General description: Wooden doll in traditional Latvian dress
Dimensions 19 x 15 x 9 cm
Date when acquired 2015
Original Date Apparently bought in the 1970s
Source Flea market in Göttingen
The body and head are made of wood. The features are painted on. Her arms are made of white plastic straws with grey leather hands. Her hair is thick and long and is made of white threads drawn back from a middle parting and tied in two plaits at the sides going down to her waist.
She is wearing a linen blouse with a white lace ruff and white lace around the cuffs of the long sleeves. The lower third is woven with a design in red.
Over the blouse is a green felt waistcoat decorated with green zig-zag braid around the edges of the front.
She is wearing a long wide tartan woollen skirt in checks of red, white, black and green. Over the skirt is a thick linen apron woven with stripes and geometric patterns in green and red. The bottom edge is fringed. Under her skirt is a long white cotton petticoat with white lace around the bottom edge.
She has a headdress made of a band of red and yellow woven braid around her head like a crown. It has two long ribbons made of the braid hanging down the back to the hips.
Due to the tartan pattern used on her skirt, it seems that this doll represents a woman from the Vidzeme region as tartan became popular here in the second half of the 19th century. Vidzeme means literally “the Middle Land” and is situated in north-central Latvia. However, tartan skirts are also to be found in the Sēlija region (eastern Latvia).
The crown-like hat is representative of the tower-like headdress of unmarried Latvian women.
General description: Doll in Ancient Latvian Dress (7th – 13th century)
Dimensions 16 x 11 x 8 cm
Date when acquired 2015
Original Date Apparently bought in the 1970s
Source Flea market in Göttingen
The doll’s body and head are made of wood. The features are painted on. She has no arms as such but wooden beads sewn on the end of her sleeves to act like hands. Her hair is white wool drawn back from a central parting and tied in a single thick plait down to her waist.
She is wearing a white long-sleeved cotton blouse over a long, wide, dark brown skirt made of a thick material with a roughened upper surface. Two lines of yellow stitching adorn the hem. A rough plain beige linen sash (josta) is holding her skirt in place. She has a large dark blue rectangular shawl (villaine) over her shoulders, which goes down below her hips. Again the edges are decorated with lines of plain back stitch in yellow and red.
Her bronze jewellery is very unusual. She is wearing a circlet around her head with long pendants hanging down each side. Around her neck is a sort of breastplate with four stiff bronze chains over it. She also has two bronze chokers tight around her neck.
Her bronze jewellery is typical of the Ancient Latvian dress. For at least a thousand years, the head-covering served to signify the wearer’s marital status; this doll’s bronze crown indicates that she is unmarried.
However, the original colours of this style of dress were the natural white and grey of linen with embellishments in blue, red, yellow and green, not the dark colours seen in the skirt and shawl of this doll. The dark colours came after the 13th century.
She is also wearing an essential part of the Latvian national dress, a woollen shawl, which is possibly one of the oldest parts of the costume. The dark blue colour is typical of pre-19th century Latvian costumes.
The Republic of Latvia is one of the three Baltic States. The Latvians speak Latvian, an ancient Indo-European language. Latvia has been at the cross-roads between East and West, North and South since ancient times and as a result Latvia’s population has been multi-ethnic for centuries. However, the demographics shifted dramatically in the 20th century due to the two World Wars. As of March 2011, Latvians and Livonians (about 400 people), the indigenous peoples of Latvia, form about 62.1% of the population, while 26.9% are Russians, 3.3% Belarusians, 2.2% Ukrainians, 2.2% Poles, 1.2% Lithuanians, 0.3% Jews, 0.3% Romani, 0.1% Germans, 0.1% Estonians and 1.3% others. Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant Lutheran, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which is mainly Roman Catholic.
Around 3000 BCE, the proto-Baltic ancestors of the Latvian people settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The Balts established trade routes to Rome and Byzantium, trading local amber for precious metals. By 900 CE, four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: the Curonians, Latgalians, Selonians and the Semigallians, in addition to the Livonians who spoke a Finnic language.
In the 12th century, there were 14 separate lands in the territory of Latvia. Although the local people had had contact with the outside world for centuries, they were more fully integrated into European society in the 12th century when German crusaders were sent by the then pope into the region to convert the pagan population to Christianity by force. In the beginning of the 13th century, large parts of today’s Latvia were ruled by Germans.
The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were a time of great change for the inhabitants of Latvia, including the reformation, the collapse of the Livonian state, and the time when the Latvian territory was divided up among three foreign powers: German, Swedish and Polish. During this time, the ancient tribes of the Couronians, Semigallians, Selonians, Livs and northern Latgallians assimilated to form the Latvian people, speaking one Latvian language. Latvia became part of the Russian empire in 1710. In 1920, Latvia gained its independence; however, in 1939 Latvia was given over to Soviet rule as part of an agreement between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Latvia finally regained its independence in 1991. Despite having foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation has maintained its identity throughout the generations via its language and musical traditions.
Latvian folk dress is characterized two historic periods of specific traditions. First is the “ancient dress” period from 7th to 13th century. The second one dates back to 18th and 19th century and is often referred as the “ethnic” or “ethnographic dress”. The latter costumes are basically the traditional festive outfits of peasants, craftsmen, fishermen and other ordinary folk as worn in the 19th century, approximately up to the 1870s. The Latvians also wore work clothes differing according to the season and weather. Folk dress in Latvia has played and still plays an important symbolic role in the preservation of national values and cultural heritage. Nowadays, traditional folk costumes are worn for festive occasions both at a personal and national level (especially the Latvian song festival). The garments not only display social status but also the origins and traditions of a particular region of Latvia, of which there are five: Augšzeme, Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme and Zemgale.
