kept to the century-old with thimble-like bubbles, red glass “stones” or beads and numerous and matching appliqué on the sleeves. Buttons were used for fasteningtraditional four-colour scheme of blue, red, yellow, and green. tiny silver “leaves”. These were worn on the chest, usually as fasteners for the coat.The most significant source of information on Latvian peasants’ dress shawls. Young girls wore crowns that were made of cardboard covered In summer, linen overcoats were the late 18th and early 19th centuries is drawings and descriptions in cloth and embroidered with glass beads, tinsel, and thin brass rings. Men’s clothes of dark blue, brown or natural black appeared in theby Johan Christoff Brotze (1742-1823). In his drawings he depicts local Latvians did not often wear amber beads although the material was second half of the 19th century when industrially-made cloth was usedpeople, showing not only festive clothing, but also work clothing. easily accessible on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Rather they preferred for festive clothing. Men wore vests for special occasions. Both long and•During the 19th century, linen tunic-shaped shirts were still the main glass beads and silver coins. There was no tradition of wearing earrings down-to-the knee trousers were in use.12 13
  9. 9. Latvian FolkDress Winter dress from Vidzeme, 19th century. In winter both men and women wore long, homespun woollen or fur These patterns do not display such abundant regional variety as does travelling, people bound linen wraps around their feet and calves. Their coats. the clothing as a whole. The ornamentation of the 17th-19th century has shoes were sandals made of a simple piece of leather that was drawn When festive dress was no longer new, it was used for daily wear. a closer link with the town jeweller than with ancient tradition. However, together by strings through small holes. Footwear, especially that which A distinctive place was assigned to mittens and gloves, which were the ancient symbols or fertility and wellbeing – the sun, moon, cross, was worn in winter, could also be made from linden or willow bast. probably not used in such great quantities by any other people. Mittens swastika, snake, double-eared stalk and others, were integrated into Only on Sundays and festive occasions women sometimes wore real were commonly given as gifts, especially at weddings when a bride ornamentation in later centuries. The most vivid use of ornamentation shoes with a hard sole and men wore leather boots. Shoes and boots would present them to all the relatives of the groom, and also at funerals, was usually on a white background with red, blue, green and yellow were made of black leather and worn very carefully on festive occasions to those who dug the grave and took part in the ceremony. Ornamented – natural dyes obtained form plants. Mittens and sashes had the most or to church. One pair could therefore almost last a lifetime. Woollen mittens were such an integral part of men’s festive clothing that they diverse ornamental compositions as they were produced in great ornamented socks, and later cotton stockings were worn with festive would be placed behind the belt even in summer. numbers and had to differ from each other. Ornamentation grew more clothes. Woollen socks or stockings for winter were either white or Latvian ethnic dress shows a great variety of ornamentation or “raksts” (in vivid in colour with the introduction of chemical dyes in the second half decorated with coloured ornaments or stripes. Each parish developed Latvian – writing). Gloves, mittens, socks, sashes, coats, shawls and shirts of the 19th century. a particular ornament and adopted a set of colours. Both men and were adorned with woven, knitted or embroidered ornamentation. Bast and leather footwear was similar all over Latvia. When working or women tied their stockings under the knee with woven bands.14 15
  10. 10. Latvian FolkDress Valka Valmiera Limbaži Trikāta Ventspils V ID ZE M E Launkalne Alūksne Talsi Cēsis Abrene Gulbene Balvi Cesvaine Kuldīga Jūrmala Vecpiebalga Alsunga Tukums Madona Rīga Regional diferences KURZEM E Jelgava OgreThere are five regions in Latvia with their own specific traditions in dialect, Aizkraukle Ludza Saldus Dobele Rēzeknehousing, and dress. These regions are Kurzeme in the west, Zemgale in Liepāja Jēkabpils ZE M GAL Ethe mid-south, Selija in the south-east, Latgale in the east and Vidzeme L ATG A LE Līvāniin the central and northern parts of Latvia. Kurzeme and Vidzeme arethe two regions where the local Baltic people assimilated the Liv peopleand their traditions. Yet regional borders were not strictly marked and Bauskaa certain cultural exchange always existed. Regional variations were Nīca Preiļithe most pronounced in women’s dress: in their cuts and the colour-schemes, embroidery techniques and compositions, and the decorationof sashes, shawls, mittens and socks. Everyday clothing, footwear andmen’s head coverings were relatively similar all over Latvia. Headgearand men’s outdoor clothes were the first to undergo the influence oftown fashion and that of military uniforms. There were few regional Krāslavadifferences in men’s clothing, and the main variations manifested indetails. Daugavpils16 17
  11. 11. Latvian Folk Dress18 19
