Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to footer

Dress of women


Alsung’s women’s shirt, according to its construction, is classified as a tunic-like shirt. The shirt consists of two parts – the upper part and the lower part, which the Suiti themselves call pierētnis or pietriekums. The shirt was worn on a naked body. The women’s shirt was richly decorated with patterned shoulder cuffs and a collar. The collar was usually studded, patterned in mixed colors. The cuffs are unusually long, one and a half wrists, so at least three times longer than in other regions of Latvia. They have a pattern of mixed, brightly colored linen or, more commonly, unbleached linen on a bleached base.

The collar of the shirt as well as the cuffs can be buttoned or attached, so that they can be easily separated and cleaned with special attention when washing the shirt. The shoulder pads are tightly sewn to the shirt garment or made into the shirt garment itself. Shoulders are usually dark in color: black or blue. If the collar is without studs, then it is integral and darkly written, and the cuffs are also made in the fabric of the shirt. The bottom of the shirt extends to the waist and is not visible under the clothing. It can be made of coarser and stronger clothes, but the fabric of the top of the shirt should be as fine as possible. In Alšvanga, glass studs were used much more than in other regions of Latvia. This is an obvious feature of local women’s shirts.

A shirt is not a new item of clothing for the Latvian people. Even today, the common shirt linen fabric, as well as linen fabric in general, are called nātna, in the older form, nātrene from the word nātre (stinging nettle). Nettle fibers are an older fabric raw material than linen. It is interesting that the Latvian word krekls (shirt) was not borrowed from any of the languages of neighboring nations, but is of local origin. Shirts have been found in archaeological excavations as early as the 9th and 10th centuries.

According to Matīss Siliņš, there are two types of Alsunga shirts: raucenis (a ruffled shirt) and rakstītais krekls (a decorated shirt). The characteristic feature of the ruffled shirt is that it is finely pleated, ruffled along the neck, at the shoulders, underarms and along the sleeves. Only cuffs are decorated. Decorated shirt, as little ruffled as possible, with little wrinkles, but in places of wrinkles it is richly decorated. The collar is usually stitched on a blue chevron pattern. Finnish ethnographer A.O. Heikel in his work Volkstrachten in den Ostseeprovinzen und in Setukesien, published in Helsinki in 1909, shows only the decorated shirt as a shirt characteristic to Alšvanga. On the other hand, in the 1997 edition of the Latvian History Museum, Latvian folk costumes. II. Kurzeme it is only mentioned and only the so-called ruffled short is depicted. It is possible that the two shirts belong to different cultural strata, and their degree of preservation varies between periods and in museum repositories. Therefore, the authors of the mentioned publications have honestly used the information that they have known.

Either way, a shirt, both ruffed or decorated, can either be made of one-piece of fabric, or it can consist of the top part and the bottom. The top of the shirt is usually made of a finer fabric, and the bottom is made of a coarser one. This can be explained by the fact that the fine fabrics were expensive, and therefore the visible part of the shirt, i.e. above the waist, was sewn from them, while the invisible part was made from rougher linen fabric. The bottom part of the shirt was sewn in such a way that it could easily be replaced if it gets dirty. In later times, when the wealth of the common people increased, single-piece shirts were sewn from fine linen fabric, especially for brides.

