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The Suiti traditional attire

Traditional male attire

The traditional Suiti male attire has been conserved as archaic as the female one. It was totally traditional until 1880. Although the male costume bears resemblance to the counterpart of the Kuldīga area, it is more extraordinary, archaic and conservative than the other Latvian male attires. The Suiti male costume contains a coat, bruslaks jacket, overcoat, trousers, patterned shirt, belt (woven or metalic sleņģene)), scarf, ratene top hat, socks, gloves and boots, pastalas or vīzes shoes.

Coat (long coat)

Male coat were tailored from thick broadcloth wool, usually grey, just like sheep colour, while there existed also pure white, so called dižsvārki or great coat for special celebrations, for example weddings, when men dressed pure white from top to toe, except for their black hats and boots. Youths wore coats that reached their knees, the place their boots started.

The long coat and audene

The coasts for elderly men went well below their knees. The collar was of just one-finger width, stand-up, decorated with black threads. Decorations were tailored also on the coat chest part, all the way up to the edges, on the pocket edges, always folded sideways, and on the sleeve edges. The coat was wrinkled in slight ruffles (buntis) on the back and between hips, so that the cloth was uncut and had no splits. Buntis were sewn in particular style, making the coat greater-looking.

The more buntis there were and the more lavishly and neatly they were elaborated, the greater, fuller and more typical was the coat. The edges and tops of buntis were decorated with black embroidery. The coat had no buttons. It had kāši, meaning flat clear brass hooks, which were stitched densely on chest to hold the coat. Thus, when wearing the coat it had not only pattern, but also a line of clear plates of metal or even silver. In earlier periods, the coat was worn straight over the shirt, by fitting it with a wide woven belt.

Bruslaks

Bruslaks, the Suiti jackets were worn either under a coat or instead of a coat. They were made from grey wool, shorter than the coat, also creased with buntis and full-looking, though buntis were sewn in lying position not to stand in the way of the coat, when pulling them over the bruslaks. The pleats of the bruslaks were fixed by linen thread on the inside, sewn one on another in several layers along the folding line. The lining of bruslaks was elaborated into the sleeves, the front and the back parts, except for the creased part (see image 295).

The bruslaks were sewn and decorated like the coats, except the chest part had buttons in two denser lines, earlier made big-sized from silver, when possible, nowadays from light nacre.

TThe bruslaks being heavily decorated, when having the coat over, it had to be unbuttoned. In such cases, a belt was a must, best of all a sleņģene from shining metal, girdling the overcoat with hand-sized metal plates over the bruslaks. For children, there were bruslaks made, but overcoats were not.

The Suiti male attire was described by P. Upenieks in early 20th century, speaking of the outfit of Andrējs, a house owner, when welcoming an honourable guest into his house – priest Ozoliņš:
“Today Andrējs looked like he dressed for a Sunday. He was wearing the newest bruslaks with white nacre buttons. His waist was girdled with a magnificent decorated belt. He had newly made pastalas and his socks were light yellow with flower pattern. He was cleanly shaven. The long Suiti haircut was neatly brushed. The hair was parted in the middle of his head.” (“Balandnieki”, page 185)

The bruslaks on the image is the only one that has been found in the Suiti area in a well-preserved state.

Overcoat

The overcoat was a wide-cut outdoor wear, normally from black wool, long, well below the knees, with a wide “wing” collar, which fell down the shoulders. The overcoat was supposed to be worn in bad weather, not for celebrations. If necessary, the wide collar was pulled over the head. Instead of buttons there were tiny hooks used. The overcoat was not decorated.

When putting on the long black overcoat, the Suiti turned from their customary white into black.

Trousers

The summer trousers were made from flaxen, while the cold-weather ones were tailored from grey wool, which always sat tightly on the calves, which was considered attractive. In contrast, along the hips there were creases, the more the better. At celebrations, if they wore the white dižsvārki, they chose white trousers from flaxen, as well.

The trousers had neither buttons, nor hooks, instead they were fixed by cords, ties or the “fastener” – a tape with gathered buntis that could be tied up or released, respectively.

During the Great French Revolution, when short mid-knee trousers were in fashion, such style was popular also in Alšvanga and called ūzas from German word hosen.

Vest

The Suiti men had luxurious vests. Ownership of such vests represented wealth, since not every man could afford wearing a vest under his bruslaks. They were tailored from two types of fabric. The front part was made from more delicate textile and had buttons in two rows. The back side was sewn from common fabric – wool or linen.

To show off, men ornamented their vests with pocket watches. The chain of the watch was hanging down the vest pocket.

Festive shirt

Even though the festive shirts were treated with utter attention, from authentic shirt samples, nowadays in the Suiti area there are only few collars left.

We can judge about the design of the Suiti festive shirt only from the description by M. Siliņš:

“The male shirt was decorated just like the female one. The collar was way wider than the collars of the coat or bruslaks. As a stand-up collar, it shows off its visible decorations, reaching over the decorated collars of the coat or bruslaks. The chest part is rich in decorations all the way down to the waistline. At warm weather the overcoat hangs unhooked or unbuttoned, while demonstrating the lavish ornaments. For the same purpose, the overcoat collar is split. This is also the spot to pin a brooch of acorns or some red acorns on. All the shirt decorations are stitched by women. Every woman should have some ornamented shirts made for her groom in her dowry. In the neck part the shirt is fastened by red or green silk bands, a brooch (earlier), or a same-colour silk scarf is tied as a band around the neck with a knot under the chin.”
M.Siliņš. „Latvju raksti/Ornament Letton”. Vol.1, Riga: Valstspapīru spiestuve [B. g.], page 54.

Ratene (kapūzene)

A ratene is a stand-up top hat with wide brims, tracing back to the fashion of 18th century. Typically, the crown of the ratene is wider than the sweatband.

The hat was tied around with a band grīste, which was a wreathed acorn band – krance. The acorns were rather big, multi-coloured and arranged in horizontal lines. The grīste had a width of the little finger. The endings of the twine were finished by finny plumes handing down the hat brim.


Instead of a grīste, a 2 cm wide silk band could be tied around the hat.

Socks

The socks and gloves in style and patterns did not differ much from the female counterparts. If anything, there were no short socks that women used to wear. When ūzas came in fashion (knee-length short trousers), they matched well with the long socks with long decorated calve part. Women, on their part, tied their calves with sietavas cords or pulled over big ornamented lieleni or mauči.

Male adornments

Sleņģene and leather belts

The male loved putting on not only sleņģenes belts, but also leather belts with decorated metal buckle.