Ancient Latvian Dress (7th – 13th century)
The Ancient dress period is well known for its usage of bronze – rings, spirals and brooches. The ancient dress for both Latvian men and women consisted of long tunic-shaped costumes. During this period, both men and women had clothing made from locally grown flax (linen), like many other countries of Northern Europe, and fleece, while shoes and caps were made mostly from furs and the leather of domestic or wild animals. The cloth consisted of plain weave or twill. Most of the clothing was made locally while trading routes to Scandinavia, Russia and even the Middle East provided tribes with jewellery.
Knitting was done using the naalbinding technique known also from the Vikings (nålbindning), which means binding with a needle. It is a little like crochet, but with a needle instead of a hook and short pieces of wool, so that if a piece of wool breaks the cloth does not unravel and just a couple of stitches need to be replaced.
With the invasion of German influence (12th century onwards), Latvian traditional clothing changed, especially the tradition of decorating clothing with bronze disappeared under German rule. In addition, Naalbinding items gradually disappeared and the tradition of knitted mittens, gloves and socks developed, which reflected regional differences in ornament and colour.
Latvian Ethnic Dress (18th – 19th century)
The basic element of the ethnic or ethnographic costume is the shirt, which serves both as an undergarment and an over-garment. Women’s shirts are long, coming down to below the knee and act as both a blouse and a petticoat. Over the shirt, the women wear skirts, bodices and jackets. Men wear a waistcoat and a short jacket or an overcoat over their shirts and trousers.
Records from the 18th century showed that the most common colour of Latvian peasant’s dress was the natural white and grey of linen and wool. Most Latvians’ clothes were naturally grey, while for decoration they kept to the centuries’ old traditional four-colour scheme of blue, red, yellow and green made with natural dyes in various shades. It is possible that the strict observance of colour was at least in part due to sorcery. White has a special place in Latvian folklore as it has magical associations and the Latvian word for white is synonymous with purity, goodness and enlightenment. Red was associated with fire, blood, life and vitality and was used to decorate aprons, headgear and shirts. Black was used in farmers’ clothing first in the latter half of the 19th century and then only in combination with other colours. Black was regarded as the colour of the gentry.
On festive occasions, the clothing was adorned with embroidered, woven or knitted designs to make it visually impressive, distinctive, and unique. Geometric designs are characteristic of Latvian folk art. They usually consist of separate elements combined in a unified composition. It is thought that the intricate patterns are a form of writing, a way of communicating a concept or a wish, especially as in the Latvian language, the same word (raksts) is used to denote writing and ornamentation.
In the nineteenth century, different types of adornments and embellishments were introduced to the festive costumes. A popular trend was the use of ring-shaped brooches to fasten the clothes. Since then brooches or breastpins are the significant part of the Latvian traditional costumes. The shirt is closed by one or several small brooches; big brooches are used to keep the cape in place.
The chief footwear for men and women were pastalas, a simplified form of shoes made of a single piece of leather and tied with laces. In cold weather, several pairs of stockings were worn. In earlier times, feet were ordinarily wrapped in foot-cloths. Festive occasions called for shoes or boots, which, of course, indicated the owner’s prosperity. Men in particular were subject to evaluation by the footwear they could afford. Pitch-black, knee-high boots, usually worn by military officers or rich merchants were, to a certain extent, a subject of admiration from the opposite sex.
Women made their own clothes (and those of the men) throughout the centuries until modern times. Even after the 18th century, Latvian women continued to wear linen shirts as part of their ethnic dress. The visible upper part was made of the finest linen, but the part hidden under the skirt as a petticoat was made of coarse linen. On top of the shirt, women wore long skirts, coats of different lengths and also woollen shawls. A favourite piece of jewellery used by Latvian women was the silver brooches, decorated with thimble-like bubbles and/or red glass pebbles or beads. These were worn as fasteners for shawls on the chest.
Before the 19th century, there is evidence of a skirt which was not sewn but which was simply a piece of fabric wrapped around the body and secured with a belt. The Livs wore skirts that extended above the waist. They consisted of two pieces of fabric – one for the front, one for the back – which were fastened at the shoulders (later, sewn together) and cinched with a woven belt. The two-piece skirt was the precursor of the skirt with a sewn upper part. Meanwhile, the wrap-around skirt developed into a sewn skirt with pleats or gathers.
The basic function of the sash (josta) was to secure the skirt and to girdle the waist. Only women wore patterned sashes and it is believed that the designs are related to traditions of fertility cults. The Lielvārde Sash is a popular example of complex Latvian pattern work. Into it, weavers put a particular array of ancient power symbols, said to give strength, health, wisdom and other positive traits to the wearer. Some even argue that the Lielvārde belts – each a unique work of art – hold secret messages in the form of ethnographic codes. There might be some truth to that, as according to Latvian mythology Laima, the goddess of fate, weaves each person’s thread of destiny. The length of the sash varied: sashes of three meters or even more were wrapped around the waist several times. In Liv regions during the 18th and 19th centuries, patterned sashes were not worn because ties of the apron served as a sash.
In all regions, an essential part of the national dress was the woollen shawl (villaine), a rectangular or square fabric draped around the shoulders. Possibly, as the oldest part of the costume, it served a dual purpose. Embroidered or otherwise adorned, it accented a costume worn on a festive occasion. While plain or checked – it kept the wearer warm. Summer shawls were made of linen. In the 18th and 19th centuries, festive shawls were chiefly white or sometimes blue. In earlier centuries, they were predominantly dark blue with bronze ornamentation. The function of a festive shawl was to both adorn and protect the wearer, as if isolating her from the outside world. Occasionally, multiple shawls, skirts and head coverings were worn together, perhaps to show off the owner’s prosperity.
Headdresses are an important part of female Latvian costumes as for at least a thousand years, the head-covering served to signify the wearer’s marital status. Until they are married, teenage girls wore a crown or wreath. The crowns were made of lace and fabric adorned with glass beads and other things. In Liv regions, a ribbon served for the same purpose. In contrast, married women wore either a hat or a headscarf.
