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Ethnic culture
In 2003, the traditions and symbolism of the song festivals of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) were attributed the status of masterpiece to be inscribed on the UNESCO Non-material Heritage List.
At the end of the 18th century, the Baltic States suffered similar historic developments and they were all annexed by the Russian Empire and therefore already in the 19th century the ethnic culture and folk songs in particular became a significant expression of the national identity that encouraged the ideas of breaking away from Russia and creating independent states. The process of the restitution of the independence of the Baltic States in 1990 is often called a “singing revolution”.
The tradition of song festivals came to the Baltic States from the Western Europe via Scandinavia. Firstly it came to Estonia and Latvia, and then to Lithuania. The song festivals found a highly acceptable medium in those countries, as the folk song and other folk culture traditions were actively fostered. The traditions and the national self-awareness of people helped this unique valuable cultural phenomenon that has no equal in the world to become rooted in the Baltic States.
Lithuanians gathered in the first national Day of Songs in 1924. In the interwar period, the national Song Festivals were held every second year, while the festivals in the regions and settlements were organised every year. Even in the soviet times the Song Festivals continued with folk songs and patriotic songs included into the repertoires. As soon as the repertoire of a song festival is approved, the preparations in the regions start, i.e. the local song festivals are held. Only the best folk groups are invited to the Song Festival in the capital.
Two types of song festivals take place in Lithuania: the song festivals for adults, including youth folk groups with the adult repertoire, and song festivals for schoolchildren. The preparation for the schoolchildren song festivals is kind of a school teaching the young to love folk songs and to sing them. Schoolchildren song festival represents a youthful although somewhat reduced replica of the Song Festivals. Lithuanian emigrants as well as their posterity who cherish Lithuanian culture have also been celebrating the Song Festivals for many years in many countries, such as USA, Canada, and Australia.
The modern Song Festivals consist of three parts: the Day of Dance, the Afternoon of ethnographic and folk music groups, and the Day of Songs, which is the most spectacular of all. The Song Festivals are held every four years and occasionally they are contemporized with some events of national importance. The festivals embrace more than 30,000 performers, including over 400 choirs. The last, the sixteenth Song Festival was held in 2003; the sixth Schoolchildren Song Festival was held in 2005.
After Lithuania regained independence, the geography of the Festival expanded: Lithuanians from 10 to 15 countries come and take part at the Song Festival. Therefore the festival was renamed to the World Lithuanian Song Festival.

Visit Lithuania invites you to join 

Exclusive World Lithuanian Song Festival Tour “Here is My Home”

 90th Anniversary Celebration



Lithuanian Song Celebration is an overall national cultural phenomenon and a continual purposeful creative process spiritually equal to ancient Greek Olympic Games.

It’s tradition praises individual’s creative self-expression, vitality of the national culture, love for the homeland and solidarity of its people.

See it!


