Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lithuanian Costume Calendar--A Closer Look

As I continue to peruse my Lithuanian costume calendar, I find it presents me with more questions than answers, despite the plenitude of gorgeous, full-color recreations of costume.

Most of my previous information on Lithuanian early period and medieval costume came from a book by Regina Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė called Senovės lietuvių drabužiai ir jų papuošalai, published in 1987, which also addressed Lithuanian costume between the first and sixteenth centuries CE.  Although there are differences between the late medieval costumes shown in  the calendar and in Ms. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė's book, I'm more interested in early period costume, and thus have focused on the differences in the way early period costume has been presented in each.

In general, the calendar's reconstructions agree well with those in  Ms. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė's book with regard to types of textiles used, colors used (i.e. undyed linen and woolen overgarments in brown or dark blue), footwear, and headwear.  Both clearly show the circlets made from bronze coils that I've come to think of as characteristic of Lithuanian early period costume. Some of these differences may be the result of increased information since 1987, but others strike me as puzzling.
  • The early period reconstructions show tunics over shifts instead of wrapped skirts over shifts, and the Viking age costume shows many bronze plaques sewn to the openings of the tunic (sleeves and hem) in addition to tablet-woven bands.  The earliest period tunic is shown as being split down the sides from about knee-level to the hem, with the edges of the split trimmed with tablet-woven bands.  I'd love to know the find or finds that supported that reconstruction.
  • There are no paired stick pins united by multiple draped chains, which I also associate with early period Lithuanian costume, and few stick pins in general (one is being worn to hold the man's rectangular cloak shut in the I-IV CE costume).
  • One motif that appears in a number of finds (and that shows up in a number of photographs and drawings in Ms. Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė's book) are bronze pendants shaped like maple seeds.  They appear as dangling ornaments on circlets and caps, hung from the chains between the big stick pins used to anchor shawls, and as heads of stick pins.  None of those pendants are shown here, however.  
I suppose the likeliest possibility is that Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė discussed finds from one section of the country and the calendar's costumes are based on finds from a different area.  I don't know Lithuanian geography at all, so I don't really know where any of the finds are located relative to other finds just from reading the names of the find areas.  However, the  text of the calendar discusses each costume as though it is representative of the country as a whole--which is misleading if there truly are distinct regional trends. 
    As pearl has already noted in her blog, the text on the calendar as well as the  reconstructions is the work of archaeologist Daiva Steponavičienė, who is associated with the Castle Research Center „Lietuvos pilys“.and was apparently involved in the reconstruction of the Palace of the Rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius.  Danutė Keturakienė is credited as the "costume designer" of the "archaeological costumes", which I assume means the early period costumes where the reconstruction is based upon archaeological finds.  Although Dr. Steponavičienė's interests appear to center upon the late Middle Ages, Ms. Keturakienė's work appears to be relevant to my period of interest. It will be interesting if her name turns up any articles that might be useful.

    EDIT:  Ms. Danutė Keturakienė is also a weaver, apparently. She's involved with a site called "Ethnic Art" that  gives some information about historic costume and other crafts and sells reproductions of historic Lithuanian textiles, jewelry, ceramics, etc. The site may be found here. 

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