The most common shirt of Alsunga, ruffled shirt, is decorated on the collar and cuffs, and the shoulder part is left unadorned. The region is characterized by peculiar narrow long shirt sleeve cuffs, the oldest examples of which are embroidered on very fine linen with unbleached coarse linen threads in darning, twisted stitch and one-way pull. The end was finished with grommet loops. Bracelets pl. 15.5 cm, length at the bottom 15.5 cm, at the top 23 cm. More recent cuffs for these same shirts are embroidered with brightly colored (pink, purple, green, yellow) woolen threads. For white embroidered cuffs, the entire decorated area is usually occupied by a large branched angular sun motif with one or more stars in the middle of the square. The pattern of the colorful bracelet seems to consist of similar elements, but it is so jumbled that sometimes it is difficult to perceive the composition. We could date these embroideries to the 19th century. In the 1860s and 1870s, when chemical textile dyes or ready-made colored embroidery threads became available in the territory of Latvia, which could be purchased in the newly opened handicraft shops. On the other hand, the articles could be seen in the pages of ornaments published in Europe or in some other publications. Regarding the colorfully embroidered cuffs of Alsunga, their similarity to the Polish material should be mentioned, as identical embroidery on the front of the shirt has been preserved in the collections of the Museum of Textile History in Lodz (Poland). It is difficult to say whether this has anything to do with the Polish origin of the citizens of Alsunga, or maybe it is just a coincidence that occurred at a particular time, when there was an equal opportunity to get new information about handicrafts.

Although the colored cuffs are newer, they were made in parallel with the white embroidered cuffs. M. Siliņš writes: Cuff bracelets are not popular. They are also not as carefully and beautifully made as natna writings. They are the expression of newer national fashion and therefore show traces of haste and superficiality. Because in general, when comparing newer folk creations with older and ancient ones, one gets the impression that the value of the former, younger ones, is much lower in terms of expression, the taste is less adjustable, and there is less sense of art, which is abundantly manifested in older works.

Alsunga shirts are characterized by stand-up collars, and festive shirts have always been decorated. Like the cuffs, the decoration of the collars also changed according to its time in terms of color, material, and execution technique. Of the preserved material, collars embroidered in cross stitch with dark blue woolen threads are considered to be the oldest. However, it must be said that collars decorated in this way are not that old at all, because the cross stitch appeared relatively late in the territory of Latvia, i.e. in the second half of the 17th century. Later (starting from the 70s of the 19th century), probably because various handicraft materials – glass beads, straws, so-called smeldzes – were brought into Latvia, they were sewn on top of the previously decorated collars, which were well preserved. Smeldze also sewed on the fronts of jackets and even along the hems of trousers. Such embroideries went well stylistically.

The shirt was pinned on the chest, just below the collar, with a shirt pin.

Brunči or lindruks (skirt)

Lindruks was a piece of everyday clothing worn by women just above the shirt. It was usually made of wool or half-wool cloth, and only for work purposes it was sometimes made of linen. Alšvanga lindruks in the fabric are monotonous, neither striped nor checkered, just a bit like stripes, short interrupted stripes, herringbones.

Brunči were made from bright red cloth woven in tiny drops; the older brunči were not red, but purple-red in color. Brunči are quite long; they start well above the waist and end a little above the ankles. At the top, they are gathered in tiny folds to get as much plumpness as possible. To make them easier to wear, the upper part is sewn to them. Either woven belts or metal belts are used for tying brunči.

Since the territory of Latvia is located on the outskirts of Europe, the new fashion trends usually arrived here with a certain time lag. However, the inhabitants of Alsunga have been closely connected with European cultural developments. Also, the direct consequences of the war of 1812 in Courland had the most direct impact on the clothing of the Suiti. Thus, the people were very contemporary dressed, as far as their material possibilities, strength of traditions and temperament allowed. The already mentioned raised waist of Alsunga women’s skirts coincides with Empire-style fashion, but the design with straps sewn to the breeches is believed to have more ancient roots in the culture of the Nordic peoples. Also, the oldest forms of brunči of the neighboring Livonians were held together with braces instead of belts.

Today, there different opinions about how old the orange (red) color of the Suiti brunči is. Unfortunately, many material evidences from earlier times have not been preserved, but some interesting facts are known, based on which it is possible to make various assumptions. For example, in A. Specke’s monograph Latvians and Livonia in the 16th century we read the following quote (Laurentius Müller, Septentrionasche Historien … 1595, S. 33-34): … (non-German, i.e. Latvian people) women, even in the harsh winter, have only one piece of blue or red clothing that they wrap around themselves: it is their clothing. Unfortunately, it is not really clear here whether we are talking about shawls or button-down blouses, but it is clear that red color (because we do not know its nuances and the way of dyeing) was known in Latvian territory in the 16th century.