11174 BIGCross-making, a unique branch of Lithuanian folk art, was inscribed on the UNESCO Non-material and Verbal Heritage Masterpiece List in 2001.
Traditional Lithuanian crosses represent original structures that combine the elements of architecture, sculpture, blacksmith art, and sometimes even primitive painting. Vegetative ornaments, the motives of the sun or the bird – the tree of life – which extend to the archaic times and represent the approach of the sacral space, are often apparent on the crosses. To plead for grace or to express gratitude, the crosses are built as memorials to the dead or as the signs of spiritual protection at certain places.
Even when building crosses was prohibited or restricted by the occupants, the Russian Empire (the second half of the 20th century) and the Soviet Union (in the 1940s through 1990s), they were being tenaciously erected all over Lithuania. Due to that reason, as early as the end of the 19th century those monuments of various forms became one of the expression forms of the national identity and along with the religious and conventional implication they also gained the status of a national symbol.
Particularly many crosses could be found near the roads and homesteads of Žemaitija, Aukštaitija, and Dzūkija. Some of them were slim and slender with decorating carvings that seemed like wooden laces; others had a thick trunk with numerous entwined figures that looked rather like sculptures than crosses. Lithuania Minor or the settlements on the coast of the Lagoon feature different types of crosses. Specific old wooden crosses of the Curonians, the grave-boards, display vivid natural motives, such as birds and plants. The crosses at the Evangelic cemeteries of that period are rich in metal ornaments. The Museum of Blacksmith Art in Klaipeda houses magnificent examples representing traditional metal-work motives.
The most prominent artist of Lithuanian cross-making was Vincas Svirskis, who was carving crosses in the second half of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century. His crosses twined with multiple figures of saints closely resemble Lithuanian sculptural baroque compositions. Some of his crosses are particularly distinctive, as the figures twine around the trunk of the cross, mount up to the cross-member and the top rather than being placed on the façade only. This is an indisputable example of wooden architecture of the monumental sculptural plastic. Interestingly, Vincas Svirskis used to make his crosses from a solid tree chunk with the roots looking up. Lithuanian museums keep nearly 50 works of this talented cross-maker, including 14 pieces at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vilnius.
The Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai, a unique historic place in the world, where the crosses have been discontinuously put up to plead for grace or to express gratitude almost since the beginning of the 20th century, is probably the only place of its kind in the world. Currently, it is known to hold more than 20,000 crosses, including both works of folk artists and simple wooden crosses. A cross made by a Lithuanian cross-maker during the visit of the Pope John Paul II to Lithuania in 1993 can also be found on the hill.
In the past as well as nowadays, cross-making has been a tradition of folk art that has always been communicated in a verbal form or through live examples only. It has never been taught. Crosses and figures of saints have always been carved by amateur folk artists involved in carving as a subordinate activity. In the second half of the 18th through the 19th century, the wood-carvers made artistic sculptures of the saints and ornamented the pulpits or the church pews, the numerous examples of which can be found in the churches of small towns. Such compilations of saints can be found at Utena Local Lore Museum, Telšiai Alka Museum, and many others.

300px Lurid borschtEast Aukštaitija is the north-east region of Lithuania. In Culinary Heritage project East Aukstaitija is represented by Utena county and Švenčionys district.

Lithuania is situated on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and covers the area of 65.3 thou. sq. km. The country is in the very center of Europe: as determined by the National Geographical Institute of France in 1989, the geographical center of Europe lies 24 km north of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

Utena is the capital of East Aukštaitija and the centre of Utena County.

Visit us in summer time – enjoy the untouched beauty of nature – not yet discovered by tourists.

Escape from the noise and pollution of metropolis to peacefull idylic countryside – wake up to the sound of cows or chicken… Start your day by a delightful swim in a lake – stay in a secluded cottage by a forest and a lake.

And – what’s important – it’s dirt cheap! Choose yourself, we have a lot to offer – for all tastes:

Clean water
Untouched nature
Secluded places for romantic holidays
Lithuanian traditional *sport*: mushroom gathering
Traditional dishes of East Aukštaitija

Lithuanians have always liked to eat good, tasty and filling foods. There is even a saying: *he who eats well, works well*. East Aukštaitija cuisine is known for its simplicity; it is the product itself which gives the dish its flavor, followed by various additional ingredients and seasonings.

Rye bread is one of the oldest and most fundamental food products in East Aukštaitija, eaten every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Two kinds of bread are traditional - plain fermented and scalded. Plain fermented bread has been baked from earliest times, while scalded bread has only been baked since the beginning of the 20th century.

Potatoes are considered second bread and are eaten throughout the year. The most popular potato dishes are "zeppelins" (cepelinai), potato sausages (vedarai), potato pancakes.

Milk products have been popular since ancient times. The most popular is a so called "Lithuanian cheese", fresh or dried, that can be sour, sweet or flavored with caraway seeds.

The most widely used meat has always been pork - fresh, brined or smoked. A great variety of smoked sausages are very popular. Beef, veal, wild boar, venison, elk-meat, hare-meat and fowl meet are also popular.

The oldest traditional drinks are mead (produced using natural honey) and beer. Apple and berry wine is also well-liked.

East Aukštaitija is known for various pancakes.

Come and enjoy the East Aukštaitija traditional food.

Traditional clothing from Žemaitija is often described by comparing it with the clothing of Aukštaitija and by seeing in it a certain stylistic opposition. The clothing's deep colors, dominated by the color red, and the outfit's massiveness lends credence to this idea.

