April 9, 2015

1518 LATVIA - Girls in traditional costumes in the Old Town of Riga

The Latvian national costume is basically the traditional festive outfit of ordinary folks as worn in the 19th century, approximately up to the 1870s. However, is not just a certain type of festive garb: it is an expression of a nation’s sense of beauty, ability to form an ornament and put together colors, as well as knowledge of the craft. It embodies centuries-old traditions of making, adorning, and wearing the costume, and is a composite of a variety of festive outfits. There are many local varieties that are combined based on the five cultural-historical or ethnographic areas of Latvia: Vidzeme, Latgale, Augšzeme, Zemgale, and Kurzeme. It is possible that at the basis of the older, barely determinable distinguishing marks of the traditional costume are the outfits of Baltic tribes and Livs living in what is now the territory of Latvia.

The costume has changed over time, retaining something of the old and supplementing the new. The peculiarities of the costumes of a certain area became more pronounced over the long centuries of serfdom when the peasants were not allowed to move around freely.  The 19th century, particularly the 1860s also left their mark on the variety of the traditional outfits. The basic element of the traditional costume is the shirt, which is an undergarment and an over-garment. Women’s shirts were long, coming down to under the knee and serving both as a blouse and a petticoat. Over the shirt, the women put skirts, bodices, jackets.

The full outfit was not thinkable without a headdress: a crown for girls from their teenage years to the day of their marriage and a hat or a headscarf for married women; the men’s hat wearing was not so strictly regulated. A part of the costume was also knit woolen or cotton lace socks and black flat heel shoes (in places - leather pastalas). The shirt was closed by one small brooch or several ones, the big brooches were used to keep the cape in place. Another element was the woven belts. The traditional costume or rather a stylized variation of it became a symbol of Latvian culture in the 1880s, as part of the national song festival. To this day, the traditional costume is an essential element of the song festival.

About the stamps
First stamp is part of the series of definitive stamps Flowers, designed by Ģirts Grīva:

Bellis perennis (0.01 EUR)
Anemone hepatica (0.04 EUR)
Zinnia (0.07 EUR) - It's on the postcard 1518
Convallaria majalis (0.50 EUR)

Galanthus nivalis (0.10 EUR) - It's on the postcard 3238
Dahlia sp. (0.25 EUR)
Lilium sp. (0.70 EUR)
Calendula officinalis (0.78 EUR) - It's on the postcard 2537
Lathyrus odoratus (2.13 EUR)

The second stamp, issued on December 4, 2014, is Singing Trees and was designed by the student Solvita Kukle, which became the winner of the Latvia’s Pride stamp design contest. In the author’s opinion, it symbolizes the Latvian singing spirit and connection with nature, which is most evident during the Song Festival. Latvia’s Pride is a project which has been run by TV3 in collaboration with the newspaper Diena and social portal draugiem.lv for 11 years, aimed at identifying the selfless and strong-willed fellow nationals who have provided their altruistic help to others and rescued people in distress, given hope and fulfilled someone’s quiet dreams.

Latvian Traditional Costume - Latvian Cultural Canon

Sender: Valdis / Bric (postcrossing) LV-184290
Sent from Riga (Riga / Latvia), on 27.03.2015
Photo: Ieva Dabolina


  1. Traditional costumes is still one of my favorite postcard theme. I wish I could go back to collecting postcards and receive more of this type.

    1. If you want to swap, Maria, I have some: https://picasaweb.google.com/115337691094493933014/09PeopleAndTraditionsInRomaniaForSpecialSwap?authkey=Gv1sRgCO3zr-20y5eIjwE