Also, taking into account the colonial policy of Duke Jacob in the second half of the 17th century, it is possible that the color red was already quite common at that time. After the acquisition of the colonies, the duke’s ships brought in a great deal of colored trees from the island of Tobago and from the coast of Gambia, as pernambuco, mahogany; likewise indigo color. There was one indigo dyeing plant each in Emburga and Mežotne. Since the Swedish and Danish colonies were in private hands, they did not bring as many products to their lands as the Courland colonies. In this respect, Tobago and Gambia supplied almost all the Baltic countries with their dyes through the duke’s institutions. This means that the Swedish wholesalers also encouraged their king to invade Courland in 1658. The dyehouses not only painted, but also produced all kinds of paints, both in the form of powder and in the form of oil paint. Dyehouses existed until the beginning of the 18th century, only in a very limited form, and ended in the general confusion of the Second Northern War.

Presumably, the textile dyes made in the mentioned manufactories of the Duchy of Courland were packaged in smaller packages and further sold in various European countries. It is difficult to say whether the common people had so much opportunity to obtain the imported red dye (which was presumably not so cheap) in such quantities that they could dye a larger amount of yarn for making their skirts.

Matīs Siliņš’s observations about the change in the color of the dress of the Alsunga region after 1870 are more reliable, because he himself still had the opportunity to meet and speak with eyewitnesses of the relevant period in the Alšvanga area, which is one of the most conservative in Latvia. The taste for folk jewelry and art was fully respected and maintained here until about 1870, then an era of fatigue began until about 1900, until finally, in a couple of decades, the era of national taste remained somewhat felt only among the older generation. The younger generation had already completely turned to European, factory-industrial fashions. A break in national taste around 1870 happened especially first in terms of the color of clothes. Up to that time, blue or brownish purple was a popular color for clothes, e.g. for women’s skirts, then, as if by chance, a bright red color took its place. In particular, the entire national costume of a woman has suddenly become bright red from the dark color characteristic of the Suiti in the past: red skirt, red jacket (vamzis), red (red-yellow checkered) shawls, a red silk scarf on the head, under which the young woman’s head still shined with a yellow metal crown.

Why has Matīs Silinis been able to name such an exact year in which the color of the Alsunga women’s clothing changed? It is closely related to the arrival of chemical dyes in Latvia in the 1860s and 1870s, when, in parallel with dyeing with vegetable dyes, it was possible to obtain much brighter and more effective red, pink, black, purple, green and other shades with new chemical dyes. It must be said, however, that the oldest Alsunga black and purple dress mentioned by M. Siliņa is not much older than the red-orange dress, because chemical dyes entered Latvia at the same time. The only logical explanation for the fact, that the black and purple dress is older than the red dress can be that the immediate transition to red was hindered by the centuries-old tradition of using the dark blue color in festive clothes, but since the black and dark purple tone is quite close to dark blue, it was psychologically acceptable to the people without objection. It also corresponded to the understanding of fashion at the time, especially for special occasions as women and men wore black or very dark colored clothing. As you can see, Alsunga was no exception. It is interesting that the sewn-on bodice (part of the straps) was woven in the single-layer technique in the late 19th century and in the same colors as the plain skirts – orange, dark purple and blue narrow stripes.

In the 20th century, in the reconstructions of the Alsunga costume, the orange skirts with a black jacket – vamzis are traditionally distinguished, even though the orange skirts can also have the same colored jacket. In the 60s – 70s of the 19th century, the period of active use of chemical textile dyes began throughout Latvia. Brighter striped and checkered blouses, bright (red checkered) shoulder scarves began to be woven in Vidzeme, shater blankets came into fashion, because the yarns could be dyed in a wide variety of colors. Women in Courland, probably wanting to show off more, wove bright colors into their blankets, knitted brightly patterned gloves and socks, the ornaments of which were often seen in needlework publications (ornament books) of the time, and also changed the color of their skirts. According to M. Siliņš, the red color in Alsunga is probably taken over from Nīca: The sample for this color break was undoubtedly obtained from the not-so-distant Curonian Nīca, south of Liepāja, where the color is the same red, only here it is combined with bright folk patterns of different colors , which is lacking in Alšvanga, although there is no shortage of bright patterns in the older dark color expression for shawls, vamži, etc. But the color of the red clothes of Nīca is not very ancient either. Older people still remember, that it came into fashion from the outside, through the influence of some women who came from abroad, but it is obvious that it happened a couple of generations earlier than in Alšvanga, which is why the expression of the color of the clothes has completely managed to grow together with the flavor of the folk tradition. Which did not happen in Alšvanga, because the event was late.

It is obvious that the time of changes in the second half of the 19th century significantly affected the Suiti as well, but the tradition of wearing one color clothing in Alsunga, even if it is of any color, remained until the 20th century.

The seam of the skirt consists of two parts – the upper part and the lower part. The latter reaches unusually high – to about the chest, or the so-called heart hole, where it is then sewn to the top, which is always of a different color, even striped with steep, slender stripes, lies on the shoulders and holds the bottom up. The underside is usually pleated, it is gathered in small folds or bundles (buntota). So that the folds don’t get tangled, then the belt bundles are tied around the waist, earlyer with the so-called sleņģene, which was made of metal, later the woven garter belt. In some cases there was no upper part. Then the skirts were held on the shoulders by metal chains, crossed over the chest.

Vamze (jacket)

From the 19th century until today, an essential part of the preserved Suiti costume is a jacket, which the locals call vamze. In 1931, Matīss Siliņš wrote about the origin of the mentioned jacket: Vamzis, vamze is not an ancient local piece of clothing of the Suiti. The name and its whole essence suggest that it originated from the European Middle Ages in general. Its original meaning is a chest protector for a man of war in the form of armor made of a close-fitting garment. Such a vamzi belonged especially to the usual armor of knights, wearing it under the armor shirt. As the importance of the armor disappeared, the vamzis has remained as a proper piece of clothing.

Jacket of a Suiti woman was short, it covered only the (upper) part of the skirt’s bodice. It was sewn without a collar so that the decorated shirt collar can be seen. The jacket was made of thick woolen fabric and it was believed that the thicker the fabric, the better. In the ethnographic literature, black jackets with red, yellow and green cross-stitch embroidery are considered the oldest jackets known to us. Regarding the placement of the embroidery, Matīss Siliņš adds that the design reminds of military embroidery, even from the not-so-distant past. Here the author has in mind the course of the 1812 Napoleonic army in Courland. Later, these black jackets were also worn with the purple and orange skirts, but were originally thought to have been worn with the black skirt. Because the jackets were decorated, they were worn only on special occasions and therefore they were also preserved well. When glass staw embroidery came into fashion, these same black jackets were decorated with glass straw patterns.

In the last third of the 19th century, until the beginning of the 20th century, jackets and skirts were also sewn from the same color fabric (purple, orange, reddish), the so-called Suiti jacket. Colored industrially produced ribbons were sewn on the places of decoration. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, bright, even flowery jackets sewn from purchased cotton fabric, which were worn in the summer, were also introduced. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, an Alsunga jackets was … sewn from yellow-pink cotton fabric with red and green ribbon decoration and 2 black, machine-stitched zigzag rows, buttoned with 6 buttons.

Villaines, sagšas (shoulder blankets, shawls)

Villaines have been a part of Latvian women’s clothing since ancient times, and even at the end of the 19th century, they performed the role of a coat for women. Often, in ancient burials, a woman was accompanied by up to nine shawls. There is also a distinction between villaines and sagšas, in such a way that the simplest everyday shawls are called villaines, and the ornate fabrics of honor are called sagšas.

The shoulder covers for special occasions also include the industrially produced large silk scarves with a woven flower composition in the middle and along the edges of the scarf. The fact that it was a relatively new and borrowed piece of clothing is also evidenced by language studies: the name kuģenieks registered in Alsunga and Gudenieki is probably derived from the means of transport – a ship. Perhaps this indicates that the article was imported from elsewhere – by ship, by sea. These shawls are also called in a similar way on the island of Kihnu in Estonia.

Although the mentioned shawls were bright, unconventional colors, they went well with the knitted patterned socks of the same colors and suited well the monochrome costume of the women. This once again illustrates the good taste and sense of proportion of the women of this region. Other villaines in the Suiti are also known from history, belonging to different cultural layers.

The undoubtedly oldest shawl is the mēlene – a dark blue shawl with one metal (copper, bronze, brass or even silver) string and same metal leaves (decorated, copper-plated) on the long edge. Its dimensions: 5 feet long and 3 feet wide. It was worn on both shoulders and fastened on the chest with a large brooch, also called silver, which was up to 15 cm in diameter, sometimes even made of silver in earlier times. This shawl was to walk solemnly, not to dance, as the folk song says, for example at wedding ceremonies. Mēlene was usually not worn by itself, but together with a second white decorated shawl, however, so that the edge decorated with metal was not covered. As the wearer moved, the ornate edge metalic leaves made sounds. Not every woman could afford this shawl. It is said that the value of a great brooch was the price of a good horse, but a sliver even with only brass inlays, in the price of a good cow, but with silver inlays in the price of several good horses. This was the jewelry of a rich mother’s daughters.

Mēlenes are very ancient and are often found in archeological excavations. The name of this seģene is associated with its blue color and the plant which was the source of the color in ancient times (isatis tinctoria), before the introduction of indigo. This plant was cultivated in gardens and today is very rare. In addition to the Suiti, mēlene shawls have only been found in Kuldīga and Ventspils area of the country. Only in the archaeological excavations of the latest Iron Age (6th – 13th century) have they also been found in Vidzeme part of Latvia.

The white shawl inseparably goes together with mēlene. In this way, the pattern is doubled. It was made from the finest white wool. Both ends without fringe. It must lie on both shoulders together with the mēlene. Just in front on the chest they are held together at the top corners by a large silver brooch. The Alšvanga area is very different from the rest of Latvia, both in colors and expression. It is more monotonous, it seems even older, than anywhere else: monotonous quadrangular squares are lined with one motif of a dark-colored sun after another, sometimes also called a willow.

In the second half of the 19th century, more mundane black-and-white checkered shawls, which were made at home, were still common. In the 60s and 70s of the 19th century, the variegated shawl, or raibene, was introduced into the clothing of the Suiti women, usually simply called the cloth or, the reddish cloth. It is the newest of all Suiti shawls. These segenes are sewn from a checkered fabric, cut to the size of the respective shoulder blankets, and they do not have a special composition with a pattern closing the edge. When hiring maids, the owner was often asked to include this shawl into the payment. It was used in special occasions, when visiting, and in church.

The large silk shawls, so called kuģenieki, were industrially produced in Europe (France, Scotland) on jacquard looms starting from the 1830s. They spread in Latvia a little later – starting from the 1850s – 60s. Such scarves were produced in sufficient quantity and distributed (sold) throughout Europe. For the common people, it was something special, unseen, so everyone who could, bought these scarves. Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Czechs, Estonians and Latvians bought them.

With the development of the weaving technique and the understanding of the composition, soon after the raibene shawls and the purchased kuģenieks, women also started to weave and wear the large woolen scarves with fringes all around in the reddish color range. They were worn on the shoulders in cold weather, even over fur coats. For this type of shawl, the composition was very simple and laconic. It was usually a plain colored shawl with a distinct colored check in the corners. Its square shape indicates that this scarf represents the newest group of shoulder shawls, because at the end of the 19th century, long-shaped shawls were replaced by angular shawls (popularly known as big shawls) with fringes, all over the territory of Latvia. The shape and design of these large angular shawls were determined by the new fashion and the level of development of weaving techniques. At that time, wide looms had already been invented (they were mostly used by factories or larger workshops), angular scarves were also woven at home on narrow looms (two equal pieces were woven and sewn together in the middle to form a square).

