The region of Lithuania Minor is the only area in Lithuania where the majority of people accepted the Lutheran faith. This circumstance, as well as the political and cultural environment differed from the rest of Lithuania, and greatly influenced this ethnographic region’s folk art as well as village clothing.
Old clothing in Klaipėda, as described by writers in the seventeenth to early eighteenth centuries, was very colorful and decorative. However, few examples are left. In the second half of the nineteenth century, village clothing changed dramatically due to the influence of the religious movement. Seeking modesty, people started wearing dark colors and renounced colorful ornamental designs. The darkened clothing of Klaipėda is attractive in its unique elegance and its somewhat inventive transformation of urban fashions.
Women in Klaipėda wore shirts that were cut differently from those in other ethnographic regions. They had raglan style shoulder tabs and were distinguished by decoration unique to this cutting style. Woven in or sewn on red ornaments decorated the shoulder tabs and the top part of the sleeves. Later shirts were sewn with white work embroidery or other methods. Sewing techniques, and to some extent designs, came to Klaipėda through Germany and were usually somewhat different from those elsewhere in Lithuania.
Women’s woolen skirts in the first half of the nineteenth century were striped lengthwise or checkered. Like those of Žemaitija, they were wide and gathered. In the second half of the century, they wove dark skirts, which were usually predominantly black. The skirts had narrow horizontal green, brown, blue, or yellow stripes and were finely pleated.
Klaipėda’s oldest aprons were made of white linen and striped vertically or horizontally (and sometimes both). Their patterns were red geometric or geometricized plant motifs woven in with pick-up and overlay techniques. Later aprons became darker, along with the entire costume. They were woven in predominantly blue or brown tones. Relatively early, in the second half of the nineteenth century, women began wearing aprons sewn from store-bought silk. These were also dark in color: green, brown or blue. Black was the latest color to come into fashion.
Fancy bodices in Klaipėda were sewn from store-bought silk, velvet, or wool. Older examples were cut rather wide and deep in the front and back and they were short, reaching only the waist. The bodices were green or dark blue. Later, black replaced the other colors, and the cut of the bodices changed. They became more closed, with short, flared laps.
Women in Klaipėda wore pick-up patterned sashes. The oldest examples were woven with red or blue patterns on a white background. As the costume became darker, black brownish red and green cotton or linen also began being used for the backgrounds. Among sashes from this region, there are many so called “hundred patterned” ones, i.e. those woven with a frequently changing ornamental motif. The delmonas was a flat little bag sewn from dark cloth that served as a pocket. It was embroidered with colored wool and sometimes with beads, and was tied at the waist with a narrow sash.
Women in Klaipėda wore leather shoes, leather soleless shoes or clogs, whose wide, blunt ends were different from the pointed and turned-up ends of Žemaitija.
Girls in this region wore elaborate hairstyles with braids that were worn in various ways around or on the top of the head. Next to their wreath of braids, they tied velvet or silk ribbons, or woven at home sashes. The bonnets of married women were sewn from linen bobbin lace, or alternately from white cotton, colored silk, wool, or velvet. A three-cornered folded scarf was tied over the bonnet with a knot at the back of the head. Women’s stoles in Klaipėda were especially decorative, with heavily embroidered vertical insets sewn into the middle. The most popular necklaces here were made of amber or glass, that was usually dark blue or reddish-brown. Scarves were worn not only on the head, but also on the shoulders and neck. Dark violet and brown silk scarves with floral patterns were especially favored.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, women wore caftans gathered at the waist. These were sewn from brown, dark blue or white matted woolen cloth and their shoulders and collars were colorfully embroidered or edged with ribbons. In the middle of the century, women began wearing coats decorated with black velvet that were inspired by urban fashions.
Men in Klaipėda wore dark blue or black caftans and linen shirts cut in a tunic style. Unlike men in other ethnographic regions in Lithuania, they wore not only long trousers, but also short knee-high pants. These shorter pants were indicative of a stronger western European influence. Men wore leather or colorfully embroidered belts. They wore high boots with long trousers and short boots and decorated wool socks - with the short pants. Hats with straight brims were decorated with ribbons or sashes tied across the top of the hats.
Woman’s costume. Beginning of the 19th century.
Girl’s costume. End of the 19th - beginning of the 20th century.
Girl’s costume. 1st half of the 19th century.
Woman’s costume. 2nd half of the 19th century.
Woman’s costume. 1st half of the 19th century.
Woman’s costume with stole. 1st half of the 19th century.
ANTHOLOGY OF LITHUANIAN ETHNOCULTURE
By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė
Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė