Romanian dress

Romanian dress refers to the traditional clothing worn by Romanians, who live primarily in Romania and Moldova, with smaller communities in Ukraine and Serbia. Today, the vast majority of Romanians wear modern style dress on most occasions, and the garments described here largely fell out of use during the 20th century. However, they can still be seen in more remote areas, on special occasions, and at ethnographic and folk events. Each historical region has its own specific variety of costume.

Ethnographic regions

Romanian traditional clothing can be classified according to seven traditional regions. These can be further subdivided by ethnographic zones, which may range between 40 and 120, depending on the criteria used.[1]

The seven main regions are:

Genesis and evolution of Romanian traditional costume

First mentions about Romanian clothing

Dacian women wearing ștergar, similar to the contemporary headkerchief.
Given the weight (900-1,100 g) and size, the handmade gold bracelets were most likely worn by Dacian men, members of the upper class.[2][3]

The Romanian popular costume finds its roots in the part of Thracian, Dacian and Getae ancestors and resembles with that of the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, of course with differences consisting of decorative and colorful details. Between 7000 and 3500 BC was founded the belief in the one controlling power of the cosmos. Fabrics wore symbols appointed by virtue of faith, thus spinning and weaving became sacred. Therefore, were customary on the dresses the solar circle, the column of the sky, the rhomb, the hatch or the curved lines. Since 3500 BC and until year zero has passed from the sacred weaving to the vestment, the ritual reaching from the imposing space of the temple to the household hearth. The purpose of the garments worn by the ancestors was to facilitate dialogue with the unseen forces of the cosmos.[4] Thus, it is still possible to talk about a civilization of sacred fabrics. For example, the thread of spun is column-shaped and spirally twisted, which increases the sacredness of the fabric. Also, having different colors is the most useful means for expressing feelings and behaviors. Popular clothes Carpatho-Danubian territory summarizes existential and spiritual dimension of Romanians, but component parts of clothes multiplied and the clothing became a costume.[5] As a result, the autochthonous popular garment is a system of which developed the regional variations, through innovations and contaminations caused by each creator against the prototype schema.

The form and ornametics of the contemporary garments preserved a part of the language of signs and symbols specific to the mythical thinking of those times. Thus, the first testimonies about Romanian traditional port are set in stone, on Tropaeum Traiani monument in Adamclisi and Trajan's Column in Rome. For example, women portraits carved on Trajan's Column after the Dacian wars provide information about their clothing. Dacian women wore shirts rippled at the neck related to the Romanian ie. Sleeves were either long and wide or short. The dress was long to the ground, over which sometimes was attached a wide draped mantle. In the feet they wore leather sandals in summer and fur sandals in winter.[6]

Middle Ages and Byzantine influence

Costume of a typical Romanian shepherd, 18th century
Wallachian peasantry and troops, 1853
Painting by Stephen Catterson Smith depicting three peasants from Hodod, Transylvania
A Romanian girl wearing an elaborately decorated vest. Painting by Marianne Stokes

Portraits of the founders provide important information about the type of material of which were made the pieces of the port and about elements of tailoring, decor and chromatics. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, votive paintings on the walls of churches reserved to country's rulers and nobility hypostasiate a wider range of donors. As a result, in the sub-Carpathian areas of Oltenia (especially in Gorj) appear portraits of free peasants, freeholders and yeomen.

But representations of peasant port date from the fourteenth century. In Codex Latinus Parisinus, written during 1395–1396 by Paulus Sanctinus Ducensis, military engineer of King Sigismund of Luxembourg, besides portraits of knights and footmen appear described ancillaries of the army: craftsmen, cartmen, fishermen. In Chronicon Pictum Vindobonense are portrayed men in white shirts and trousers (Romanian: cioareci). Over they wore shaggy sarici with long sleeves and left on back. They were shoeing sandals (Romanian: opinci). In a simple comparative analysis it can be grasped that these elements are always present in the port of remote shepherds. Diaries of foreign travelers, particularly those of Antonio Maria Del Chiaro Fiorentino (secretary of Italian language of Constantin Brâncoveanu) and officer Friedrich Schwanz von Springfels contain rich information about the garments of Romanians: ladies, patronesses and peasant women wore identically tailored shirts, distinct being only the methods used for decoration.