The next level of development of shoulder shawls is characterized by gray cloths – gray large shawls with a pronounced corner composition. It is already a completely new era, when next to this shawl the mantel (coat) is starting to be introduced as an impression of the city. Large colored woolen shawls with fringes and gray large shawls in different variations are characteristic to the entire territory of Latvia in a certain period, i.e. at the end of the 19th century, and therefore these shawls are more related to the level of development of textile production and fashion expressions of the relevant period than to specific Latvian and local characteristics of the traditional clothing (including Alsunga).

Seģenes are also worn in layers, two at a time with one of the long edges sewn together, so that a similar quadrilateral is formed on both sides when widened. Gathered together along the seam, it hangs from the shoulders doubled all around, the edges are fastened together with a brooch in the middle on the chest. This silver of various sizes, even up to half a foot in diameter, and more, in which case the so-called bubble, i. smaller squinted brooch still in the middle, carefully pinched from the excess, on the big brooch’s collar, i.e. brooch pin. If it is missing, as sometimes happens in the last period, the seģene is folded together in a square, in the form of a triangle, and draped around the shoulders, the loose corner is hung on the back, and the two other corners tying together crosswise over the chest backwards.

Saktas (brooches)

In order for the shawls to be more comfortable to wear, they were closed above the chest – fastened with a brooch. The most prestigious here were the so-called big brooches – the three-row brooches, the surface of which was decorated with thimble-shaped bubbles and red glass stones (acorns) arranged in three concentric rows. In addition to three-row brooches, smaller ornate brooches were also used, which had decorations arranged in two or one row and were therefore also called double-row or single-row. These brooches were made of silver or some other metal alloy. The surface was usually gilded or bronzed. There were also more massive brooches without glass beads, but with stronger silver bumps and gilding. Such brooches were made and worn in the 18th century with the oldest set of Suiti women’s clothing known to us, together with a mēlene shawl and a crown.

Brooches were worn always polished, beaten with a bristle brush in soapy foam, pinned to the clothes several at a time, of different sizes. Elsewhere in Latvia, brooches were not considered luxury items like in Alšvanga, they were basically small and were used instead of buttons, which did not exist in ancient times.

The question of whether these large and luxurious brooches (three rows) had survived in sufficient quantity and were worn in Alsunga in the 19th century, remains open, because it is known that the silver ornaments were given to pay the contribution that Napoleon imposed on the Courland Governorate during the war of 1812. It is possible that many Suiti women also had to part with their great family treasures at that time.


As in many other places, Alsunga also had different headdresses for virgins and married wives. During their daily work, virgins and married wives wore the same headdresses – small headscarves, which were meant to contain the hair.

For the daughters of the Suiti, the main and most characteristic head ornament on occasions of honor, especially weddings, was a spangu vainags (crown). In ancient times, such a crown was found only in the area of Aizpute, Kuldīga and Ventspils. It is ancient in the archaeological sense, but in folk usage it was preserved until the end of the 19th century (after the 1870s), when Alsunga had already switched to the last variant of clothing that was different for its region – the red costume dress. The size of the braid’s crown is different, either as much as is needed to keep it pinned on the head, or it can be worn just the width of the palm, placed on the head and tied with a green or red silk scarf, so that only the front edge of the crown is visible above the forehead. It consisted of a shin, a thin metal hoop or plate the width of a finger, which was sewn to the strings on a linden hatch, or, in more recent times, a thick impregnated paper strip, a base, softly lined with red cloth. A row of small bubbles all around the edges, or a third row in the middle. These bubbles are called spangas. The name spangu vainags also comes from them. The plate was usually made of brass, but silver and gold wreaths are also mentioned.