The long linen shirts that women of Žemaitija wore were cut similarly to those of Aukštaitija. Red decorations were sometimes woven into the lower sleeves, cuffs, narrow collars, shirt's fasteners, sometimes - into the sholder tabs. Decorative patterns from Žemaitija were geometric. They were of a delicate, rather simple structure often covering a given area like a web or a small group of stripes.

Fancy skirts in Žemaitija were cut wide and densely gathered. The pleats made women's figures stouter which, in terms of the village aesthetic, was considered very desirable. Nineteenth century women in Žemaitija were not satisfied with only two skirts, they would often wear even more. Outer skirts were usually patterned with vertical stripes. The stripes were laid out in a distinctive pattern which was unique in Lithuania. Especially colorful skirts were worn in northern Žemaitija. They were woven with red, green, yellow, violet, dark red, white, and black stripes, although red was usually the dominant color. In southern Žemaitija, skirts were usually darker and not as bright in color. Women of Žemaitija had few plaid skirts. The plaids they did wear usually contained red, green, violet, and black.

Specially woven underskirts had horizontal stripes. Brightly colored wool was usually just woven onto the bottom where it would be seen only when the skirts were tucked in. During the second half of the nineteenth century, white and colored embroidery methods, previously unknown in villages, became widespread among women. With the advent of this technique, embroidered underskirts began to appear. In northern Žemaitija, they took the form of red wool with colored garlands of flowers embroidered on the bottom. However, white linen or cotton underskirts sewn with a white work embroidery (or broderie anglaise) technique were more widespread.

Aprons for special occasions were wide, gathered at the waist and shorter than the skirt by only a handbreath. The oldest style of aprons in Žemaitija was widely worn until the mid-nineteenth century and often later. These aprons were made of white linen with lengthwise woven stripes of red linen or cotton threads. The stripes were of varying widths and configurations. They could be either smooth or zigzag, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, apron styles began to change. In the north, darker rep weave cotton aprons became popular; there was no white base left in them. Smooth or zigzag bands were woven in predominantly red withblue, green, yellow and white. However in southern Žemaitija, red pick-up ornaments (zigzags, clovers and such) replaced the striped red bands of white aprons. Later, the colors of the aprons changed although the patterns remained relatively unchanged. their color was changed. Bright colored wool decorations were woven into greenish or brownish cotton material.

Bodices worn by most women in Žemaitija were very different from those found elsewhere in Lithuania. They had shortened waists, sewn under the breasts. Its laps were first gathered, later - pleated. They were rather short, reaching only the waist. In Žemaitija, it appears that greater proportions of bodices were made from homemade cloth. They were made of wool or half-wool, with horizontal stripes or plaids, woven with finer patterns, and therefore appeared to be duller and darker in color than the skirts.

More prosperous women in Žemaitija wore leather shoes with laces. Those who could not afford shoes wore clogs or soleless leather shoes. Women's clogs worn on special occasions were sometimes very fancy. They had carved or painted designs including geometric shapes, flowers, birds, and such. Socks were generally worn with shoes. These were made of linen in the summer and of wool in the winter. The woolen socks had small colored stripes, geometrical shapes or plant patterns knit in.

The most popular headwear for young women in Žemaitija were crowns (Lith. rangės) made from silk ribbons pleated in several different ways. Galloons were worn less often.

The bonnets of women in nineteenth century Žemaitija were sewn from white or colored cotton, silk or wool cloth. Traditionally, the front edge of the bonnet was decorated because that part could be seen when a scarf was drapedover it. The fanciest bonnets in Žemaitija were sewn out of a delicate, white cotton with the bands at ear-level. They were usually heavily decorated with white work embroidery.