  12. 12. Latvian FolkDress VidzemeThe brightest garment of women’s dress in Vidzeme was the skirt, white patterned linen shawls of the same size. In cold weather, womenwhich was multicoloured, and existed in many different variations: sheltered themselves under felt capes or tartan scarves. The whitemost frequently they were striped, but occasionally were also tartan festive shawls were held in place with silver brooches while the capesor patterned. Stripes were characteristic for the first half of the 19th and scarves were never pinned. In most parts of Vidzeme, bodices andcentury, while tartan became popular in the second half. When stripes coats, as well as waist-length vests were very popular. They were madepredominated, they even adorned men’s trousers and vests. Despite of dark wool in blue, green, brown, grey, black and sometimes also inthe bright colours, the overall effect was rather subdued because of white. Throughout Vidzeme, married women covered their heads withthe balance between the bright stripes and grey, brown and black so-called tower-caps, usually of white linen and sometimes tied with aones. The white woollen shawls were richly embroidered and reached silk scarf.halfway to the wearer’s calf. In summer they were substituted with Launkalne and Piebalga dress, 19th century.20 21
  13. 13. Latvian FolkDress KurzemeApart from the traditions of Latvians and Livs – the indigenous people brooches and strings of beads made from pieces of amber collected on– the dress of Kurzeme reflects the traditions of two neighbouring the sea-shore. Women usually wore head cloths or wife’s caps; in severalpeoples: Lithuanians and Estonians. A Polish influence can also be seen areas young girls still had the tradition of wearing bronze the dress of Alsunga, from Polish peasants who worked there in the In the 1850s and 60s the dress of Kurzeme underwent radical changes. In17th century. many areas bright chemical-dye colours superseded the previous colour one scarf. In winter they covered theirUntil the middle of the 19th century, women wore a dark monocolured scheme for skirts, as bright stripes appeared in the north and east of heads with a linen scarf and layeredskirt (often green, grey, or black), and a white shawl embroidered around Kurzeme and bright red in the southwest. A characteristic feature for the a home-made tartan scarf on top.the edges. In some areas dark blue shawls were popular with small bright monochrome skirts was the ornamented lower edge, sometimes The corners of the scarf were thenjingling bronze leaves attached to the lower edge of the shawl, so that made from a band of a different colour. Vests and jackets were also often crossed in front and tied at thethe wearer could be heard when approaching. An apron belonged to decorated with bands of various colours, trimmings, embroidery and back.the festive dress, but its use died out in the 19th century, remaining only decorative buttons. In south-western Kurzeme shawls were worn around The clothing of Kurzeme, more than in other regions,as a part of Liv women’s festive clothing. A widespread tradition in some the body and fastened with a silver brooch on the right shoulder. Wives’ contains industrially-produced textiles and clothingparts of Kurzeme was for both men and women to wear bronze belts. caps went out of use and various industrially-produced silk scarves accessories – silk, velvet, brocade, glass, metal – eitherIn the seaside districts, people adorned their clothes with small amber and wraps became popular. The women of Kurzeme never wore just imported or produced by local manufacturers. Nīca and Tukums dress, 19th century.22 23
  14. 14. Latvian FolkDress ZemgaleZemgale dress bears some traits of Finno-Ugric traditions, especially crosses alternating on a white background, and with a thin thread ofin the earliest examples of its garments. Atypical for a border region, blue or green along the centre does not show any resemblance to Lithuanian clothing. Zemgale is The economic prosperity of the region led to the earlier loss of nationalthe region which was most industrialised and economically developed dress. The first items to vanish in the 19th century were the maiden’sduring the 17th and 18th centuries. Many peasants were employed in crown and wife’s head cloth, as well as the white woollen shawls andmanufacturing and learned advanced techniques of patterned textile their brooches. Silk scarves came into use instead of crowns and headproduction. This influenced Zemgale dress: its typical skirt has vertical cloths. However, homemade white linen scarves with coloured threadsweft-patterned stripes. The most common is the rose motif; while were everyday headwear for married women and girls alike. Skirtszigzags, diamonds and triangles also appear. A wide woven sash was remained in production for the longest period, as they were often madeworn above the skirt – it was usually patterned with red suns and by professional weavers. Zemgale dress, 19th century.24 25