Knitted woollen or cotton lace socks and black flat heel shoes (in places – leather pastalas) completed the women’s costume, while men sometimes wear boots. Woven belts are also important parts of the costumes.
In the ethnic costume, Latvian men still wore a tunic-like shirt as in the ancient costume, but with a pair of trousers and a jacket or coat. Men also wore waistcoats, though only for special occasions.
Until the middle of the 19th century, the men’s trousers went down to below the knee and they were worn with knee-length socks. After the middle of the 19th century, Latvian men started wearing longer trousers, occasionally tucked inside their socks.
At the turn of the 19th century, men wore homespun coats, mostly of a natural grey colour decorated with red, green or blue cord. White fabric was used for festive occasions, although this varied largely depending on the region of Latvia. Linen overcoats were worn in summer; long homespun woollen or fur coats in winter. A long jacket was accompanied by a belt.
Belts were an integral dress accessory for Latvian men and were either woven or made of leather, or of metal on leather depending on the region. Woven belts were characteristic for eastern regions (Latgale), while those made of leather with metal elements were typical for western regions (Kurzeme).
Men’s clothes of dark blue, brown or natural black appeared in the second half of the 19th century when industrially-made cloth was used for festive clothing. The men’s dress had more city fashion influences than the women’s costume. The tunic-style shirt remained unchanged, yet the homespun trousers and jacket began to reflect city fashions in the 18th century. Military uniforms also influenced the style of a Latvian man’s costume, especially in details such as the lapels and embroidery. Unlike women, men usually did not make their own costumes. Instead, they often enlisted the aid of a tailor or a female relative.
Although not overtly obvious, a man’s apparel usually indicated his social status and welfare. Small yet important improvements and decorations were made to the standard outfits of various regions. During a number of centuries, daggers were an integral part of a men’s costume.
The men’s headwear was not as strictly regulated as the women’s. The most popular head-dress was the broad-brimmed hat made of felt and adorned with a ribbon. A hat made of straw was preferred for the warm summer months.
Mittens were commonly given as gifts, especially at weddings and also at funerals. Even in summer the men used ornamented mittens for their festive clothing, usually stacked behind the belt.
As said above, there are five larger regions in Latvia — Kurzeme, Latgale, Sēlija, Vidzeme and Zemgale — each with their own specific traditions, spoken dialect and dress culture. Regional borders were never strictly marked and a certain cultural exchange has always existed. The main variations amongst these regions are shown in the women’s clothing; for example, the colour schemes, styles, compositions and embroidery. Also the decoration of shawls, mittens, socks and sashes differs in each region.
The dress of Kurzeme reflects not only the traditions of Latvians and Livs (the indigenous peoples) but also of the neighbouring countries – Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.
In the second part of 19th century, the dress of Kurzeme witnessed radical changes due to the introduction of bright chemical dyes. It began with bright stripes appearing in the north and east of Kurzeme and colourful red in the southwest. A characteristic feature for the bright monochrome skirts was the ornamented lower edge, sometimes made from a band of a different colour. There was a widespread tradition in some parts of Kurzeme for both men and women to wear bronze belts, while in the seaside districts, people adorned their clothes with small amber brooches and strings of beads made from pieces of amber. More than in the other regions of Latvia, the garments of Kurzeme contains industrially-produced textiles and clothing accessories like silk, velvet, brocade also glass and metal.
The Latgale region has the most international influences in its traditional dress [Estonian, Russian, Belarussian, Selonian (Sēlija) and Lithuanian]. The skirts were usually white with a red-patterned lining on the lower edge. In the south, linen tunic shirts were of more traditional cut, sometimes with a very narrow red-decorated shoulder-piece. The skirt had vertical stripes of naturally dyed, but bright colours. The white woollen shawls of this area of Latvia can be distinguished by their size and their richly embroidered ornaments in dark blue, yellow, green and red.
Characteristic throughout Latgale was the intense use of linen in clothing, as garments such as shawls and skirts for summer festive dress were often made from this material. Latgale was the region where industrially-produced clothes were seldom used by peasants: all the garments were usually home-made. In Latgale, bast footwear from linden bark or tow cord was more popular than in other regions.
The traditional clothing of Sēlija has many similarities to that of Lithuanian dress. Nevertheless, its main garment is the linen shirt, shaped like a tunic with sewn in shoulder-pieces. This trait demonstrates an ancient tradition unknown anywhere else in the Baltics. The most typical Sēlija skirt has vertical stripes with tiny patterns or batik yarn. Other patterns include herringbone motifs, zigzags or twisted bicoloured yarn. Brightly striped or tartan skirts are also to be found and elaborate white woollen shawls, richly embroidered along the edges.
The multi-coloured skirt was the brightest garment of women’s dress in Vidzeme. Stripes were characteristic for the first half of the 19th century, while tartan became popular in the second half. When stripes predominated, they even adorned men’s trousers and vests. Meanwhile the white woollen shawls were richly embroidered and reached halfway to the wearer’s calf. The white festive shawls were held in place with silver brooches while the capes and scarves were never pinned. Throughout Vidzeme, married women covered their heads with tower-shaped caps, usually of white linen and sometimes tied with a silk scarf.
Atypical for a border region, it does not show any resemblance to its neighbouring Lithuanian clothing. Zemgale dress has traits of Finno-Ugric traditions, especially in the earliest examples of its garments. Nevertheless it has developed its own unique style with vertical weft-patterned stripes. A very common is the rose motif which is followed by the zigzag, diamond and triangle motives. A wide woven sash can be found worn above the skirt, which stood out with patterned red suns and crosses alternating on a white background, finished with a thin thread of blue or green along the centre line.