Wimples at this time were no longer being worn in Žemaitija. They were replaced with rather large, square scarves folded diagonally. The method used to tie on these scarves was still remeniscent of that used for a long wimple. Married women tied on their scarves with a knot at the back of the head, which was similar to the method employed with a wimple. This is also how scarves were tied-on in other regions of Lithuania where they had replaced the wimple. Women in Žemaitija did have one method of tying-on the scarf that was unique in Lithuania. They tied them by crossing the ends at the back of the head and bringing them forward to tie them over the forehead. If the scarf was trimmed with woolen tassles, they would then be beautifully displayed on the top of the head. Over this scarf a woman could, especially in cold weather, also drape on an additional scarf and tie its corners under the chin.

Most scarves in Žemaitija were made of linen or cotton and were patterned with a red and white plaid. Some were predominantly red, and others white. In addition to homemade cloth, women also wore prefabricated scarves of various sizes made of thin wool or silk. In the second half of the nineteenth century, scarves of thin white cotton heavily decorated with white work embroidery (broderie anglaise) became popular in Žemaitija. These were tied under the chin, and from a stylistic standpoint, resembled later more urban fashions. Both married women and girls wore this style of scarves.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the women's costume was the wearing of many shawls and scarves at the same time. In addition to the scarves worn on the head, there could also be one wrapped around the neck and yet another larger one, - covering the shoulders. The majority of these scarves were red plaid. Keeping in mind that skirts and aprons in this region also had contained many red threads, it is not surprising that nineteenth century clothing of Žemaitija is often described as "red."

The large shawls worn on the shoulders deserve special attention. In terms of fabric, they were of two varieties: linen (or cotton) and wool. In old times, both were oblong in shape. Oblong linen stoles still existed in southern Žemaitija in the mid-nineteenth century. They were white, woven in tabby or damask with fine red striped patterns on the ends. The linen stole was a married woman's shawl, it was considered to have protective magical power in the old religion; unmarried girls never wore it. Later, the linen stole was replaced, first in northern Žemaitija, with white and red checked square shawls folded in a triangle.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, oblong wool shawls were worn in northern and western Žemaitija and, it appears, in earlier times everywhere in Lithuania. The Žemaitija shawls had bands of dark blue, brown, red, white, yellow and green. Later, these were replaced by square wool or half-wool checkered shawls folded corner to corner. These were decorated with rather bright colors among which, again, red was the dominant color.

In cold weather, women in Žemaitija wore matted woolen caftans (sermėga) and shorter coats which, like their bodices, were sewn with high waists. They were decorated with embroidery and fur.

Women in Žemaitija wore one to three rows of necklaces. They were often made of amber, which seems to have been more popular in this region than elsewhere in Lithuania. Necklaces of coral or colored glass were also worn.

Men in Žemaitija wore caftans (sermėga) sewn from homemade matted woolen cloth. They could be either the color of natural wool (gray or brown) or dyed dark green or black. Caftans were gathered at the waist. A later, and more elegant, version was a caftan gathered or pleated only at the back. Caftans were sometimes embellished with decorative threads and black edges. However, in Žemaitija, this kind of decoration on men's clothing was abandoned relatively early.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, men's caftans in Žemaitija were gradually replaced with a coat (surdutas), cut of whose pattern resembled urban clothing. However, these coats were still made of the same homemade matted woolen cloth. Old-fashioned caftans were buttoned to the neck, however the surdutas had lapels and was partially open at the chest. In Žemaitija, villagers, as well as gentlemen, began wearing vests usually sewn from brightly checkered or striped homemade cloth, underneath their coats.

Long trousers in Žemaitija were not particularly wide and were sewn from the same cloth as were the caftans. In the second half of the nineteenth century, sometimes pants were also sewn from brightly colored plaid cloth.

Men's shirts were almost never decorated with woven or embroidered ornaments. If they were decorated, the decoration was usually only on just the very end of the cuffs and on the collar, because these were the only parts of the shirts that could be seen under a caftan. Later, when men began wearing coats, shirts became somewhat showier. Sometimes, the front and the collar were sewn separately from white cotton and attached to the linen shirt. Decorated with fine pleats and threads, such a shirt front resembled that of a gentleman.

Men in Žemaitija wore high boots. Less prosperous men sometimes wore simple shoes such as naginės or clogs both for special occasions as well as for work.