Boyar shirts were of silk, embroidered with gold thread and decorated with pearls. The costume of Oltenia peasant women was composed of cotton shirts sewn with altițe, striped catrințe and bete. Like them, patronesses wore on head long headkerchief (Romanian: maramă) of floss silk or flax, that hung on back.[7]

In the medieval period was shaped the aesthetic vision of clothing assemblies worn by Romanians. Socio-economic conditions of the feudal period and administrative-territorial units that made up the so-called "countries" gave rise to specific types of costumes with local specificity for the Romanian lands. But regional variations should be reported to the prototype that has formed the basis, which shows the unity and diversity of Romanian popular costumes.

The climax of the artistic value of traditional costumes was reached in the mid-nineteenth century, when ennobled the Romanians bodies throughout the country. In the context of building the national conscience were sedimented the key-insignia of Romanian port, that distinguish it from surrounding ethnic groups.

The present situation

After World War I, the popular clothing generalized across traditional communities remain just in the everyday life of older generation, becoming a ceremonial vestment. In rural penetrated some albums with "national motifs" edited by traders of textile fibers and dyes industries. During the communist period, these mutations decreased the creative process of costumes in the households.

Nowadays, the main wearers of peasant garb are the soloists of folk music, the folk dance ensembles and the actors in movies and shows.

Men's clothing

Peasants from Abrud. Painting by Ion Theodorescu-Sion


The ițari are typical for Moldovans and represent a pair of long peasant trousers that were sewn from țigaie (a special breed of sheep wool) and had a length of 2 m, but being narrow, they were crimped on the leg from ankle to the knee. They were worn during the summer and the winter. Ițarii for summer wear are made of pânză de sac (bulky cotton).


The cioareci are very tight peasant pants of white woollen cloth (dimie or aba) woven in four threads, therefore thicker than the ițari. In Banat, the cioareci are known as canvas or baize stockings worn by women during the winter. In Moldavia can be found cioareci without creți that are worn in the working days. Here, they are also known as bernevici.

In the South and Moldavia, trousers are worn over boots or shoes whereas in Transylvania they are tucked into the tops of the boots.

The amount and style of decoration on cioareci depends on regional style. The majority of the decoration is on the upper parts of the trousers around the pockets, and front. Trousers worn with boots did not have any decoration on the lower part whereas those worn with spats had decoration down the legs accenting the cut of the trousers and round the hems or turn-ups.


Main article: Opanak

The oldest type of footwear is peasant sandals (opinci) worn with woollen or felt foot wraps (obiele) or woollen socks (călțuni). Evidence for this style of footwear can be seen on a clay foot found in Turdaș, dating from around 2500 BC. Opinci were worn throughout Romania and over a wide area of south and east Europe being known as opanke (Serbia), tservuli (Bulgaria), opinci (Macedonia), etc. Opinci are made of a single rectangle of cow, ox or pig hide gathered round the foot in various ways.


The suman is a long peasant coat (knee-deep) made of brown, gray or black cloth and richly decorated with găitane. It is also known as țundră, zeghe or dulamă.


Sheepskin hats

Clop ornated with peacock feathers

Căciulă are worn all over Romania and in most of the surrounding Balkan countries in winter. Fur hats are made by furriers and are most often black, although white căciulă are worn in parts of Banat and grey in central and north Moldavia. There are four types of căciulă found in Romania:

Felt hats

Hard felt hats are made by specialised craftsmen in workshops and are worn throughout the year. These hats are found centred on the Saxon regions around Sibiu and Bistrița and may have been introduced into Transylvania by the Saxons, whose craftsmen made them in workshops, from the 18th century. The style varies widely in shape and size of brim according to area. The wide brimmed hat appeared around the 17th-19th centuries and felt hats with broad brims up to 60 cm were worn in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and continued to be worn in Bistrița Valley, Moldavia until the 1940s. Hats with 40 cm brims were worn in central Transylvania and Muntenia. Felt hats with hard upturned brims – cu găng – were worn in Crișana, Hunedoara and Bukovina following a fashion of the gentry.[9] Wide brimmed felt hats with a large peacock feather (roată de păun) are still worn in Năsăud, further south the hats are much reduced in size, shepherds in Sibiu and along the southern Carpathians wear felt hats with very small brims, the present day fashion tending to do away with the brim altogether.