The Republic of Croatia, is at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (90.4%) and is ethnically the most homogeneous of the six countries of the former Yugoslavia. Minority groups include Serbs (4.4%); Bosnians, Hungarians, Italians, Slovenes, Germans, Czechs, Romani and others (5.9%).
Although Croatia is itself a very homogenous country, Croatian national costumes are the traditional clothing worn by Croats living not only in Croatia but also in seven other central or south-eastern European countries: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia. Nowadays, the majority of Croats wear Western-style clothing on a daily basis, while the national costumes are most often worn in connection with special events and celebrations (ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, etc.) and by dancing groups who dance the traditional Croatian circle dance, the kolo.
As in many other countries, the types of traditional costume in Croatia varies between the country’s (seven) regions: Slavonia and Baranya; Posavina and Podravina; Međimurje, Zagorje and Zagreb region; Istria; Lika; Dalmatia; and the Islands. The costumes vary in style, material, colour, shape and form, being influenced by the different cultures that at one time ruled the particular region: Austrian, German, Hungarian, Italian or Turkish (Ottoman). Because of the weather, the colder regions often use wool or fur for their waistcoats, cloaks and coats, while silk and light linens are used in those regions with warmer climates. There are three main types of costumes associated with the regions: the Pannonian style in the north and east, the continental or Dinaric style, and the coastal style on the coast.
The area known as Croatia today was inhabited throughout the prehistoric period. The Neolithic period (ca. 6000 BCE – ca. 3000 BCE) was characterised by the emergence of permanent, organised settlements. The remains of various cultures have been found (e.g. Danilo, Hvar, Impresso, Korenovo and Sopot). Then the Vučedol culture arose, which extended from the Carpathians to the eastern Alps and the Dinaric Alps. It is presumed to have emerged after the arrival of Indo-European settlers around 3,000 BCE and lasted until about 2,000 BCE. In the Bronze Age (ca. 2500 BCE – ca. 800 BCE), again several cultural groups arose through the symbiosis of earlier cultural traditions and the various influences of their strong neighbouring cultures.
The Iron Age (c. 800 BCE – early 1st century CE) left traces of the Hallstatt culture (proto-Illyrians) and the La Tène culture (proto-Celts). The first ethnic communities then appeared in the present-day area of Croatia and whose names were recorded by Greek and Roman writers: Illyrian Ardiaei, Delmatae, Histri, Iapodes, Liburnians, etc. These communities came under the strong influence of Greek and Italic culture, and from the 4th century BCE, under the influence of Celtic culture. Some of the islands became Greek colonies. Illyria was a sovereign state until the Romans conquered it in 168 BCE. The Romans then organised the land into the Roman province of Illyricum, which encompassed most of modern Croatia (Istria was part of the province of Italia). Illyricum was subsequently split into the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia in year 10 CE. Pannonia was further split in two by Trajan between 102 CE and 107 CE.
The Croats arrived in the area of present-day Croatia apparently during the early part of the 7th century AD (though the event has been placed as occurring between the 6th and the 9th centuries). Roman survivors of the invasion retreated to more favourable sites on the coast, islands and mountains. Croatia’s capital city of Dubrovnik was founded by such survivors. The ethnogenesis of Croats is uncertain and there are several competing theories, with Slavic and Iranian ancestors being the most frequently put forward.
Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102. In 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg to the Croatian throne. The Venetians gained control over most of Dalmatia by 1428, with exception of the city-state of Dubrovnik which became independent. In the 17th century, the Ottoman Wars caused great demographic changes. Croats migrated towards Austria (present-day Burgenland Croats) and to replace the fleeing population, the Habsburgs encouraged the Christian populations of Bosnia and Serbia to provide military service in the Croatian Military Frontier. Serb migration into this region peaked during the Great Serb Migrations of 1690 and 1737–39.
Between 1797 and 1809, the First French Empire gradually occupied the entire eastern Adriatic coastline and a substantial part of its hinterland, ending the Venetian and the Ragusan republics, and establishing the Illyrian Provinces. The Illyrian Provinces were captured by the Austrians in 1813, and absorbed by the Austrian Empire in 1815. This led to formation of the Kingdom of Dalmatia. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Croatia sided with the Austrians, with Ban (title) Josip Jelačić helping to defeat the Hungarian forces in 1849, and ushering in a period of Germanization. With the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the issue of Croatia’s status was left to Hungary, which resulted in the unification of the kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia. The Kingdom of Dalmatia remained under Austrian control. The area of Bosnia and Herzegovina was returned to Croatia in 1881.
In 1918, after World War I, Croatia was included in the unrecognised State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which seceded from Austria-Hungary and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A fascist Croatian puppet state existed during World War II. After the war, Croatia became a founding member and a federal constituent of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In June 1991, Croatia declared independence, which came into effect on 8th October of the same year. This was followed by the four-year Croatian War of Independence resulting in the Republic of Croatia.
Generally, the basic costume of a Croatian woman consists of a plain white dress or blouse (košulja) and underskirt (skutići). The variations between (and within) the various regions involve other pieces of clothing and decorations, which may include another overdress or skirt (kotula), a decorative jacket (djaketa, paletun or koret), apron (ogrnjač or pregjača) and a scarf (ubrsac), kerchief or shawl which are usually decorated with a floral or animal motif. Croatian embroidery is very intricate and is usually done in red, white, blue, gold or black. Completing the costume are stockings (bječve) or knee-high socks, and boots or a special kind of strapped soft-soled sandals called opanci.
Croatian women’s hair is interwoven into one or two braids and decorated with red ribbons for girls or women that are unmarried; married women wear woven or silk kerchiefs, a cap or a headdress. The most famous headdresses being those worn by the women from the island of Pag.