At the wedding, the Suiti bride wore a special bridal headdress over the crown – a linkainis, which was specially prepared for each wedding. A plain white linen or cotton-sleek-canvas cloth of plain width, 8 feet or 2.5 meters in length, is used for the linkainis. In the past, there were special women experts in the parishes, to whom newly engaged couples turned to make this head ornament neat and correct. One end of the garment is pinned in the form of a headdress, with a characteristic horn up the head on the right side and with a clasp under the chin at the nape of the neck. A large number of small, bright brooches were used for the contents of the clips, partly also for decoration. The other end of the garment, also still slightly pinned, hangs loosely from the nape of the neck to halfway down the back. Under the veil, on the bride’s head, the sign of a virgin hides – a shiny crown, both are taken down during the wedding ceremony. The linkainis is later dismantled, the cloth being used for other purposes, but the crown the new wife places on the head of another maiden who is closely related, such as a sister or sister-in-law…

Linkainis is a very old ornament. This is evidenced by the name itself, the root of which is the ancient form linkti, instead of which it is now say to bend. In this way, linkainis means a folded piece of clothing, not sewn or cut. Perhaps this word is derived from linte, which originally denoted a narrow strip of linen cloth, because that’s what linkainis is.

Every day,Suiti married wife wore a headscarf on her head, but showing off her headscarves was not a joke in festive occasions – several headscarves were put on her head at the same time. As fashions changed, the wearing of headgear also changed. One form of headdress replaced another, but the manner of wearing headdresses – putting 3 – 4 headscarves on the head at the same time – remained until the end of the 19th century.

When a bride was married, i.e. when the bride was dressed and the crown was removed from her head, a so-called cloth was put on her head, which is a head ornament for married women. The cloth offered to the bride had to be rejected three times by throwing it on the ground. Only proposed for the fourth time, the bride could keep it on her head. Then the married women immediately stopped around it, taking it in their flock and separating it from the virgins. A cloth is a moderately square piece of cloth with brightly patterned edges. Three sides complete, but the fourth with a short written fold in the middle, for a forehead ornament, and a string in both corners. When putting on the cloth, its corner ties are tied to the back of the head, under the clothes. On top is a silk scarf with a headband, with a knot on the forehead.

Later, under the influence of European fashion, the cloth as a head covering for a married woman was replaced by a hat known as a mice or aube. A Suiti woman would put on two mices at the same time: …a white linen or cotton fabric underneath and a red-spotted cotton or some other, better fabric, on top of it. The upper one is finely curled on the forehead, along the hem, under the nape of the neck, gathered in folds with ribbons and tied at the neck. The curls are white, of various colors, the width of a finger. A silk scarf was sewn over the hats, the ends of which were tied in a knot on the forehead, above the brim of the hat, just like in combination with the oldest cloth. When walking out of the house, a larger scarf of honor was placed over it. It was the groom’s duty to provide a mice for the wedding. It could also have been made also similar to the cloth. In that case, it was called a pattern mice.


In the Alsunga region, there are records of two types of belts: sleņģenes (metallic belts) and woven belts. The sleņģenes were made of polished brass. It consisted of a chain and two plates, that could be fastened to each other. The plates were each the length of a palm and the width of three fingers. They were decorated with ornaments in the form of different types of bubbles, also known as spangas. There could be also an engraving or a glass bead, usually red in color. The chain is of the length required for belting, with a hook that allows you to make it shorter or longer. In addition, there is always an extra piece of chain left to hang neatly down the side.

Sleņģenes are ancient belts. They are often found in archaeological excavations, but only in the area not far away from the Venta river. According to memories, in ancient times, these belts were made not only of brass and bronze, but also of silver and gold. In the 1930s, Matīss Siliņš writes about them: Then, for more than a hundred years, sleņģenes were not made (1830). However, the oldest of them are still kept as a precious memory. This once again confirms that during the time (the second half of the 19th century) when the black, purple and red Suiti costume (costume dress) was made and worn, the sleņģenes were no longer made as a clothing accessory, as they were not needed for the clothing style. As a result, the first reconstructors of the folk clothing put together all the preserved materials from one region, without being interested in the time when what was made and worn, several inaccuracies have been introduced. It is very difficult to eradicate them (including the sleņģenes on the Suiti dress of the second half of the 19th century).