People in nineteenth century Žemaitija did not wear sashes. Men wore leather belts which, in accordance with ancient tradition, were still decorated with metal rivets and plates. In addition, sometimes men in Žemaitija tied caftans with red and white checkered linen or cotton scarves

Men usually wore neckerchiefs around their necks. These were small and made of beautiful, delicate material which was either home made or bought. Men in Žemaitija wore bright kerchiefs which were, in essence, the same as those worn by the women. Those woven at home were red and white checkered. Purchased kerchiefs were made of thin wool, cashemire or silk and were colorfully decorated with plant motifs or eastern designs.

A man's fancy dress was topped with a hat. It was made of felt and usually dark in color. Its crown was a cylinderied or hemispheried and had a straight brim. Men in Žemaitija decorated their hats and valued peacock feathers most highly as decorations. The feathers of roosters and other birds were not considered to be as desirable. Sometimes flowers were also pinned to the hats. Occasionally, red-checkered bands were tied over the hats' crowns, under which more feathers or flowers could be tucked.



Žemaitija woman.

zemait mot1

Girl with rangė. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Woman with shawl. The 19th century.


Žemaitija woman. The 19th century.


Woman with stole. Southern Žemaitija. The 19th century.


Man with sermėga. Northwest Žemaitija. Mid -19th century.


Man with coat. 2nd half of the 19th century.


By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė

Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė


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.


By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė

Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė

Suvalkija was the last ethnographic region to form in Lithuania. During wars with the Order of the Cross, this land practically became a wasteland. In order to resettle the land, many newcomers moved there from the other side of the Nemunas River. They brought with them fashions from their lands. Clothing in Suvalkija (especially that of women) retained characteristics typical of newcomers from Aukštaitija (Kapsai) and Žemaitija (Zanavykai).

The latest surviving women’s shirts in Suvalkija date from the second half of the nineteenth century. They are usually sewn with white cut-work embroidery (broderie anglaise). There are also examples sewn with red and black cross-stitches. Shirts here are distinguishable from those of other regions by their wider, beautifully gathered sleeves and by the decorations’ outstanding precision.

Wide, gathered skirts in Suvalkija were vertically striped. They were dominated by one main color that was usually dark and rich (dark red, blue, violet, or green). Symmetrically grouped narrow multicolored stripes separated wide areas of the main color. Underskirts were finely striped, solid in color, or white and sewn with white work embroidery.

Aprons in Suvalkija were extraordinarily fancy. Aprons of the Kapsai and Zanavykai types differed. The kapsai type laid out stripes and other ornamentation horizontally on the apron, while the zanavykai type’s ornamentation was vertical. The oldest examples of these are sewn from white linen cloth and decorated with red patterns. As early as in the late eighteenth century, among these red patterns appeared new plant motifs alongside the old geometric ones. Colorful overlayed aprons replaced the white ones. On a dark background, multicolored lilies, stars, and other patterns were overlayed with wool threads.

Older bodices in Suvalkija were of the same cut as those of Dzūkija. Around the mid-nineteenth century, bodices of the Kapsai and Zanavykai types were already cut differentialy. Both types sewed fancy bodices from expensive store bought cloth: brocade, silk, wool, and damask. The Zanavykai type wore bodices had short laps, while the Kapsai type had long and flared bodices.

Women in Suvalkija wore pick-up patterned sashes which, like everything in this land, were woven especially precisely. They were distinguished by very plentiful tassels, into which were woven not only threads, but also decorative scraps of cloth. Suvalkija women wore leather shoes and sometimes woodensoles with leather uppers.

Kapsai girls decorated their heads with tall, golden galloons. The tops of these galloons were sometimes also overlayed with flowers or brightly dyed feathers. Zanavykai girls wore narrow galloons or narrow sashes made of beads. Married women’s headdresses were similar to those of Dzūkija. They also wore various bonnets with white linen or cotton scarf tied in a knot at the back of the head. Women covered their shoulders with stoles, which in Suvalkija were woven with especially beautiful, fine, polythreaded, complex and small patterns. Necklaces of chopped coral pieces were the favorite neck ornaments in this region.

In times of cold weather, women wore caftans made of undyed matted woolen cloth decorated with velvet and artificial fur. They also wore large checkered woolen scarves on their shoulders.

