Written and iconographic facts about Lithuanian national costume reach back to the 17th century. Not until the 19th century, however,do we find more extensive data about country attire that reflects the entire territory of Lithuania. Museums hold collections of traditional costumes from the 18th-20th century. Lithuanian peasants wore clothes made from hand-woven cloth nearly until the end of the 19th century. Shirt material was made from flax grown and spun at home. Among linen clothes were patterned aprons, wimples, kerchiefs. Strict rules were applied to judging flax quality in the Lithuanian countryside. The skill of the weaver was evaluated based on thinness, whiteness, and intricacy of weaving techniques. Every woman desired to be known as a great weaver. Some wimples from Aukštaitija and linen stoles from Suvalkija were so thin that they were almost transparent. In Aukštaitija a wimple 60 to 70 cm wide was considered good if one could fit its warp through a wedding ring.
In the second half of the19th century, especially in western Lithuania, commercial rather than hand-spun cotton yarn was more commonly used for weaving. In comparison to linen, hand-made wool material was mostly rough and simply woven. The most common patterns used were plaid and striped, as well as natural undied colors of grey, brown, white or black wool. Thick outerwear was from matted wollen cloth. Clothes were made from various mixes of wool, flax and wool, and cotton and wool. Among these, highly decorative patterns emerged as part of pick-up, overlay or rep weave weaving principles. Hand-made yarn was at first dyed using plant pigments, which were later (from the 19th century onward) replaced by aniline.
Women's and sometimes men's clothes included a variety of hand-made decorations. The most popular were a few types of bobbin laces which decorated clothes for special occasions: aprons, wimples, linen stoles, sometimes shirts. There are abundant examples of women's bonnets which are almost continuously sewn and braided using white linen netted lace.
Embroidery techniques and mostly patterns, were taken over from craftsmen's workshops, and at the end of the century - from printed materials that occasionally reached Lithuanian villages.
Until the beginning of the 20th century Lithuanian women more eagerly and skillfully decorated textile by various weaving methods. Knitting was relatively uncommon, limited mostly to socks, mittens and wristlets. Crocheting, which replaced the old bobbin and netted lace at the end of the 19th century, spread quite late; there are not too many costumes or parts left of this kind.
The villagers would not buy a lot of commercially manufactured clothes, however, specific pieces were highly desired. For example, leather shoes were particularly valued by both women and men. Women would also buy expensive fancy material such as brokade, velvet, silk, wool paisley for bodices, as well as jewelry and accessories: such as gold and silver galloons, silk ribbon, necklaces, silk and paisley scarfs. In the second half of the 19th century, wealthier farmers would buy commercially woven wollen cloth for coats (in Lith. surdutas) and other special occasion attire, and thin white cotton cloth for shirts and headresses which replaced linen.
19th century Lithuania consisted of 5 ethnographic areas: Aukštaitija, Žemaitija, Dzūkija, Suvalkija, and Lithuania Minor (Klaipėda region). Each area was distinct in its own dress style and image resulting from ancient tribal differences and later history of the country. Structural parts of the costume were the same, but differences were found in the cut of clothes, their colors, ornaments, and in a few additional pieces and accessories.
Women's summer costume in the19th century consisted of a long shirt, two or more skirts, an apron, a bodice, and shoes. Sash was usually added as well as various scarves, beads, handkerchiefs and other accessories. Young women would decorate their heads with flowers, wreaths, and silk ribbons. Married women always covered their hair with bonnets, wimples or scarves. In cold weather women wore long and short caftan-type clothes (in Lith. sermėga, sermėgėlė), sometimes fur coats.
A man's costume was similar to a horsemans costume. Lithuanian folklore abounds in references to the horse as an inseparable companion, and the word "rider" is used as a synonym for a "young man" (in Lith. bernelis).
For special occasions, a man wore long straight trousers, a tucked-in shirt,and a caftan-style coat called a sermėga. In the second half of the 19th century, the old sermėga was gradually replaced by coats, that were tailored city style. A vest was often worn underneath. Men wore ornamental woven sashes or leather belts. Boots were especially valued. Men would also wear multicolored linen, wool, or silk neckerchiefs, either home-made or obtained from a manufacturer. A felt hat with peacock or rooster feathers, or flowers was a necessity.