Women’s jewellery includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings made of gold, silver, beads, pearls or even coral from the Adriatic. The amount of paraphernalia a woman is adorned with, either a lot or hardly any at all, depends on the region.
The costumes of brides are complemented by a crown or wreath often made of flowers (vijenac) and large amounts of jewellery.
Croatian national dress for men usually consists of loose, wide slacks (gače širkoke) and a shirt, normally in either black or white, or both. The man may wear a decorative or plain waistcoat (fermen or jačerma), over his shirt, and possibly a jacket.
Men almost always wears a cap, varying in shape and design depending on the region. The most famous cap is perhaps the Lika cap, worn in the Lika region. Footwear, like the women’s, consists mainly of boots and sandals.
The different regions of Croatia
Slavonia and Baranya
These eastern regions are associated with the Pannonian style of dress and the Šokci ethnic group. In Slavonia, the costumes tend to be very elaborate, with floral designs and clothing made of silk or wool, with fancy embroidery, decorative silk ribbons and bows, lace work, gold or silver jewellery, coral, amber necklaces and pearls for the women. The colours of the dresses tend to be bright and varied, ranging from gold, red, blue, white and black all in one costume. The top shirt (odnjica) of the costume has fringed-wing sleeves, which is generally associated with the Pannonian style.
The men tend to not wear as many colours on their shirts and trousers as the women, but they still often have fancy embroidery on their wear thick coats or vests. Their sleeves might have a slight ruffle at the end. In Baranya, a part of the men’s costume is a small apron that is worn over the trousers that varies in colour and design.
Posavina and Podravina
These regions are both in the north and north-eastern part of Croatia. Unlike the Slavonians, the women’s costumes from Posavina do not focus on overly elaborate designs and patterns, instead they consist of simple black and white blouses, trousers and skirts. The men wear black waistcoats and black hats, while the women wear beautiful silk shawls, usually in blue or red with flower motifs. A thick apron with embroidered designs may be worn as well, and their colour and detailed patterns are often the main focus of the costume. The shawls and aprons are sometimes so colourful and richly garnished with patterns that they completely cover up the main dress.
The women in Podravina decorate their kerchiefs with a style of embroidery unique to this region. They also wear aprons over their dresses which are colourful and geometric in design and have a multi-coloured fringe. The men’s vests are usually red or black and are decorated with intricate patterns and embroidery too.
Međimurje, Zagorje and Zagreb region
These three areas are all located in the north, and are therefore influenced by the continental style; i.e. white garments but each area has its own decorative scarves, shawls, aprons and jewellery. Red is the most popular colour, especially in Zagorje, and the aprons and waistcoats worn by the men and women are red with elaborate stitching and embroidery, mostly in gold thread. Women wear colourful shawls and kerchiefs which are usually red with flower designs. The second most popular colour is black, which can have gold or white embroidery, or none at all.
Very often, the men and women do not wear any aprons or shawls, and their costumes mostly consist of their white garments, on which they may stitch a border of colour at the edges, or add a colourful sash (tkanica).
Hats are an important part of a man’s costume, and can come in two forms: the traditional Pannonian hat (škrlak) is black and dome-shaped, with a red wool band embroidered with multi-coloured thread and white and gold dots attached, or the black felt box-hat (šešir) folded into a flat bow at the back with a grosgrain ribbon tied around the body. Red, white and blue strings (the Croatian tricolour) are often tied around the hat over the grosgrain ribbon.
The costumes from Istria are influenced by the Adriatic style of the coast. The men’s costumes are typically blue, brown or white, and consist of white, ankle-length trousers that are tighter than the Slavonian style, shirts and leather waistcoats. Their outer coats are generally short and long-sleeved or long, sleeveless ones. Accessories include wide silk belts, red or black caps, and cotton socks worn over their footwear called opanci.
Women on the coast wear broad-sleeved white blouses that are embroidered in silk or lace, as well as pleated skirts or dresses varying in colour, and stockings under their opanci. They also cover their shoulders with colourful shawls called oplece, which are tied around the neck and hang over their arms and upper chest. Jewellery is made of colourful glass beads and silver coins, which hang around the neck and waist by string of leather.
The costumes of Lika show both Dinaric and Ottoman influences. Due to the military history of this region, the costumes can vary from civilian to military style. Because of the ruralness of the region and the prevalence of sheep, wool is spun and dyed (usually red, black, yellow and green) and fur coats and capes are common because of the cold winter weather.
Women tend to wear skirts down to their ankles and a white blouse. Their attire is generally in earth tones, with white, brown and black being the most common; however, blue dresses and aprons are reserved for married women, while white is for unmarried ones. Unlike the Croats from the north, the special sandals (opanci) are worn daily. The apron is often woven with colourful stitching and patterns with geometric motifs. Multi-coloured wool socks (priglavci or nazuvci) with various geometric designs are worn over the opanci. For headwear, women wear embroidered or white kerchiefs pinned to their hats. Jewellery such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces are made of silver, and some necklaces (djerdan) and earrings are often made of silver coins, traditionally from the 19th century Austrian coins (talira).
The men’s costume varies between the non-military and military style. A non-military costume has trousers and a linen shirt in white, black or brown (or blue for military men). The waistcoats may be made of leather or wool (black or red) and can be simple with no designs, or very elaborately designed with intricate patterns. Black or blue coats or capes made of lamb fur are worn during the winter. Red belts or sashes are tied around their waists and used to hold guns or swords, a remnant from the military era. A special carved knife (called a handžar or nož) from the Ottoman days is mainly carried. The Lika cap, a special hat exclusive to the region, is worn by all men, regardless of their social position.
The traditional costume within the Dalmatian region varies greatly; the coastal areas are Adriatic and coastal in influence, whereas the inland area, called Zagora, shows the Dinaric influence similar to the styles of Lika and Herzegovina.