  15. 15. Latvian FolkDress SēlijaSelija or Augszeme is the smallest ethnic region as most of the Selonians In addition, brightly striped or tartan skirts were also worn. The mostactually live in the current territory of Lithuania. This is also why many elaborate garment was the white woollen shawl, richly embroideredtraits similar to that of Lithuanian dress can be observed here. The along the edges. These were the same as the Latgale shawls. The marriedmost unique garment is the linen shirt - tunic-shaped with sewed-in women’s head cloth resembled similar garments from Lithuania – theyshoulderpieces – which demonstrates an ancient tradition which is were very long (up to 3.5m), made of fine linen and tied around the headnot known anywhere else in the Baltic. The most typical Selija skirt has in various sophisticated ways. Also similar to Lithuanian dress, a whitevertical stripes with tiny patterns or batiked yarn. The band of patterning linen apron could be added to Selija female festive clothes. Similarly tohas most often herringbone motifs, zigzags or twisted bicoloured yarn. Zemgale, Selija traditional dress became obsolete in the 1860s. Sēlija dress, 19th century.26 27
  16. 16. Latvian FolkDress Northern and southern Latgale dress, 19th century. LatgaleLatgale is the region that demonstrates the most international cut, sometimes with a very narrow red-decorated shoulderpiece. The of the festive dress of Latgale, however they wereinfluences in traditional dress, due to the close ties with neighbouring skirt had vertical stripes of naturally dyed, but bright colours. The white never worn together with woven sashes. Jacketspeoples: Estonians and Russians in the north and Belarussians, Selonians woollen shawls of this area of Latvia can be distinguished by their size were seldom part of festive dress but when theyand Lithuanians in the south. Latgale dress therefore reflects northern and their richly embroidered ornaments in dark blue, yellow, green and were used they, too, excluded a sash. Later tartanand southern traditions through the cut, colours and decoration of the red. Shawls that reflected the traditions of the 12th century – made skirts of various colours became popular in all ofclothing. In the north, linen garments were usually not made in plain of blue and white tartan linen – were quite common components of Latgale, but generally the use of the traditionalweave, as was the norm in the rest of Latvia. Bird’s eye twill was used summer attire. dress ceased in the 1870s and 80s. Latgale wasfor the upper section of the shirt, sometimes also satin weave. Shirts Characteristic throughout Latgale was the intense use of linen in clothing, the region where industrially-produced clothes werealso had red inlaid or woven patterns on the shoulders and on the as garments such as shawls and skirts for summer festive dress were often seldom used by peasants: all garments were usually home-shoulderpieces. Skirts were usually white with a red-patterned lining on made from linen. In colder weather, large tartan woollen scarves were made. In Latgale, bast footwear from linden bark or tow cordthe lower edge. In the south, linen tunic shirts were of more traditional tied around the wearer’s head and shoulders. Aprons were often a part was more popular than in other regions.28 29
  17. 17. Latvian FolkDress For centuries the craft of making clothes for the whole family was women’s business. Men took part in making footwear. This continued until the second part of the 19th century, when the job of making outdoor clothing was taken over by professional tailors. In the beginning, Post-etnographic they also produced hand-made clothes but soon sewing machines appeared and became widely used throughout Latvia. However, shirts period and skirts remained hand-made until the beginning of the 20th century, especially in remote areas. Industrial growth, migration and contacts between people of different parishes, regions and even countries led to more rapid changes in people’s dress. The influence of the town grew in the latter half of theThe Song and Dance Festival takes place every four years. 19th century and town clothing gradually superseded ethnic dress asTens of thousands participate. daily attire. Regretfully, by the end of the 19th century, ethnic dress had30 31
  18. 18. Latvian FolkDress A photo from the film Latvian Wedding in Nīca, produced in 1931, shows local people wearing their original dresses.almost completely disappeared. However in some remote districts with held by the museum. Using the place of origin as the main principlestrong national awareness and traditions, such as Alsunga, Rucava and of composition, unfortunately ensembles were created using elementsNīca (in Kurzeme), ethnic dress continued to be worn as festive clothing of dress which had rarely been worn by the same person – that is,until the 1940s. there could be an interval of around 100 years in the dating of variousThe revival of folk dress as dress for festive occasions occurred during elements of dress in the ensembles. Nevertheless the influence of thisthe first era of the Republic of Latvia in the 1920s and 1930s. There publication was huge, and it influenced a majority of folk dress makers.was great interest in the newly established nation and the history and These costumes were made for choir singers, theatre performances andculture of its people. Partly this was because earlier, the popularisation individual wearers. In the 1930s interest in folk dress was so great thatof Latvian values was prohibited, and partly this was because people not only the society ladies in Rīga, but even women in the outermosthad to work on lifting