Categories
The Suiti traditional attire

Suiti female shirts

Judging by the design structure, the Suiti female shirt should be classified as a tunic-like shirt with epaulettes – straps sewn on shoulders. The shirt consists of two parts – the upper part and the lower part, respectively pierētne and pietriekums, as the Suiti call them. The upper part of the shirt was tailored from a more delicate fabric, while the lower part – from a rougher one. This is due to the fact that the delicate textiles were costlier, so they were used just for the visible part, that is, above the waistline, while the invisible part was stitched to it from a coarser linen fabric. The lower part was sewn so that it could be easily replaced, when dirty. The female shirt’s collar and cuffs are richly decorated, while the shoulder part is left blank. The tight collar and ornamented cuffs can be buttoned or stitched, so they can be easily removed and cleaned carefully, when washing the shirt.

According to Matīss Siliņš, there are two types of Alsunga shirts: raucenis and rakstīts krekls.Raucenis is typically sewn with tiny ruffles, pleated around the neck part, epaulettes, armpit parts and sleeves. Ornaments were stitched only on the cuffs.” “Rakstīts krekls was pleated as little, as possible, while the pleated parts were ornamented luxuriously.” The collar was normally beaded on blue threads. In his writing “Volkstrachten in den Ostseeprovinzen und in Setukesie”, published in 1909, Helsinki, A. O. Heikel, Finnish ethnographer mentioned only rakstīts krekls, when referring to the Alsunga area. However, in “Latviešu tautastērpi. II. Kurzeme”, published in 1997 by National History Museum of Latvia, only raucenis is mentioned. Possibly, both shirts were associated with separate cultural layers and their state of conservation differs depending on their time periods and museum depositories. So the authors of the publications must have truthfully used the information at their disposition.

“Both shirts, raucenis and rakstīts krekls can be sewn from one piece of fabric or consisting of the upper part and lower part.” The upper part of the shirt was tailored from a more delicate fabric, while the lower part – from a rougher one. This is due to the fact that the delicate textiles were costlier, so they were used just for the visible part, that is, above the waistline, while the invisible part was stitched to it from a coarser linen or flaxwaste fabric. The lower part was sewn so that it could be easily replaced (stitched another one), when dirty. Later, when the common people grew wealthier, especially brides had their shirts made from one piece of delicate linen without pierētnis.

Shirt cuffs

The Suiti most common shirt raucenis has decorated collar and cuffs, while the shoulder part is left blank. The shirt cuffs in Alsunga area are peculiarly elongated and tight, and the most ancient samples were “stitched on very delicate linen with unbleached rough linen threads by satin stitching, twisted stitching and one-way openworks. The ending was closed by laced loops.

The cuff width is 15.5 cm, lower length 15.5 cm, upper length 23 cm.” The more recent cuffs of these shirts are decorated with bright coloured woollen yarn (pink, purple, green, yellow). The whole decorated field of the white stitched cuffs are normally covered with a big pattern style of branched angular sun, which contains one or more stars enclosed within the square. The multi-coloured cuff pattern looks like a mixture of similar elements, such miscellany that it may be hard to define its particular composition, though. These types of embroidery can be traced back to the 1860-70’s, when chemical dyes of textiles or the colourful ready-made stitching threads were introduced into the territory of Latvia, available at newly open handicraft stores. Speaking of the patterns, these were taken from the embroidery ornament sheets or other publications in Europe of such kind. The multi-coloured embroidered cuffs characteristic to Alsunga were similar to the Polish materials, as exact same embroidery of shirt front-part has been preserved in the depositories of Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź (Poland). It is unclear, whether it has something to do with the Polish origins of the local lords of manor in Alsunga, or they have emerged at the same time due to the possibility to acquire new information on handicrafts.

Despite the colourful cuffs being more recent, they were made at the same period of the white-embroidered ones. M. Siliņš wrote: “The multi-coloured embroideries are not that popular. Also, they are less accurate and beautiful than the flaxen patterns. They have the characteristics of the modern folksy fashion and show some signs of hurry and sloppiness. Because generally, when putting together the new folksy products and the older and ancient ones, the former ones look less expressive, show less taste and sense of art that is not the case for the older counterparts, which show abundance of the aforesaid qualities.”

Greznais krādziņš or beaded collars

The Suiti shirts typically have stand-up collars, and the collars of festive shirts are always decorated. Similarly to the cuffs, the ornaments of collars have always adjusted to the time trends in respect to their colours, materials and production techniques. Judging by the remained material, the oldest collars are considered the ones embroidered in cross-stitch by dark blue woollen yarn.

It must be said, collars of the said type of decoration are not particularly ancient, since cross-stitch was introduced in Latvia quite late: in the second half of the 17th century. During the later period (since 1870’s), they were stitched onto the well-saved previously decorated collars, probably due to introduction of various handicraft materials into Latvia – glass beads, straws, so called smeldzes. Smeldzes were stitched also on the front parts of jackets and even along the skirt lower edges. These kinds of embroideries matched well by their style.
The greznais krādziņš is put onto the shirt collar. It is fastened to the collar at the front part with a thin colourful ribbon or linen cord. On the chest part, just below the collar, the shirt was fixed by shirt brooch.

Process of collar making

In order to make a collar, a rough piece of linen is necessary. The pattern is stitched with blue thread, beads (smeldzes) are stitched over and the decoration is filled with multi-coloured threads of woollen yarn.
The work steps: take a long piece of fabric and make a certain type of pattern, by using dark blue woollen yarn in cross-stitch technique. Stitch glass beads smeldzes or salmiņi (straws) over the cross-stitch. Fill the pattern with colourful woollen worsteds, at the same time sticking to the embroidery pattern. Finish the collar edge by edge stitch. The most popular smeldzes used are white nacre, green and red ones.