Perhaps the most famous example of Zagora costumes comes from the small town of Vrlika. Both the men and women’s dress wear is characterized by multiple layers of clothing worn one over another. For men, the costume consists of a red sash tied around dark trousers with a fringe of threads hanging from the belt in red, blue or green. Due to centuries of militaristic mentality, a special leather belt is worn to carry weapons. Over the shirt is an elaborately decorated tunic with a custom-made fringe. The waistcoat is highly decorated with gold and red embroidery. Its style or material and cut depending on the season (due to the weather). Much like the men, the women’s dress consists of several layers of clothing: a white blouse, skirt or tunic is most common, with a colourful apron consisting of complicated geometric patterns and fringe as well as a red waistcoat with gold stitching made in such a way to make it stand out from the white blouse.
Jewellery consists mainly of beads worn around the neck and silver coins adorning the costume. Both men and women wear red felt pillbox caps (bareta or crvenkapa), with a white veil attached to the women’s.
Being on the coast, the national costume of the Croatian capital, Dubrovnik, consists mainly of white, black, gold and red colours. Both men and women wear vests rich with gold embroidery while the women wear gold tassels decorating the front of their blouses and fine jewellery such as earrings, necklaces and hair clips. Men and women usually wear white or black trousers or skirts, respectively.
Islands of Croatia
The islands have the most variation in dress due to their geographic distance and isolation from one another. They have some similarity with Dalmatia and Istria, but many have their own unique styles not seen elsewhere. For example, the national costume from the island of Pag has its origins in the fifteenth century, and is characterised by the intricate lace that decorates the front of the blouses and the edges of kerchiefs. The famous lace work of Pag is renowned for its precision and beauty, and is the most prominent part of the costume. The women of the island wear large white headdresses, long-sleeved blouses and full pleated skirts (usually gold or red in colour) with a red silk scarf tied around their waist. The men wear waistcoats over their shirts with form-fitting trousers with a red silk handkerchief worn around the waist, and red hats.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Croatian dress from Bosnia and Herzegovina fall under the Dinaric category of dress style, and the regional variations between western Herzegovina and central Bosnia are the most prominent. In Herzegovina, the style of dress is similar to the inland Dalmatian style.
The Ottoman influence is more prominently shown in central Bosnia. The women’s dress is made of white heavy cotton with puckered vertical stripes, while the collar is embroidered with a crocheted trim and dotted with sequins. The waistcoat is generally dark in colour with a golden trim embroidered along the edges. The apron is made of wool, dyed usually red, black or dark green with minimal decoration. If no apron is worn, then the dress may be decorated with special embroidery and crocheted lace. Pantaloons (gače) are worn with white, knee-length stockings (čarape). The sash (tkanica) worn around the waist is black woven with green and gold wool. The headdress can be a kerchief (krpa) with various geometric designs and/or floral embroidery, or a more elaborate kind (čember) with a crocheted edge with a wide band of multi-coloured geometric embroidery on one side and half of opposite side.
The basic elements of the men’s costume are white cotton shirts with wide sleeves and black trousers with a fringed leg. The waistcoat is made of thick wool and is dark in colour and can be embroidered or crocheted like the women’s’. The sash around the waist varies in colour according to the region, but is usually dark. Knee-length socks are worn much like the women’s and are usually white, red or gold in colour.
The Croatian dress from Serbia comes mainly from the Vojvodina region in the north and is strongly Pannonian in style. The most common colour for both men and women is white, with elaborate embroidery or stitching at the ends or hems of the sleeves, trousers or skirts. They wear blue or black aprons and waistcoats with gold embroidery. The most notable Croatian costumes are the rich blue ones from the Bačka region, where for centuries the women have ordered the silk for their costumes from Lyon in France.
The Croats from Kosovo — the Janjevci — have a dress that has a more Dinaric style. Since most are descended from Dubrovnik traders seven centuries back, they have maintained certain elements of Dubrovnik-style clothing that is reflected in their traditional dress. Due to the conflicts plaguing Kosovo over the years, many have migrated to Croatia, where a large cultural community has been set up in Zagreb, preserving the songs, dances and culture of the Janjevci.
Croatian minorities in nearby countries such as Austria, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro and Romania continue to have their own traditional dress influenced both by their ancestor’s original costumes and adaptation of certain local regional styles such as the Hungarian in Hungary and German Austrian Alpine in Austria.
General description: The woman is wearing the traditional costume of a Matyó Mary girl, while the man is wearing the typical Sunday attire of a Matyó man.
Dimensions Man: 19 x 12 x 6 cm; woman: 19 x 12 x 8 cm
Date when acquired 2015
Original Date 1978
Source Bought over EBay by Gisela H. as a present. The original owners said they had bought the couple in 1978.
The dolls are hand embroidered using original Hungarian folk art motives and were made by the Hungarian Cooperative Foreign Trading Company. The product has a certification of acceptance by the Hungarian Council of Folk Arts and Crafts
The heads of both dolls are made of material drawn over a plastic base. The features are painted on. Their bodies are made of padded material. The woman’s hair is hidden under her headdress at the front but it gathered in a short plait at the back tied with white braid embroidered with red and blue flowers in the same style as her skirt.
The woman is wearing an ensemble made of a white brocade jacket with short puffed sleeves with white lace around the cuffs. She has a bodice made of two types of braid. The upper white one with scalloped edges and embroidered in light blue and a lower braid embroidered with red and dark blue flowers and green leaves. The bodice has a quilted skirt reaching from the waist to the hips, which is covered with white lace. She has a long white brocade skirt that is highly pleated. Just above the hem is an inset made of medium blue silk braid. Another piece of braid is sewn onto the skirt at the level just below her buttocks. This is again embroidered with red and dark blue flowers and leaves though the design is slightly different form that of the bodice. Under her skirt is a midi-length plain white cotton petticoat and a pair of short drawers. Over the front of the skirt is a highly pleated apron made of white brocade with light blue ribbon sewn just above the hems which have lace around the edges. Her black shoes have a point of leather at the front going up the front of the leg.
