Latgale Women's Folk CostumeFold-out, Latvian State Printing House, ca. 1960

This quick reference fold-out on card stock is a Soviet-era work (priced in kopecks and including references to the Baltic Soviet republics) reminiscent of Latvju raksti—Ornement Letton, which was offered as a subscription series by the State Printing House from 1924 to 1931 and also published in three volumes. We have assembled our collection from multiple sources. It's worth noting the illustrations of folk costumes in the Concise Encyclopedia of the Latvian SSR (1970) are virtually identical to those shown here.

The cover's background shows a traditional weave pattern; inside are an illustration of a full folk costume and various details:

  • sagša (shawl),
  • sakta (brooch),
  • krekla shema (blouse layout),
  • piedurkņu un apkakles raksts (cuff and collar embroidery),
  • vainags (headdress), and
  • brunču raksts (skirt weave/pattern).

The flip side provides a brief overview in four languages: French, English, Russian, and Latvian.

Latgale, at right, bordering Latvia's Vidzeme to the northwest, Zemgale to the southwest, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast.

The lands of the Latgalians covered modern Latgale as well as further north into today's Vidzeme. To their north were the Livs, beyond them, the Estonian tribes. To the south were the Selonians (see also the Augšzeme folk costume) and Lithuanian tribes; to the east were the Krivichs. In 1561 Latgale was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at the Treaty of Vilnius. In 1772 it was incorporated into the Russian empire in the first partition of Poland. With the declaration of Latvian independence in 1918, Latgale was declared as incorporated in the new Latvian state.

The archetypal and stylistically cohesive Latgale folk costume is, in fact, the Abrene white folk costume. Over time, the Latgale folk costume absorbed influences from the active trade along the Daugava River (Western Dvina, a trade route back into antiquity), later, the influences of Catholicism under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and subsequently those under the Russian Empire. Some of the strongest influences in the women's costume as it is seen today date to the 19th century—early in the century for the embroidery found on shawls, the latter half of the century for the plaid and striped weaves of skirts.

Latgalian folk costumes
Original atērpi.php

The Latgalian Latvian dialect and culture is an ancient one still alive today—and particularly vibrant in music and literature. We recommend the sources below to learn more about this unique slice of Latvia.

Additional Reading

Click on a thumbnail to view the picture. Mouse over the either side of the picture and click to navigate or use the left/right arrow keys.

Fold-out cover

(Woman's full dress, restored image)

(Woman's full dress, original)

Shawl border detail

Brooch, shirt (blouse), collar and cuff embroidery

Headdress decoration, skirt weave

Overview (French)

Overview (English)

Overview (Russian)

Overview (Latvian)

Publisher's imprint

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