A prievets is a woolen or semi-wool ribbon of various widths – 1/2 finger to 3 or 4 fingers wide and somewhat long, woven in a pattern, used for various clothing purposes. The narrowest ones were used as ties for socks, apron ties, trouser ties, the wider ones, on the other hand, were used as belts. Especially in Alšvanga, the prievets is understood almost exclusively as belts, because narrow ones, unlike the rest of Latvia, were rare here.

The edition of the Latvian History Museum reads: Alsunga is the only district of Courland where woven patterned belts are added to the dress of honor. However, it is unclear at what time they were worn and what outfit they complemented. Matīss Siliņš compares the belt-making traditions of Alsunga with the belts of Krustpils region: … in the motifs of the pattern, there are few differences, only the mood of the colors is different: in Alšvanga, it is slower, more gentle in Krustpils. M. Siliņš also mentions that the belts were made by special experts – belt makers, that is, artisans. They fulfilled the order mainly before the wedding, when it was necessary to fold the dowry and provide gifts for the wedding guests. Belts are mostly reddish or yellow in color.

Such belts were tied in front in one knot and only in recent times has it become customary to place the knot slightly to the left side. The belt had to be so long that the ends would hang down at least to the knees after being tied. Even earlier, the ends of the belt after tying had to be the same length as the length of the skirt.

In the 90s of the 20th century, the specialists of the Latvian History Museum describe more the composition of belt patterns and the color scheme preserved in Alsunga, but do not indicate when the belts were made and worn. In the collection of folk art objects left by Marija Grīnberga (1881 – 1973) in the Riga History and Shipping Museum, there are only 4 fragments of the Suiti type woven belts. They date from the middle of the 19th century. This suggests in favor of the version that woven belts were a necessary practical and decorative part of clothing in earlier times, but without in-depth research this question remains open for now.

Gloves, socks

Knitted patterned gloves and socks have survived in Alsunga to this day both as everyday clothing and as an integral part of weddings, funerals and other celebrations. In honor of the wedding, it is the duty of the newlyweds to distribute gifts, i.e. gifts in a ceremonial way. The same thing happens when the dead are buried. Then, every funeral ceremony is dedicated to gifts, as if from the side of the deceased, as a loving memory of the accompaniment, in honor of the last breath. Even to this day, the choice of glove patterns is determined by the taste of each knitter and also the available information about needlework. The latest creations do not have the various star patterns that were once popular in the Alsunga region. Everyday socks (both half-length and short) are not made for special patterns. However, the traditional folk costume is still worn with white wool socks or striped and patterned socks.

A generally yellowish, dull color tone in a mix of different colors is a sign of older knitwear. Now the color language has become very bright, without softness of expression. In the past, people knew and used their own natural dyes, picked, made or even grown in gardens, but now they have been replaced by chemically produced dyes. In the past, madaras were grown in gardens, mēlenes, from which red and blue colors were obtained.

Compared to other areas of Latvia, gloves and socks in Alšvanga are very brightly colored, with variegated patterns. The long socks remain unlined only a little past the knees. The large-patterned, brightly colored knitted woolen socks do not correspond to the time when monochromatic costumes (black, purple and red) were worn in Alsunga, i.e. the last third of the 19th century. It is closely related to the influx of new information from European needlework publications, the use of chemical dyes (in dyeing bright yellow, red, pink, purple, bright blue and green yarns), as well as the development of an understanding of clothing style. Although the patterned stockings were strikingly bright, they worked well with the solid colored costume dress and, together with the bright checkered shawls, were an important color accent of the outfit. Gloves in Alšvanga were both with fingers and without them. Fingers usually had a finer pattern.


The shoes were made quite deep, black, with brass hole covers and they were tied with black leather laces. The heels are covered with a small iron horseshoe. There were also shoes decorated with brass buckles.