Friday, July 22, 2011

Costume of the Vilnius Region, Lithuania

Hello all,

Today i am going to talk about the costume and woven ornament of the Vilnius region. Not all sources even recognise such a region, which had me wondering where it came from. After a bit of research, i found out that this is a historical region, being an administrative province which predated the establishment of the independant state of Lithuania in the 20th cent. Here is a good article on the history of this region.

Here is a map showing the Vilnius region, which is sometimes divided between Dzukija and Aukštaitija.

As i said before, some of my sources do not recognise this as a region, and Jurkoviene and Kulikauskiene in particular do not illustrate any costumes that resemble these at all. Tamošaitis writes that because of their proximity to the capitol, and the clothing of townspeople and aristocracy, "Their costumes therefore were characterized by a more ornate appearance in the cut, colors, and patterns than costumes found elsewhere in Lithuania" and "Those of the Vilnius region were easily distinguisable by the exceptionally beautiful patterns, colours, cut, and style of their clothes." In the  south and east of the province especially were large numbers of Poles, Belorussians and others, the various nationalities tended to live each in their own local areas.
Here are a few examples of the Vilnius costume as presented by V Palaimas.

This costume is a favorite of those who took traditional Lithuanian hand weaving for clothes and other textiles and developed it as a national art form in the 20th cent. Here is a set of clothing woven by Anastasia Tamošaitiene and presented to princess Diana of The United Kingdom on the occasion of her wedding. You can clearly see the exceptional care, planning and artistry that went into the weaving of every single piece of this outfit.

For the same reason, this costume is very popular among amateur dance groups and Lithuanian musem exhibits, especially in the Lithuanian Diaspora. Here are some examples.
[These are images i found on the web, if anyone would like me to remove any of these images, or to include information about the origin of, or the people in, these images, please contact me and i will be glad to oblige]

It would be very difficult not to be impressed by the elaborate pattens, tasteful compositions and striking colors of these outfits.

The basic article of dress is the chemise, which has the usual cut for Lithuania, with narrow shoulder bars on top of a single piece, front and back. The bottom half was typically made of coarser material. The festive sleeve is fuller than the daily, and is gathered on top at the seam with the body.

The festive chemise has woven ornament on the shoulder pieces, collar, cuff, front opening, and lower sleeve. Sometimes the ormament is made by hemstitching. On festive chemises, the collar and cuffs sometimes have triangular points or ruched woven ribbon sewn on for added interest.

Here is a graph of the design on the sleeve in the photo immediately above.

The skirt was full, and either woven in a small plaid, as in Dzukija, or with horzontal stripes, sometimes with cats paw or other designs woven in, sometimes over vertical ones, or with horizontal bands of patterned ornament, which are also foud in eastern Aukštaitija. For those of you who weave, i will quote a passage from Tamošaitis [I do not, myself weave, and only vaguely comprehend, lol. This author constantly refers to weaving techniques]
"Twill or satin striped skirts woven from wool on linen were unlike the skirts of any other area. The linen warp was striped and threaded on four shafts in a straight draw. The background of the skirt was of a plain weave, while the stripes were woven in twill or satin with homespun wool. The stripes on the visible side of the cloth appeared raised and distinct; as a result, the skirt did not seem checked, but horizontally striped."

The aprons were elaborately woven with bands of ornament, wider and denser at the bottom, and narrower and sparser towards the top.The same was true of those skirts which had horizontal patterned bands. The aprons were commonly woven from linen, or at least with a light colored background. Red and blue seem to be the commonest colors used overall. Peruse the various images to get an idea of the diversity of designs used. Note also the textures inserted between the ornamental bands.

The sashes are typical for Lithuania, wide, patterned in pick up and other techniques, usually with supplemental weft fringes inserted near the ends.

The bodice was made of handwoven cloth to complement the colors of the skirt and apron. The most common cut has a plaston in a solid color inserted behind the bands in the center front. Sometimes the bodice has a plain straight front closure. Usually it has pentagonally shaped lappets around the waist, but sometimes has a frill with pleats spaced about the same distance as the width of the lappets. See the various images.