Men in Suvalkija wore caftans pleated at the back. These caftans sewn from somewhat light gray or even white matted woolen cloth. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the coats gradually replaced caftans. As elsewhere, men in Suvalkija wore long trousers similar in color to caftans. Tunic style shirts were sewn from white linen cloth and were sometimes modestly decorated with pleats or white embroidery. Men wore decorative pick-up patterned sashes around their waists. They also wore high boots and hats with straight brims that were decorated with feathers and flowers.

At the turn of the century, traditional folk clothing began to change rapidly. It began to more resemble urban fashions, though differences between ethnographic regions were still noticeable for some time. Women began wearing skirts of one dominant color, which were cut wider at the bottom and were progressively less gathered. Shirts became underclothing. Various jackets, usually of one dark color, were worn over them. Aprons were a part of this outfit for some time, but gradually they too were abandoned. The differences in how girls and women wore their headdresses disappeared; both began wearing their scarves knotted under the chin.

Men’s clothing changed even more rapidly. In the beginning of the twentieth century, young men everywhere already wore urban fashioned clothing.


Kapsai woman’s costume. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Zanavykai girl’s costume. Mid -19th century.


Costume of Kapsai girl with galloon. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Kapsai woman’s costume. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Costume of Kapsai woman with stole. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Man’s costume. Mid -19th century.


By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė

Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė

Dzūkija is a region whose land consists mostly of poor soils and forests. Because of the poor standard of living there, traditional clothing was worn in many parts of Dzūkija longer than anywhere else in Lithuania, even into the first decades of the twentieth century. Fancy dress worn by villagers varies greatly among the different parts of this region. In the eastern part, clothing is closer to that of Aukštaitija, while in the western part, it shares traits with that of Suvalkija. The woven cloth of garments from Dzūkija is distinguished from that of other regions by its bright colors and smaller checkers and stripes.

Earlier women's shirts were sewn and decorated like those in Aukštaitija. They had red woven-in pick-up patterns with a finer texture that was typical of textile decoration in Dzūkija. After the mid-nineteenth century, white work embroidery (broderie anglaise) replaced this older style of decoration. The parts of the shirts that could be seen from under the bodice were embroidered. These included the collar, shoulder tabs, chest and cuffs. Plant patterns, along with this western European embroidery technique, were often changed and reflected the influence of older local geometric ornaments. At the end of the century in Dzūkija it would seem that due to the influence of neighboring Slavic peoples, cross stitches and other similar simple stitches, usually in red and black or white and black, became widespread.

Skirts in Dzūkija were usually patterned with fine checkers. It appears that the oldest color combinations in use there were similar to those in Aukštaitija, red and green combinations were enriched with one or two additional colors. Later, the checkers of skirts become finer and new color combinations of dark red and violet appeared. Women from the Užnemunė region of Dzūkija, neighboring the region of Suvalkija, also wore skirts with vertical stripes whose colors were similar to those with checkers.

Earlier aprons in Dzūkija were made of linen with white and red or white and blue colored checkers. In the eastern region, bordering Aukštaitija, women wore aprons that were the same as those of women in Aukštaitija women; they were white and decorated with small red stripes at the bottom. In the second half of the nineteenth century, darker aprons, usually finely checkered or striped in red, blue or brown hues came into fashion. These were decorated with horizontally woven stripes of brightly colored wool, and sometimes with finely textured overlayed patterns on the lower edges.

In the nineteenth century, women in Dzūkija sewed their bodices for special occasions from purchased cloth (usually silk or wool). Their favorite colors were dark red, green, blue and black. Most typical bodices were sewn with four gradually widening laps, which did not meet in the front. The small space on the waist was left especially for a sash, which remained an important part of clothing in Dzūkija for a long time. Women wore sashes, woven in pick-up paterns, and sometimes more modern overlayed ones. Their geometric ornaments, which were of ancient origin, were usually red, green, blue, or violet in color.

As in other ethnographic regions, the most valued women's footwear in Dzūkija was leather shoes. However, fewer people here were able to afford them. Leather soleless shoes (naginės) were also less common than elsewhere. Bast shoes (vyžos) were worn more commonly. Women also wore very unique shoes, the čempės, which were crocheted from thick tow threads decorated with knitting of colored thread.