their own level of self-confidence after 700 years corners of Latvia strove to get a self-made or pre-ordered folk costume.of oppression. From the mid-1920s, ethnographic expeditions began The making of folk dress for the needs of choirs and dancing ensemblesto travel throughout Latvia as ordered by the Monuments Authority, was preserved also during the period of Soviet occupation after thegathering all possible remaining evidence about the traditional life of the Second World War, a rarely-permitted expression of patriotism.people, including folk dress. In this way a large collection of elements of When the folklore movement began in the late 1970s, with the aim ofauthentic folk dress was established, which ended up in the collection reviving ancient folk songs and traditions, all participants in folkloricof the National Museum of History. One of the most active folk dress groups acquired folk dress. A majority of Latvian choirs, dance ensemblesresearchers and promoters was Ādolfs Karnups and Elga Kivicka, who in and participants in folkloric groups still wear ethnographic folk dress1938 published an overview of the ethnographic costumes of Latvian when performing. However, during the time of occupation some choirsregions, identifying the characteristic features of each. The publication attempted to make themselves ancient dress. The wearing of ancientwas created based on folk dress elements from each district which were costumes in the folklore movement was begun by the men’s group32 33
  19. 19. Latvian FolkDress “Vilki” in the 1990s. Since then the making and wearing of ancient dress years the Folklore festival “Baltica” is held. A majority of Latvian choirs has become fairly popular and is particularly practised by those who are and dance ensembles, as well as all folklore ensembles wear folk dress interested in Latvia’s more ancient and often romanticized past. when performing in concerts, events and city festivities. Ancient dress In the 21st century, folk dress – both ethnographic and ancient – can be is worn by participants of living history and re-enactment groups at seen in Latvia in a number of contexts. A large collection of ethnographic various festivals and city festivities. Individuals tend to also wear folk and ancient dress and their replicas is found in the collection of the dress on midsummer night’s eve, called Jāņi, on 23 June and on the Latvian National History Museum and part of this is able to be viewed Latvian Independence Day on 18 November. Occasionally folk dress is in the museum exhibition. The dresses which can be seen there are also worn at weddings. as authentic as possible, taking into account not only the place of Since the revival of folk dress one hundred years ago, the popular opinion origin, but also the dating of the garments. On special occasions folk has been adopted, that the person who is wearing folk dress has not just dress can also be seen worn by contemporary people. The largest folk dressed up, but is also demonstrating all of the best they have to offer. costume parade in Latvia is once every four years in the Latvian Song The wearing of folk dress is therefore associated with goodness, purity, and Dance Celebration. During this celebration, even the leaders of the noble-mindedness and ceremony. Alongside Latvian folk songs and nation wear folk costume. Each summer also smaller-scale school and traditions, Latvian folk dress symbolises the national historical values student song festivals are held, as well as regional festivals. Every three which have been passed on from generation to generation.34 35
  20. 20. Latvian FolkDressFurther reading:1. Bremze, Zile, Velta Rozenberga and Ilze Zingite Latviesu tautas terpi. Vidzeme = Latvian National Costumes. Vidzeme Vol. I Latvijas Vestures muzejs, Riga, 1995.2. Bremze, Zile, Velta Rozenberga and Ilze Zingite Latviesu tautas terpi. Kurzeme = Latvian National Costumes. Kurzeme Vol. II Latvijas Vestures muzejs, Riga, 1997.3. Bremze, Zile, Velta Rozenberga and Ilze Zingite Latviesu tautas terpi. Zemgale, Augszeme, Latgale = Latvian National Costumes. Zemgale, Augszeme, Latgale Vol. III Latvijas Vestures muzejs, Riga, 2003.4. Zeiere, Irita Arheologiskas liecibas par apgerbu Latvija 13.-18. gadsimta. [Archaeological evidence of the 13th-18th century dress in Latvia.] Latvijas Nacionalais vestures muzejs, Riga, 2008. [Contains English summary.]© The Latvian Institute, 2009© Text and concept: Ieva Pīgozne, National History Museum of LatviaConsultant: Ilze Ziņģīte, National History Museum of LatviaSpecial thanks to people who dressed up in their personal folk costumes:Auza family, Kristīne Kārkle, Līga Kurpniece, Dagnija Kupča, Mirdza Pabērza, Dagnija Pārupe,Ieva Pīgozne, A.Pumpure, Laura Raipale, Iveta Rubīna, Tukums MuseumPhoto credits: V.Kleins „Fotobnaka”, M.Kudrjavcevs, I.Lazdiņa, A.Puriņš, A.Liepiņš, V.Poļakovs,I.Urtāns, I.ZnotiņšOriginal drawings: J.C.Brotze (Latvian Academic Library)36
  21. 21. The Latvian Institute promotes knowledge about Latvia abroad. It produces publications in several languages on many aspects of Latvia.For further information please contact the Latvian Embassy or Consulate in your country, or theLatvian Institute:Latvijas institūts, Kaļķu iela 7, Rīga, LV 1050, Latvia.Phone: (+371) 6750-3663Fax: (+371) 6750-3669E-mail: info@li.lvInternet:,