Romania, as most countries in Eastern Europe, has undergone various changes in history as a result of fluctuating political frontiers. There is no wonder, then, that the traditional Romanian folk costumes were, at times, influenced by various fashions, European or Ottoman. Of course, other elements of the costume, such as the beloved ia—the embroidered linen blouse—had already been well established, in fact it could be traced back to the Neolithic.
The structure of the costume hasn’t changed much, though, throughout history, and it is more or less the same throughout the Balkans. The main element remains ia, the shirt or chemise, made from linen, hemp or wool, which is tied around the waist with a fabric belt, narrower for women, wider for men. While men’s shirts are shorter and worn over white linen trousers or leggings, women’s shirts are longer, usually reaching the ankles. Women also wear aprons or wrap skirts over the shirts, back and front. Men’s attire is completed with hats, waistcoats and overcoats, while women wear printed woollen scarves or embellished headbands and the same type of outer garment, which only differes in cuts and decorations.
Visually, the traditional Romanian folk costumes are very impressive. They are famous for their intricate embroideries in vivid colours and geometric or floral motifs, sometimes displaying hidden symbols. They also differ a lot depending on the region they are worn, as well as their function. Obviously, the folk costumes nowadays are only worn for special occasions, such as traditional celebrations, folk dances or weddings.
Traditional folk costumes from various parts of Romania
Since an image is known to worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to the intricate, colourful details of the folk costumes, here’s a selection, from various parts of Romania.
A traditional outfit from Bucovina, in the North of Romania, which sports typical heavy vests trimmed in fur, emphasising not only the decorative nature of the folk costume, but also its practical side, with multiple layers.
This woman’s costume also comes from Bucovina. Such costumes were usually reserved for special occasions. The colours of the Romanian flag, blue, red and yellow, are represented in the shirt.
This particular female attire comes from Argeș, in the Central-South part of the country, but it was typically worn by ladies from the high society all over South Romania.
A Sunday’s best from Banat, in the Western part of the country. The simple ia is wonderfully complemented by the silk embroidered flowers on the aprons.
This boy is wearing a traditional costume from the culturally rich region of Bistrița-Năsăud, in Transylvania. The hat, sporting peacock feathers is typical to this region and its manufacturing is quite laborious, sometimes the artisans using as many as 500 peacock feathers for just one hat.
This typical bridal outfit from Bihor features the famous sheepskin vest that Dior appropriated a few years ago, and sold for many thousands of euros, unfortunately without giving any credit to the local craftsmen.
Another bride, from Oaș Country, in the North of Romania, is sporting an elaborate headpiece and rows and rows of colourful beads.
Dumitru Șofonea, pictured below with his wife, both wearing traditional Romanian folk costumes from Făgărașului Country in Brașov area, is a sheepskin coat maker, and has been declared a Living Human Treasure by UNESCO.
Thanks to the cultural diversity of Romania, the folk costumes are not only denominating different regions of the country, but also various ethnicities. Below, a traditional folk costume worn by the women of the Bulgarian community from Banat and a Saxon costume from the beginning of the 20th century, on display at the Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania, in Cluj-Napoca.
To conclude our journey, let us recommend once again Mădălina Andronic’s Instagram feed where, for the whole month of October, as part of the #inktober challenge, she posts daily illustrations of Romanian folk attire.
Featured image: Alina Voicu / pixabay