On her head is a floral headdress (blue, pink and white flowers) with a veil made of white net hanging down to the level of her hips. Silver tinsel-like ribbons are attached to the headdress.
The man is wearing a very long- and wide-sleeved shirt. The front of the shirt and around the arms of the sleeves is typical Hungarian floral embroidery in red, blue, green, pink and orange. Around the neck is a piece of white braid embroidered with red. Over the shirt, he is wearing a black felt waistcoat that is open at the front and is embroidered with yellow wool to form three oblongs on each side of the chest. On the lower part of his body are highly pleated gatya with white fringing along the bottom of the legs. Over these he is wearing the typical Matyó black fringed apron, embroidered with a floral and cross stitch design in red, yellow, brown, pink and white. He is wearing a pair of black boots with the typical curved top.
He has the typical Matyó high-crowned Bowler hat on his head with a piece of black braid around the crown embroidered with a floral design in white, pink and green.
Matyó Land is situated at the feet of the Bükk Mountains in Upper Hungary. Mezőkövesd is its capital. Matyó embroidery and folk costume are certified “Hungaricums”, i.e. they are typical Hungarian treasures of the Carpathian basin. Matyó folk art became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in December 2012.
Until the 1860s, the clothing of the Matyó was simple and reserved; their embroidery used only the colours red and blue.
From the 1870s on, the clothing rioted with colours and Mezőkövesd became the leading inspiration of peasant style for Hungarians everywhere, including even items which worn by men. The colours and patterns were fully developed in the early 20th century, especially by one artist, Bori Kis Janko.
The Matyó are Roman Catholics and the woman’s costume is typical of girls who belong to the Society of Mary. Matyó women otherwise wear a different style of costume, whose silhouette of is tall and slender rather than the full-skirted costume of other Hungarian regions. This effect is achieved by the headdress ending in a peak and by a skirt which is narrow at the waist and widening out only at the ankle. The bodice and shoulder shawl are worn over a shirt with wide silk sleeves. Various types of blouses then came into use and turned the shirt into underwear. The material of the skirts was cashmere, silk or satin, or later artificial silk. Under the top skirt is a shorter petticoat often made out of one hundred metres of material. The lower part of the long, narrow apron is richly embroidered, which further emphasizes the vertical line of the costume.
The Matyó women’s costumes were so expensive that girls of poor social standing had to work very hard for many years as day labourers and as seasonal workers to earn the price. They did this because the poor people did not want to be outdone by the rich, shown by the proverb: “Let it grumble, so long as it’ll sparkle,” meaning, they often had to starve in order to buy the extravagant outfit.
The basic outfit for the Matyó men consists of the shirt, waistcoat, necktie, hat, apron and culotte-style trousers. This style of trousers, known as gatya, are worn over most of Hungary, especially in the summer. They are made of plain white linen or cotton and are very full. In fact, in the Matyó region they are actually fuller than the skirts of the women. They are usually worn slightly longer than boot-top length, and are generally fringed at the bottom of the pant legs. Such gatya are often mistaken for skirts.
There is extensive embroidery on the collar, shoulders, front, and on the very long and full sleeves of the festive shirts. The shirt’s sleeves are nearly a yard wide and are edged with lace. A sleeves of a young man’s shirt worn on his wedding day were sued to make his shroud when he was buried.
The man’s apron consists of one panel, is black, and nowadays usually has a fringe on the bottom, a row of patterned ribbon and embroidery in the same style as on the man’s festive shirt.
The waistcoat is made of black wool, has lapels, and is ornamented with a varying amount of buttons and black soutache braid. On formal occasions, a narrow silk embroidered tie was tied around the neck, and a round topped felt hat with ribbons and feathers completed the ensemble.
General description: Woman wearing Hungarian traditional dress
Dimensions 23 x 12 x 9 cm
Date when acquired 2015
Original Date Unknown
Source Flea market in Göttingen. Present from Aneta
Material body, arms and legs with a porcelain head. The features are painted on. Her hair is made of black wool and is drawn back from a central parting into a long single plait that is turned up at the back, so it reaches the top of her head.
She is wearing a long, puffed-sleeved blouse with green lace around the cuffs. There is white lace at the front of the neck. Over this she is wearing a short red waistcoat made of a silky material and decorated with gold braid around the neck and down the front. She is wearing a silky pinky-grey full skirt with white lace around the hem and a pieced of red, white and green braid around the top of the lace. These are the colours of the Hungarian flag.
She is wearing a white cotton petticoat and short drawers under her skirt. Over the skirt is an almost oval shaped apron made of black material embroidered with white and red flowers with leaves. The edges of the apron are hemmed with gold braid with very long fringing. The apron is tied at the back with a long red ribbon.
On her head is a triangular headdress made of green felt and decorated with round and oblong beads in red, black, blue and yellow. At the front of the design is a single golden sequin. This is a párta, the headdress of an unmarried woman.
Looking at the more modern versions of Hungarian national costume dolls, this doll appears to be a standard production for tourists. Again the origin of the costume appears to be Kalotaszeg in Transylvania.
General description: Married woman possibly in a costume from Upper Hungary
Dimensions 28 x 13 x 13 cm
Date when acquired 1967
Original Date 1967
Source Budapest, Hungary. A present from my father,
Material body, arms and legs with a porcelain head. Her blonde hair is drawn back from a central parting into two plaits that wound around the back of her head and under her hat.