Green "trilby" style hats worn by Romanian border guards and mountain corps are still found in Pădureni and other areas today. This style originated in the Austrian Tyrol, and reached Romania during Habsburg rule, and became international due to the Habsburg's preference for wearing Tyrolese costume for hunting throughout their Empire. This style is now widespread for everyday use.[10]

Straw hats

Straw hats are worn by men (and women) throughout Romania in the summer. Straw hats vary in style from region to region although regional differences are now becoming less common as the straw version of the trilby takes over.[11]

In Maramureș, traditional straw hats (clop, pl. clopuri) are very small, while in Satu Mare, Arad, Transylvanian Plain hats have a high crown. The tallest – around 30 cm – can be found in Codru. In Oltenia and Teleorman, along the Danube, flat brimmed straw hats with rounded crown are worn. In Maramureș and Oaș Country, men also often wear their clopuri in the winter.[12]

Women's clothing

Elisabeth of Wied, Queen of Romania, in a complete national costume


Ie is the type of shirt of a typical gathered form of the collar, which has existed since ancient times. It is also known as the "Carpathian shirt", similar to the Slavic (Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, etc.) peoples. The three-part decor code of this pleated shirt is almost always the same: in addition to the underarm embroidery, the altiță (derived from Serbian ла̏тица), there is a single horizontal row on the sleeve, known as increț, and diagonal stripes below the armpit and shoulder, the râuri. The underarm embroidery characterizes the entire costume; it is traditionally seen as the culmination of embroidery and decoration. Each blouse tells a compelling story about the region it comes from through the symbols and colors used.


The fotă is a richly-ornamented wrap-around skirt made out of a rectangular piece of woolen fabric worn at the waist. Alternately, it can be made of two pieces of woven material that cover the front of the body (like an apron) and the back.[13] The fotă has several names, according to the ethnographic region: pestelcă (in Muntenia), opreg, vălnic and zăvelcă (in Oltenia), catrință or cretință (in Moldavia), păstură and zadie (in Transylvania), peștiman (in Bessarabia).

The fotă is made of woollen material or cotton mixed with wool, woven on four heddles. It fully covers the underskirt (poale) except for, in some areas, the hem. The oldest fote were made of black or greyish brown fabric using the natural colours of the wool. The earliest decoration was a red border (bete roșii) at the lower edge and on the front edge, which strengthen the fabric. This type of fotă is still found in north Moldavia where fote made of hemp or flax were formerly worn in some parts in summer. Fote with vertical stripes (vâstre) are also common in this area. The extent of the decoration becomes more elaborate as one moves south. The stripes change from simple woven decoration to alternately simple stripes and stripes of woven motifs (alesăture). In Muntenia, the stripes are replaced by compact woven decoration or heavy geometric embroidery, covering the whole surface except for the area which is overlapped in the front. The richest decoration is found in Argeș and Muscel zones where the fotă itself is occasionally made from silk, and the woven decoration is in gold or silver thread.[14]

A Romanian girl with maramă on the head. Painting by Nicolae Grigorescu


Among the elements that should not miss in women's clothing are the "head coverings". They have a great aesthetic and social value for women. Young girls accustom to walk bareheaded, but after the wedding ritual – "bride's binders", "bride undressing" – the godmother puts her a beautiful basma or maramă.[15]

The maramă is worn mainly in southern Romania, southern Moldavia and southern Transylvania. Marame possibly have an oriental origin and are decorated with white patterns woven onto a white background and often grouped toward the ends. In Argeș, the patterns can include coloured geometric motifs.[16]


  1. Dr. Ion Ghinoiu. "Atlasul etnografic român". National Heritage Institute (in Romanian).
  4. Maria Bâtcă, Costumul popular românesc, vol. II of Anotimpul de artă populară collection groomed by Oana Gabriela Petrică and edited by CNCPCT, Bucharest, 2006
  5. Virgil Vasilescu, Semnele cerului. Cultură și civilizație carpatică, Archetype-Spiritual Renaissance Publishing House, Bucharest, 1994
  6. Maria Gimbutas, Civilizație și cultură, Meridians Publishing House, Bucharest, 1989, p. 49
  7. Thomas Carlyle, Filozofia vestimentației, second edition, European Institute, Bucharest, 1998, p. 79
  8. Stoica, V. and Vagii, M. (1969), Arta populară din Câmpia Munteniei, Casa Creației, Ilfov
  9. Florescu, F. B. (1957), Portul popular din Moldova de Nord, Arta Publishing House
  10. Bielz, I. (1956), Portul popular al sașilor din Transilvania, Arta Publishing House
  11. Horșia, O. and Petrescu, P. (1971), Artistic Handicrafts in Romania, UCECOM
  12. Bănățeanu, T. (1955), Portul popular din Țara Oașului, Arta Publishing House
  13. DEX
  14. Florescu, F. B., Stahl, P. and Petrescu, P. (1967), Arta populară din zonele Argeș și Muscel, Academy Press
  15. "Costumul popular femeiesc". (in Romanian). 5 January 2011.
  16. Petrescu, P., Secosan, E. and Doaga, A. (1973), Cusături românești, Pioneers Council

See also

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