True Lithuania

Lithuanian Fashion

The mainstream attire of urban Lithuanians increasingly replicates that of the Western Europe and it is acquired in the same franchises (opened ~2000s).

The richest go to Milan and Paris to shop, while the small town "elite" visits the main cities and famous local designers. The less well off shop at marketplaces and used clothing stores (where a good suit may be bought for less than 1 Euro if you know when to visit).

Seasonal clothing in Lithuania

Major summer/winter temperature differences mean that Lithuanian street fashion is highly seasonal.

Summer clothing can be skimpy but it should still cover upper thighs and torso. Anything less than that is acceptable only for swimming and sunbathing. Being naked/topless is only common in nudist beaches/saunas, many of which are gender-segregated.

Spring/Autumn clothing is warmer, hands and face remaining the sole uncovered portions of the skin.

During winter Lithuanians throw in many layers of clothes to combat the frost: furs, scarfs, gloves, caps, socks... Most of these warmest clothes are removed while in heated interiors (at some institutions this is even mandatory), showing the usual Spring/Autumn clothing underneath.

Seasonal street clothing in Lithuania

Seasonal street clothing in Lithuania: from winter (left) to the hottest summer days (right). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Main clothing subcultures in Lithuania

Parallel to the Western fashion trends Lithuania has a more glitzy female fashion (more colors, shorter skirts, higher heels, more make-up), somewhat more popular in smaller towns and among the ethnic minorities. It dates to the 1990s when people were hungry for colors, glitz and less conservativeness (denied to them for decades by the Soviet regime). Even many male businessmen preferred red suits in the 1990s (unlike the female fashion, this has since died out).

People considering themselves to be more fashionable (i.e. imitating the West more closely) tend to denounce such "over-the-top" clothing as "Gariūnai fashion" (after the Gariūnai market in Vilnius suburbs where most Lithuanians started their businesses - and used to acquire clothing - back in the 1990s). A female that dress that way is known as fyfa, usually a pejorative. The male "style-counterpart" of a fyfa is forsas or marozas. They emphasize their masculinity by extensive use of sportswear, even for a simple walk or a night out (prestigious nightclubs ban this). Muscles and cars are also parts of their image.

Fyfa and forsas may be considered a subculture with an Eastern European flavor. Other parts of Lithuanian youth have embraced Western subcultures since the 1990s, each with its own clothing aesthetics, preferred musical styles, and festivals. They include goths, hippies, punks, "metallists", "street culture" (hip hop), skinheads, ultras and LGBT.

Street fashion in Lithuania

Youth street styles for an April Sunday casual stroll. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Fashion under the Soviet occupation

Modern glitz likely would have not become so popular if not the decades of clothing limitations under the Soviet occupation (1945-1990). Make-up for female school students and long hair for males used to be banned, for example.

Furthermore, there used to be a constant shortage of goods, including good clothes. There have been merely a few designs readily available (all conservative) - therefore most people of the same age dressed similarly. To avoid this most women used to knit and sew extensively well until the 1990s. Additionally, the few people privileged enough to be allowed abroad (especially to the non-communist states) used to shop there for their relatives (or buy goods for illegal resale).

Lithuanian factory workers in 1977


This image of Lithuanian workers made to watch a speech by Leonid Brezhnev in 1977 also shows the uniformness and bluntness of clothing at the time.

Older women may still dress in Soviet-style clothes or knit/sew but these practices are much less common after the advent of independent Lithuania and the free market.

Formal vs. informal clothing in Lithuania

Under the Soviet occupation, formal attire was required on many occasions, e.g. in theaters and restaurants, for students during all exams. New generations have largely adopted Western practices and there are fewer suits in streets. In fact, strict dress codes are less common in Lithuania today than in the West.

A folk costume is acceptable as formal attire under the Lithuanian etiquette. Such usage grew in popularity in the 1930s (women in full folk costume, men with folk strip replacing their tie) but has been since extinguished by the Soviet occupation. Today the folk costume usage is limited to folk singing and similar events. Prior to the 20th century, the folk costumes were used by most Lithuanian peasants; they are characterized by white shirt under a colorful jacket (exact patterns depending on region). Women wear long patterned skirts (shorter for folk dances), men use trousers. Women also cover their hair with scarfs.

Performing folk music in folk costumes (left) vs. attending a wedding at a church where formal attire predominates (right). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Uniforms are uncommon: few schools have them and many jobs that tend to be uniformed elsewhere (e.g. bus driver) allow workers to dress freely.

Lithuanian clothing and fashion industry

Lithuania used to be a powerhouse of clothing manufacturing. However, the lack of radical overhaul of models after independence created an image problem ("outdated local clothing" vs. "modern foreign clothing"), while Asia could not be outcompeted in costs, leading to the industry's decline in the 2000s.

On the other hand, a Lithuanian haute-couture scene developed and some designers reached some fame beyond Lithuanian borders. "Mados infekcija" is the regular fashion festival for young talents.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. Does Lithuania have any Lithuanian born costume designers to be known worldwide?

    • A few Lithuanian fashion designers have their works presented on international scenes and international fashion magazines. However, no Lithuanian costume designers can be said to be worldwide household names. For example, no Lithuanian costume designer even has a page about him/her in English Wikipedia (as of today).

      Locally however some Lithuanian designers are well known and have their own botique shops in high streets. They also dress the Lithuanian elite, create costumes for Lithuanian theater and some have written books on fashion. Some of the best known Lithuanian designers (arguably ordered by famousness): Juozas Statkevičius, Aleksandras Pogrebnojus, Ramunė Piekautaitė.

    • I worked as a designer here in California years ago. I’ve done karate uniforms, evening gowns and many other things such as drawing and drafting and basic office work. I graduated from Otis Parsons in LA in 1990. Perhaps you have heard of a class mate of mine named Eduardo Lucero? Paula Courley got designer of the year for her beautiful Peacock trained gown the year we graduated. She was hired by Bob Mackie. Claire Pettibone dyed her hair red freshman year after she saw mine. Many real “designers”, who are the meat behind designer labels, never get recognition for their work. For example, when you buy a Jeniffer Lopez garment and Kohls, do you really honestly think she conceived the design, drew, drafted, fitted, sewed and merchandised it? Someone else, hired for practically nothing, did all the real work.

      My grandfather, Joseph Bilida was trained as a tailor. He came to America in the early 1900’s. He was from Babtai. My grandmother, Helen Towianski (Towianska?), was from Kaunas. She dreamed of selling dresses to rich American ladies. She came to America through Ellis Island, age 16. They met and married here in the states and settled in Detroit.

      The rag trade doesn’t pay well at all. Top pay for a new designer was $10 an hour when I graduated. The best (most full filling) job I had only paid $5.50. I found other work so I could pay for a roof over my head. I’m a secretary in the legal department for a major studio, now, but I still do special orders for close friends and family. I am of Lithuanian decent.

  2. when did you publish this like what date?

    • Like all the Truelithuania.com website this article is regularly updated and expanded. The first version of this article was published on 2013 11 20; the final additions (so far) were made on 2014 10 31.


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