Girls in Dzūkija decorated their heads with crowns and galloons made of ribbons, sashes, and various refinements.

Married women wore bonnets, which in Dzūkija were especially varied. They were sewn from linen-netted lace, white or colored cotton, wool and silk. Their front edges were usually decorated with embroidery, various pleated ribbons, laces, beads, and additional shiny ornaments. The decorated side could be seen from under a scarf, which women draped over a bonnet and tied in a knot at the back of the head (and at the end of the nineteenth century, under the chin). Later, bonnets were crocheted from white cotton threads, and in some areas - from colorful wool threads.

Married women wore white linen stoles whose ends were decorated with red or blue woven stripes and bobbin laces. Early scarves draped over the shoulders were large and oblong in shape. Much like the linen stoles, they were woven with checkers of two colors. Later, women in Dzūkija began wearing square shawls folded diagonally.

In Dzūkija, women's caftans (sermėga) were sewn like in Aukštaitija. They widened at the bottom and were decorated with black velvet or other dark cloth trim and decorative thread.

Women here liked coral necklaces. The necklaces were very delicate, and consisted of many strands (up to twenty). The skarinys was a beautiful accessory worn by women in Dzūkija. It was the end of a white linen cloth with long laces, nettled from the end of the warp. Women wrapped small objects they carried with them into this decorative cloth.

Men in Dzūkija wore caftans (sermėga) of undyed grey matted woolen cloth. These widened toward the bottom and were decorated with dark trim as well as decorative threads. Long pants were made of the same cloth, from finely checkered grey, brown or dark wool, or of a half-woolen cloth. Due perhaps to the influence of neighboring peoples, men's shirts in the second half of the nineteenth century in Dzūkija were rather densely decorated with white or colored embroidery. Sometimes, they were even sewn with a fastener on the side which was characteristic of Slavic clothing.

Men in Dzūkija wore decorative pick-up patterned sashes. Their footwear consisted typically of high or short boots, while the less wealthy wore naginės and vyžos. They also wore "magierka" shape hats as well as other hats, decorated with feathers or flowers.




Woman’s costume. District of Kaišiadorys. Mid -19th century.


Woman’s costume. District of Lazdijai. Mid -19th century.


Cloth of skirts. Varėna district, environs of Marcinkonys. End of the 19th century.


Woman’s costume. 2nd half of the 19th century.


Sashes of Dzūkija.


Woman with stole. Environs of Jieznas. Mid -19th century.




Man’s costume. 2nd half of the 19th century.


