Wearing Latvia: Latvian Folk Costumes Abroad – New digital exhibition at Latvians Abroad

Almost every Latvian home outside of Latvia had, and stille has, at least one national folk costume that is highly revered and respected – either brought along from Latvia as a family heirloom and passed down from generation to generation, or woven, sewn and made at home, or perhaps commissioned from an artisan. Owing a Latvian folk costume abroad creates and maintains a link with Latvia.

The Latvian word for the national folk costume, tautastērps, both vividly and literally reveals the essence of the word – tauta (nation/folk) and tērps (costume). On the one hand, folk costumes serve as formal wear outside of Latvia – they are worn at celebrations and important occasions (Midsummer, Independence Day, school graduations, etc.), and thousands of colourful costumes can be seen  worn at song festivals and cultural festivals organised by Latvians abroad. On the other hand, the national folk costume has become the most expressive global symbol of Latvian identity, confirming not only the wearer’s ethnic heritage and distinctiveness in their multicultural place of residence, but also revealing the values and unique features of Latvia’s cultural heritage.   

The Latvians Abroad – Museum and Research Centre’s exhibition “Wearing Latvia” features 40 Latvian national costumes from abroad and the stories of their wearers and makers. The objects and photographs on display show both the symbolic significance of the folk costumes and the history of their wearing and making – life in refugee camps, later on in Latvian communities in exile, and in today’s emigrant centres. The history of folk costumes made by Latvians living abroad – the particularly unique methods and creative ingenuity employed – reveals the diversity of Latvian craftsmanship in the diaspora, where emotional and social aspects often prevailed over ethnographic precision.

Visit the exhibition here:

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