UNESCO Notices Lithuanian Delmonai (III)

A seemingly obscure cultural object, it is so unique and original as to be noted by UNESCO, the keeper of heritage and traditions of the world. A delmonas is a highly decorated pouch or handbag, typical of the national costume worn by Lithuanian women in Lithuania Minor.

In their seminal work Lithuanian National Costume, folk artists Antanas and Anastazija Tamošaitis describe women‘s garments from each ethnographic region in great detail. In all regions, handbags evolved from (handwoven) kerchiefs knotted at the corners so as to carry articles. These were called pundinukės, krepšiai or ryšuliai. Later the kerchief-handbags were sewn in various sizes, straight sides or narrowing toward the top, or made from thick cloth, with woven patterns. Plaited, twisted or patterned bands trimmed the edges, and occasionally the seams, and were used to fasten the handbag to the waistband of the skirt or apron.

Only in Lithuania Minor was the handbag called a delmonas and is an essential element of the folk costume. The word originally came from the Turkish dolaman via the Slavic languages, and referred to robes or jackets (also the origin of the shape of “dolman” sleeves). Interesting that in Lithuanian there is no reference to a garment, only the brightly coloured, embroidered or cross-stitched pouch. A festive decorated was hung on top of the apron or skirt, while the everyday one fastened to the underskirt and could be reached through a slit in the top skirt, according to A. Tamošaitis.

The most characteristic Lithuania Minor patterns were colourfully embroidered with woolen thread or beads. According to this video from the Today, delmonai are back in style as a unique, handmade fashion statement.

Handbag, patchwork, emroidered with handspun wool. Lithuania Minor, 19th century. From Lithuanian National Costume by Antanas and Anastazija Tamošaitis, Lithuanian Folk Art Institute, Toronto, 1979
A Lithuanian woman‘s costume featuring a delmonas at the waist. From the book Lithuanian Women‘s Folk Costume by Stasė Bernotienė Lietuvių liaudies moterų drabužiai Leidykla Mintis, Vilnius, 1974
A delmonas worn today