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The Suiti traditional attire

Female headdresses

Like in many other places, the headdresses worn by maidens were different from the ones worn by married women. Nevertheless, in daily activities the both groups wore the same type of headdresses – small head scarfs that functioned for holding their hair in place.

Sprangu vainags

The main head ornament for young girls in Alsunga at celebrations, especially weddings, was a type of crown – spangu vainags. In ancient periods, spangu vainags was typical only in the areas of Aizpute, Kuldīga and Ventspils. Being an archaeological rarity, it was used by the people as long as until the late 19th century (the period after the 1970’s), when Alsunga had turned its style to the latest type of the local attire that made it stand apart from the attires of other Latvian regions – the red costume-dress.

“The size of spangu vainags is up to the necessity – should it be fixed on the top of the head or elegant, just palm-wide, partly covered by a green or red silk scarf so that just the frontal side above the forehead is showing.” It was made from a finger-wide thin shiny band or plate of metal, stitched with strings to a base of lime bark or in later periods a cardboard strip and padded with a red soft cloth. Along the edges there were tiny bubbles lined, or there could be a third line in between. This type of bubbles was called spangas, of which the term spangu vainags was coined. The plate was mostly from brass, while there are some mentions of silver and golden crowns, too.

Earlier, according to folksongs, besides to the spangu vainags there existed also zīļu vainags (acorn thread) and žubura vainags (branch thread). The zīļu vainags in the areas of Aizpute and Kuldīga consisted of three-finger-wide bark plate finished with a bright red woollen cloth, softly padded and decorated with acorns and pure white and partly green and dark-coloured so called salmiņi (straws) – pieces of tiny glass pipes.

Moreover, where matching, it was complemented with round acorns.

Linkainis

The Suiti brides used to cover their wreath with a special bride’s headdress – linkainis, which was specially made for each wedding. “To make a linkainis, take a simple white cloth of linen or cotton – Silesian textile – of simple width and 8 feet or 2,5 metres long. In earlier times, engaged maidens would turn to expert ladies in their civil parish, who were skilled to make this head ornament properly neat and accurate.

Pin up one end of the cloth as a headdress, forming the typical horn at the right side of a band covering the chin. Fasten and decorate everything by multiple tiny bright brooches. The other end, slightly pinned up, is hanging freely from the back of the head all the way down to the mid part of the back. Under the linkainis there lies a hidden the bride’s feature – a shiny spangu vainags that is taken off together with the headdress during the ceremony of mičošana (capping). The linkainis is later dismantled so that the cloth could be used for other needs. Regarding the wreath, the new wife puts it onto the head of other kin maiden, for example, sister or sister-in-law…”

Linkainis is a very ancient head ornament, the evidence of which lies in the denomination itself, where the outdated form linkti – that means to fold – has conserved. Respectively, linkainis means a snaky piece of cloth, arranged by folding, neither sewn, nor cut. The word may be derived from linte, which primarily meant a thin band of linen cloth that is a good description of linkainis as such.

Headdresses of married women

In daily life, married women simply wrapped some headscarves around their heads, which is not the case for celebrations, when wives put several headdresses on top of each other. The style of headdress changed according to the fashion trends. One type of headdress replaced the previous one, while the custom to put 3-4 headdresses on top of each other remained until the late 19th century.

Lupats or sviedrauts

In the ceremony of mičošana, when taking off linkainis and wreath, they were replaced with lupats (rag) or sviedrauts (sweat cloth), which were worn by married women.

Lupats is a piece of cloth of 65 x 95 cm decorated by crocheted or bobbin laces along the three edges and partly on the fourth edge with a short decorated folding in the centre – to decorate the forehead – and with a tie on each side. When putting on lupats, the cover ties were fastened at the back of the head, under the cloth.

It was covered by a posh bonnet and a silk scarf with a forehead knot and a fine-wooled headscarf.

Tucker and bonnet

Later, affected by the European fashion trends, lupats was replaced by a hat, called a tucker or bonnet. The Alsunga ladies put one tucker on another: “a tucker from white linen or cotton cloth and the other one from red speckled calico or other fabric of better quality, on the top of it. The top tucker was decorated with tiny flounces along the lower rim under the nape, and, by using its ties; it could be gathered in crimples and fastened under the chin. The flounces were white with multi-coloured speckles of finger-width.”

Over the hats, silk scarves were tied around – zīdene. The ends were tied in knots on the forehead over the hat’s flounces just like in the older set with lupats. When going out, a bigger headdress – a festive headscarf was tied on the top of the aforesaid headdress. Tuckers for wedding celebrations were supposed to be provided by the bridegroom. Instead of flounces it could be decorated, just like lupats. In such cases it was called raksta mice.

Headscarves

When dressing up for celebrations, married women put on posh headscarves of silk or fine-wool, whereas in daily life they wore simple headscarves from cotton or linen.
The headscarf made difference not just in celebrations, but also in daily activities. The festive headscarf symbolized the wealth of the wife, however, on a hot summer day a headscarf protected the head from overheating, and, absorbed by grass scent, it could be put under the head, when lying down for a moment.

When doing collective work with neighbours, clothing attracted more attention than usually. For instance, P. Upenieks writes, on a collective working day Lienotene (meaning the mistress of Lienoti house; in the Suiti area people are named by their house titles) came all dressed-up: “She was togged up, almost as posh as for church-going. A white apron tied around. A white headscarf with tiny flowers on her head. She is inviting the workers to have some afternoon snacks. They have earned it. So much work done!” (“Balandnieki”, page 291).

Kuģenieks

Kuģenieks – an industrially woven headscarf from fine-wool with flower patterns pressed on.

It had fringes, according to Maija Steimane (born in 1932) from Alsunga. “This type of headscarf was not produced here, but imported from abroad, transported by ships. This is where the denomination kuģenieks (meaning “sailor”) comes from.”

Zīdenis

The Suiti heritage is rich in multiple various silk headscarves. The effective looks and luxury of the headscarves demonstrate how eager the Suiti women were to dress up and show off.

Visādais zīdenis

Visādais zīdenis like the other over-scarves, was put on the head only at celebrations. This type of headdress is a jacquard scarf, fabricated in the late 19th century in Russia.

Baznīcas zīdenis

When going to church, women put on white silk headscarf – baznīcas zīdenis that made the outfit festive and accentuated significance of the event.

“The Balandnieki girls loved concord and harmony. Each Saturday night they tried to communicate and agree upon the style they would wear the next day, on Sunday. Should they put on the Suiti skirts or dresses, should they tie dižais mellais or govkuņģis or dižā zīdstrīpa shawls along their armpits? Should they put on zīdene or cēbers on their heads? Should they take dižā drāna with them, or no? All these details had to be discussed so that on the Sunday morning the Baladnieki girls could show up, dressed just like real sisters.”
P. Upenieks. “Balandnieki”. Roga: Madris, 2005, page 58.

Ragu lakati

Silk or fine-woollen scarves were tied above the bonnet. The headscarf was folded into a triangle and put on the head. The ends of the carves were crossed at the nape and tied in a bow on the forehead so that the so called horns were formed.

This is where the title ragu lakats, namely, horn headscarf, comes from.
The ragu lakats was covered with another headscarf, tied under the chin. At celebrations, the fine silk scarves were used also by men, who tied them around the decorated shirt collars.

Cēbers

A headscarf from fine-wool. The headscarves were tied on the head during the cold seasons.

The cēbers varied from checked plain cloth to more luxurious, decorated with silk threads.