By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė

Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė

Stylistically, the 19th century costume of Aukštaitija is considered the most archaic. Aukštaitija' women wore long linen shirts. These have retained old, quite primitive shape refereed to as a tunic with shoulders tabs. Shirts had red ornaments. Sleeves were mostly decorative, sewn with either cuffs or left wide open.
Skirts for special occasions were woolen or linen. A linen skirt in Aukštaitija was most often white with a red border. But woolen skirts were considered better, more festive. An authentic woolen skirt from Aukštaitija was most often gathered and four colored. The dominant colors were green and red enriched by adding smaller amounts of yellow and purple. Skirts were wide, long, and gathered at the waist. For special occasions at least two skirts were worn. When walking on the road or working around the kitchen, the outer skirt (the better one) would be lifted up and tucked in. Many of the underskirts were made of a simpler fabric, and only its border showed.
The apron was the most important part of the Lithuanian peasant woman's costume. It was improper to appear in public without one. Aprons in Aukštaitija were made of white linen, featuring decorative red only or red and blue ornamental stripes in a pick-up weave at the bottom. Older aprons were made of a thin good quality material, however they were simply woven, most often using tabby weave weaving techniques; later ones became more ornamental, damask. The pick-up patterns, just like those found in other linen clothes in Aukštaitija, are very old and geometric, found in this region since the Stone Age.
A woman's bodice (corsage) was especially decorative in Aukštaitija. It was made of home-made wool or a wool mix, and woven in detailed striped, curved and clover patterns. Even more common were expensive, professionally manufactured materials such as gold and silver brokate, silk, velvet, damask, wool. Bodice shapes borrowed baroque, rococo and later fashion trends from Western Europe. Some of the bodices featured gold or silver tone borders. In the front bodices had decorative metal plates with loops. Narrow ribbons and metal chains were used for lacing. Gold and silver tone, green and red bodices were most favored in Aukštaitija.
Women's footwear was made by local shoemakers out of home-treated leather. Everyday footwear - such as naginės (leather soleless shoes) and vyžos (bast shoes), were worn for special occasion only by the poor. Shoes required hand-knit linen (for summer) and woolen (for winter) stockings, whereas foot-cloths were sufficent for naginės or vyžos. Better foot-cloths were made of white cloth supported by kneebands (in Lith. apyvaros) - narrowly woven and braided sashes. In the 19th century, it seems, more plaited sashes were used. These patterns were very simple, however, the color combinations were bright and attractive, using the colors of green, red, yellow, and black.
A galloon was a young maiden’s favorite headdress: a heavy, wide ribbon made of metallic thread attached to sturdy silk backing and usually gold-toned, less often silver. Women in Aukštaitija would criss-cross the ends of the galloon and fastened in the back of their heads. A more modest version was a crown made of ribbons, laces, beads, etc. These crowns were quite tall, widening at the top. Wide silk ribbons could be attached to either the crown or the galloon. Some particular shapes were worn only for special occasions. For example, a bridesmaid would wear a kalpokas at a wedding - a crown decorated with fake flowers at the top.
Married women in Aukštaitija wore a wimple, a very old style of headdress, until the end of the 19th century. Wimples woven from the thinnest and brightest white cloth and decorated with narrow red ornaments, finished of with delicate tassels or bobbin laces at the ends. A more modest everyday headdress was the bonnet made from linen netted lace, or white or colored material (at times expensive brokate, for instance).
Bead necklaces were used as neck adornments. Silver bead necklaces unique to Aukštaitija were highly valued. There were also coral and amber necklaces, while red and other colored glass beads were more common among the poor.
In cold weather women wore matted woolen caftan (sermėga), long or short, decorated with black stripes and velvet borders. It was very important to have a wool scarf to wear on the shoulders, sometimes on the head as well. Thin home made linen, silk or wool paisley scarves were worn only on a special occasion.
Men in Aukštaitija wore grey, brown or brownish undyed matted woolen caftans (sermėga). In eastern Aukštaitija they were sewn gathered at the waist, and in western Aukštaitija - with a pleated back or sides. Similar cloth was also used to make long trousers. Shirts for special occasions were sewn in the same way as women's shirts,- like a tunic with shoulders tabs however, they were not quite as decorated, since men's shirts did not really show underneath the caftan. A felt hat was an important part of their costume. One of the most popular styles was the so-called magierka , a hat with a small brim turned upwards. A ribbon with flowers and feathers was tied to the top of the hat. A home made or purchased neckerchief was worn on the neck.

Translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė Edgar



Woman with wimple. Kupiškis district. Mid- 19th century.

Girl with kalpokas. Kupiškis district. 2nd half of the 19th century.

Cloth of wool skirt.

Wrapping styles of foot-cloth.

Patterns of Aukštaitija women’ shirt sleeves. Švencionys district, Mielagenai. 2nd half of the 19th century.

Women with bonnets.

Man’s costume. Eastern Aukštaitija. Mid- 19th century.

Man’s costume. Northwest Aukštaitija. Mid- 19th century.

Woman’s costume. Švenčionys district, Mielagėnai. 2nd half of the 19th century.

Girl’s costume. Pasvalys district. Mid-19th century.

Girl’s costume. Anykščiai district. Mid-19th century.

Woman’s costume. Panevėžys district. Mid-19th century.

Girl with galloon. Utena district. Mid- 19th century.

Girl with crown. Zarasai district. 19th century.


By Teresė Jurkuvienė,translated by Monika Žebriūnaitė-Edgar and Laima Gaigalaitė

Illustrated by Laisvė Ašmonaitienė

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