She is wearing a puffed sleeved blouse made of white cotton. The sleeves reach down to just above her elbows. The blouse has a white lace collar. Over her blouse she has a blue linen shawl decorated with red fringing and a yellow zig-zag braid. The shawl is tied at the back of her waist. She is wearing a very short red cotton skirt with a floral pattern in cream and black. The hem is edged with a narrow band of white cotton, with the seam covered with yellow zig-zag braid. Under her skirt she has a plain white cotton petticoat and short drawers. She has a white poplin apron with a blue ribbon tying it around her waist. The bow is at the front. The edge of the apron has white lace sewn to it. She is also wearing a pair of bright red boots up to her knees made of painted papier-mâché.
Her headdress is a high-crowned brimless hat made of grey linen with a circular pattern in black. The crown is decorated with white lace around the top and bottom edges with red zig-zag braid and a strip of plain yellow braid in the middle. A small yellow bead is placed at the front of the bottom and three large shiny black beads at the top. The central black bead being surrounded by a rosette made of red ribbon. At the back of the hat is a red ribbon held in place by a black sequin.
Due to her great age (nearly 50 years old), the white of the cotton has browned and the blue ribbon become very pale. She is still very pretty though and her headdress appears to be typical of those of married women from Kazár-Maconka in Upper (Northern) Hungary. On special holidays, the women of this region wear two blouses. One is starched, and on top of it they put a second blouse, made of tulle or cambric. Due to how the doll is made I cannot check this. However, the doll has the typical shoulder shawl tied across her chest. She also has the very short skirt and petticoats typical of certain villages around around Szécsény (Hollókő, Rimóc and Lóc). However, the combination worn by the doll is not specific to any one of these villages.
Today, I have blogged my hundredth national costume doll and when I started with my Kandy Devil Dancer, I never thought how much time and pleasure this hobby would give me. It was also a trip down memory lane not only about those dolls I have bought myself when abroad or at flea markets but also the wonderful dolls given to me by my parents and friends throughout the years; from my first Italian doll at the age of three given to me by my mother’s employer, Mr Kaye, to the ones I got a couple of weeks ago from a cribbage companion (55 years later).
I have been really lucky to have parents who from when I was very young instilled in me a love of beauty and an interest in the other, foreign parts of the world either by taking me abroad on holiday or when my father travelled as part of his job, bringing me exquisite dolls back from his destinations.
I have also been lucky in a dear friend, Fritz W, who in the last 30 years has kept his eyes open for national costumes dolls whilst combing the flea markets for his beloved ceramics. I can only hope the ceramics I have found for him have been just as rewarding, despite the fact we obviously have serious differences in taste – the more I think something is ugly, the more he loves it (a useful criterion in my decision-making). My collection would not be so large nor so varied without his far-ranging searches.
Learning about these dolls and their costumes to help me with this blog has opened up even more about human history than I knew before as well as making me realise that humans wherever they are have the urge to adorn themselves over and above the simply practical need to protect the sensitive bits. Not all my dolls are beautiful, but they are all interesting, from the 2.5 cm Guatemalan worry dolls to my largest blogged so far, my Hungarian lady at 40 cm.
I still have a long way to go, having only blogged 30 of my 47 countries (see map and table below). The world has roughly 200 countries depending on how they are counted, so I only have dolls representing ca. 1/4 of the countries, but when one looks at the huge variation in costumes within even small lands, what I have is only a tiny part of what is truly out there.
I have learnt a few additional things. It takes time, lots of time, to find out information even with the internet. Information about dolls bought at flea markets can be severely misleading. I check and double check and still sometimes get the designation wrong (a special thanks to all those who have kindly put me right). In addition, fantasy can play a large part in the design of a doll, so they are not always true representations of the real costumes for a particular region or culture. Still that does not really matter, the sheer wonderful degree of artistry and craftsmanship make most of them worthy of respect.
General description: Unmarried woman possibly in the traditional costume of Kalotaszeg in Transylvania.
Dimensions 40 x 36 x 24 cm
Date when acquired 1968
Original Date 1968
Source Budapest, Hungary. This is the first doll I bought myself (I was 10).
Her body, arms and legs are made of padded material. Her head is made of china and has painted features. She has fine long black hair drawn back from her forehead and tied with a ribbon in a plait that reaches to her waist.
She is wearing a white puffed-sleeved blouse which is gathered at the neck. Her puffed sleeves reach to her elbows and the cuffs are edged with white lace and decorated with pink ribbons. Over her blouse is a red felt waist-length waistcoat, the front of which is decorated with four types of braiding: an open-worked green braid with a design of flowers, a golden braid, a green zig-zag braid and underneath a piece of yellow silk ribbon. Her long skirt is made of green silk brocade with a flower pattern woven into it. The skirt is lined with pink cotton that peeps out under the hem. A piece of white braid with a design of red flowers and green leaves runs around the skirt 3 cm above the hem. This is bordered on both sides by narrow stripes of red braid.
Under the skirt are two white cotton petticoats each edged with white braid with a geometric design in green and black. The edge of the braid is woven so it looks like tiny pleats. She is wearing a pair of white cotton underpants. Her shoes are made of cardboard and plastic and are in the form of the traditional Hungarian mules (backless clogs).
Over her skirt is an apron made of white brocade. It is decorated with various different types of braid: three types which follow the almost triangular form of the apron — narrow gold, black with a design of pink rosebuds and green leaves, and dark green with a red centre. Along the bottom is a woven red and orange braid, with a strip of narrow yellow with an orange centre. Both sides and the bottom of the apron are edged with red silk braid with long fringes.
On her head is the traditional párta, an arched headdress made of black material worn by unmarried women. It is decorated with artificial flowers, blue and red beads and a piece of gold braid. On each side of the gold braid, pink ribbon is sewn in ruffles and then used to tie the headdress at the back of the head.
She has a choker-like necklace of red, yellow, colourless and black beads around her neck
Looking at various pictures and the description of the costume, this doll appears to be from Kalotaszeg in Transylvania.