The most common headgear in this region for girls is the karuna, made of a hoop of birchbark, and later, cardboard, with pattened ribbon sewn on the inside and outside, one or more rows of trianges sewn on to the top, of the same material or different, and often edged with tatting or crochet. Pattened woven ribbons were attached to the back.

The following three photos show a karuna in various stages of preperation by Vida Rimas.

The headcloth, or wimple, nuometas, is worn in this region as it is in Aukštaitija, but it is smaller in this region, resembling the one worn in Latgalia. It is always heavily ornamented on the ends, and commonly has a frontpiece resembling the karuna sewn on, or a wreath resembling the karuna worn over it. Originally this would have been a seperate piece worn underneath. The nuometa with a frontpiece sewn on, front and back.

The nuometas attached to a karuna. The difference is that the hair is covered.

The nuometas worn with a seperate wreath over it

A schematic showing how the wreath was made, again very similar to the karuna.

Ornament on the ends of one nuometas.

The linen wrap, panuometis was also worn in this region, and also highly ornamented

The costume was completed with necklaces of amber or coral or glass. Footwear consisted of knitted socks, with shoes, moccasins, clogs, or shoes woven of birch or linden bark. Moccasins in this region were also highly ornamented.They also wear slippers looped, knitted or crocheted of linen strings, as in Dzukija.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you have found this interesting and maybe have an inspiration on how to use some of these designs or concepts.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals

Roman K.

Source Material:
AntanaTamošaitis and Anastazija Tamošaitienė, 'Lithuanian National Costume', Toronto, 1979
Vida Kulikauskienė et al, 'Lithuanian National Costume', Vilnius, 1994,
Kati Reeder Meek, 'Reflections from a Flaxen Past, For Love of LIthuanian Weaving', Alpena, Michigan, 2000
Teresė Jurkiuvenė, 'Lithuanian National Costume', Vilnius, 2006
Mikalina Glemžaitė, 'Lietuvių Tautiniai Drabužiai', [Lithuanian National Clothing] Vilnius, 1955
Stasė Bernotienė, 'Lietuvių Liaudies Moterų Drabužiai XVIII a XX pr.' [Lithuanian Women's Folk Clothing from the XVIII to the XX cent], Vilnius, 1974,
Stasė Bernotienė, 'Lietuvių Valstiecių Išeiginės Prijuostės XIX a. - XX a. pradžia' [Lithuanian Aprons of the 19th and 20th cent], Vilnius, 2007
J. Grigienė et al, 'Lietuvių Liaudies Menas - Drabužiai' [Lithuanian Folk Art - Clothing], Vilnius, 1974
Elena Matulionienė, 'Klaipėdos Krašto Tautiniai Drabužiai' [Folk Clothing of the Klaipeda Region], Klaipeda, 2005
V. Palaimas, artist, set of postcards, 'Lithuanian Folk Costume', 1961
R. Paknys, photographer, set of postcards, 'Lietuvių Tautiniai Drabužiai', 1991
Tatyana Razina et al, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union', Leningrad, 1990
Irma šidiškienė, 'Buti LIetuve', Vilnius, 2004


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your research! I am third generation but it might as well be 300 for all I know about Lithuania. Thanks especially for writing in English. : )

  2. I hope you can answer my question. My family is from Vilnius - our history goes back to 1700 and maybe even earlier. But they were Polish. One family came from the city of Wilno (Vilnius today) and the other side of my family had an estate Ejnerance - nearest parish was Piwoszuny (now Pivasiunai). I can't find either Polish or Lithuanian costumes for these areas. Can you tell me which ones would have been used by everyone in the area (regardless of nationality). Thanks!

    1. Hello anonymous, Niech bedzie wszysto dobrze ze szliachem! Folk costumes were not developed everywhere, It depended on the local people's means. If they were too poor, they just wore very basic linen and wool, if too well off, they copied city fashions. Also they were the clothing developed by peasants. Town people who until the last century or so were definitely in the minority, had their own fashions, which are listed in books on the history of fashion. It is true that in Vilnius or Wilno, [The names are not sequential in history, but rather a function of which language you speak] There were many Polish and 'Ruthenian' [Ukrainain and Bielorusian] people. The Polish were mainly city people or memebers of the gentry who had moved east after the union of the Polish and Lithuanian empires. I am sure that there were local pockets of Polish peasants who were transported to work some of the estates, but mostly they relied on local peasantry. I have found little about Polish folk costume from this area, or even from the northeast corner of the present state of Poland. The Lithuanians around the area of Pivasiunai or Piwoszuny, [again the difference simply depends on which language you speak], would have worn typical Dzukija costume, and from Vilnius in the Vilnius costume. However it sounds to me like your family may well have been Szlachta. Do you know if that is the case? The Szlachta dressed in their own manner,
      This article has some illustrations. One significant part of the costume was the elaborately woven sashes which were originally made in Slutsk, but later copied all over.
      This type of costume is worn by Polish dance groups for the Polonez. Similar outfits were worn by the equivalent social classes of the Lithuanians and Ruthenians as well. I will ask a couple of my friends who know about Polish costume if they have any other information on the costume of the Polish population of this region. I hope this helps

  3. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks..Also visit my page premium wordpress theme.

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. I am just starting to dabble in embroidery with Lithuanian folk motifs, and came across your page when searching for images. It's very impressive. Thanks again.

  5. Hello. I am impressed by this website. It is very interesting and provides huge amount of history of national costume in different places. Thank you for your great job.
    I'm not good in english languege, but I would like to give one comment about this topic about Vilnius region. Maybe you will understand. I am from Lithuania and I see, that you used photos and some information about this costiume, that is projected (created) by Tamošaičiai. These authors created their project of costumes and their costiumes are a bit different from tradition. For example, they did ornaments bigger size than tradicional size, used only selected motives of ornaments. Their costiumes are their art.
    I have a doubt about "karūna". I think it is created in soviet era in Lithuania. In 19th century people in Aukštaitija and Dzūkija (including Vilnius) wearer usually "galionai", or "karūnos", but they looked different from that you posted.

  6. where is itp oissible to buy materials for sewing a national costume?

  7. Lithuania invites enthusiastic high net worth individuals who are looking for cross border investment into the country through its Lithuania Business Investment Migration Program

  8. Hello, I would like to ask for your permission to use your materials for educational perpose with schoolage children.

    1. Certainly. I publish this material with the object of its being knownn

  9. Transform your vision into captivating videos with the leading video production companies in India and create a memorable brand with the finest animation company in India

  10. Thank you Roman for sharing this fabulous information. What a treasure.

  11. We Offer A Wide Selection Of Premium Beige Check Shirt, Beige Check Shirt Mens, Mens Beige Check Shirt, Beige Chequered Shirt.

  12. Neptune India exhibits a energy management system and smart energy management systems (EMS) In India to monitor and optimize the performance of the systems.

  13. We Provide The Best Services for Industrial Plug & Socket Panel Mounting, Capacitor, Surface mounting, LT Panels, Electrical Control Panel.

  14. Join us at The English Advantage and breeze through exams effortlessly with our premier online test preparation courses to guarantee success. It’s your path to excellence!

  15. In today's world, where sustainability and efficiency are paramount, industrial facilities in India are increasingly turning to Energy Management Systems (EMS) to revolutionise their operations. These systems are not just the future; they are the present, offering a myriad of benefits that go beyond energy savings. In this article, we will explore how implementing an energy management system in India can be a game-changer for your industrial facility, providing substantial advantages that extend far beyond reduced energy bills.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Distributors and Official Partners for FAAC & TiSO in India offering Automatic Boom Barriers, Boom barrier gate, Automatic boom barrier with rfid, Automatic boom barrier with rfid price, Retractable Flap Barriers, Tripod Turnstiles, RFID and Smart Parking Solutions.

  19. Transform your language abilities with The English Advantage. Cambridge English Certificate for young learners – your pathway to fluency and success!