Romanian DNA

The Suman – A Romanian Folk Coat Fit for a Queen

When I wrote When Fashion Designers Forget to #givecredit article, I promised I will come back with a story about “the suman”. It’s a piece of the Romanian traditional costume which Tory Burch used in her 2018 Resort Collection without giving credit to its source of inspiration.    

This article gives you a better understading of the history of the suman. Plus, bring to your attention few things that Tory Burch and many other designers probably have no idea about:

  • Almost 100 years ago, so, way they discovered the beautiful Romanian suman, there was an extraordinary woman who promoted it. Her name is Queen Marie of Romania! 
  • There are important museums around the world which have in their exhibitions for tens of years some amazing sumans, vests, coats and entire Romanian folk costume;
  • Few years prior to Tory Burch, Ioana Corduneanu and Alina Elena Iancovik, two Romanian designers, used the suman and its stylish intricated black embroidery as a source of inspiration. And they did all this not just by giving credit, but also but reinterpreting it. 

The Romanian SUMAN

“Suman” – that’s how Romanians call it for some hundred of years; it comes from the Bulgarian word “sukmanŭ”, meaning peasant coat.The suman was wore (and still are) by both women and men in various regions of Romania during autumn-winter time. In the old days, it was hand-made 100% by women of all ages. Passing the art of weaving and embroidery was done from generation to generation along with all the hidden meanings of the symbols and patterns.  

These were hand woven from wool and embroided by women. The embroided symbols and colors may vary depending on the region, yet black is the dominant color of the embroidery. 

Suman - Romanian folk autumn coat
Suman - Romanian folk winter coat

The Suman fit for a Queen

Queen Marie of Romania

Five years ago I posted a story — Falling in Love with My Romanian IA, depicting Queen Marie of Romania, the 22th granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Prince of Romania and followed him to Bucharest.

She came at a very young age to a foreign country, full of hopes and questions, not knowing much about Romanians. She fell in love with the people and their heritage. 

Yet, God gave some of His greatest gifts a Queen can enjoy. A country which became her heart’s home. Traditions, customs and beautiful landscapes which inspired her to write about and fight for Romania. The love a nation who honours and remembers her even today. 

On August 1924, Queen Marie of Romania became the 2nd European monarch ever to grace the cover of Time Magazine, after King George V. She was also the 3rd woman ever on the cover of Time, after the Italian theatre icon Eleonora Duse and the future U.S. First Lady Lou Henry Hoover.
"I came to this country at very young age, yet I became one of you."
Queen Marie of Romania
Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938)
The Queen of Our Hearts

And, if you knew her story, you would know that the above quote is an extremely accurate representation of the truth. Queen Mary found inspiration in our cultural heritage and in return she inspired us back. She was a queen proud to wear her adoptive country’s folk costume. And, as you can see Queen Mary and her daughters were extremely proud to wear the Romanian suman.

Queen Marie & The Suman
Queen Marie of Romania and Princesses Irina, Ileana, Marie, Mignon, and Helen (1923)

There are hundreds of pictures of the Queen wearing the out national costume. The picture above is just one proving how she passed on her love for the folk costume to all her daughters. It’s also shows you the sumans and the IAs made especially for the Romanian Royal family.  

In many of the pictures I have mentioned, Queen Marie appears proudly wearing a suman she had made for her. It was a much modern interpretation and cut of the traditional Romanian suman. 

The Romanian suman - on display for the world to see

Maryhill Museum of Art

Sumans, vests and other clothing pieces of similar type of embroidery continued to be made and wore without interruption for hundreds of years. Their beauty and amazing embroidery turned them into real treasures for museums around the world. And I picked two of these museums which started collecting various pieces of the Romanian folk costumes since the beginning of the 20th century. 

Not by chance, I shall start with Maryhill Museum of Art (Portland, US), one of the Pacific Northwest’s most enchanting cultural destinations. It is housed in a Beaux Arts mansion on 5,300 acres high above the Columbia River.

 The museum was founded Northwest entrepreneur and visionary Samuel Hill (1857 – 1931). Lawyer, railroad executive and “an eccentric Washington State millionaire with a passion for the Columbia Gorge”, as Oregon Portland Encyclopedia contributor Kristine Deacon calls him, Samuel Hill substantially influenced the economic development of the Pacific Northwest region in the early 20th century. He purchased the property and began building the house with dreams of establishing a Quaker farming community. When the goal proved untenable, Hill was encouraged by friends actresses Loïe Fuller, Queen Marie of Romania, and Alma de Bretteville Spreckles to establish a museum. And so he did, despite all challenges he had to face.


Queen Marie and Sam Hill, 1926 Courtesy Oreg. Hist. Soc. Research Library, OrHi63563

An ambitious visionary and “inveterate globetrotter”, Sam Hill was a long-time friend of Queen Marie of Romania.  Besides being considered one the most beautiful royals of Europe, she was an influential monarchs and political figures of Europe at that time. Therefore, it is no wonder that her visit to the United States (1926), prompted a media frenzy like no other. On November 3, at Samuel Hill’s invitation, she presided over the yet-unfinished Maryhill Museum of Art’s dedication ceremony. Later on, in her diary Queen Marie called Maryhill:

“that strange uncouth cement building erected by the just as strange old Samuel Hill. ... I knew when I set out that morning to consecrate that queer freak of a building that no one would understand why; I knew it was empty and in no wise ready to house objects for a museum. I knew there were scoffers about me, even hostilities, but a spirit of understanding was strong in me that day and I managed by my own personality, by my words, by my spirit, to move all the hearts beating there this morning. ... I knew that a dream had been built into this house, a dream beyond the everyday comprehension of the everyday man”.
Queen Marie of Romania
Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938)

On this occasion, Queen Marie donated more than 100 works of art and personal items to the museum. This donation included 

For those who would love to explore the story of the Queen’s Marie Collection, I warmly invite you to watch this short video.

Queen Marie of Romania’s gift served as the basis of what today is an impressive collection of over 450 pieces of Romanian folk costumes, textiles, icons, paintings, manuscripts. 

Queen Marie Suman 1924

Last but not least important, in January 2020, Maryhill Museum of Art announced that it will open its 80th anniversary season on March 15 a special Romanian Textiles Exhibition.  

“A Particular Beauty: Romanian Folk Clothing” Exhibition features 20 fully dressed mannequins and numerous individual garments including coats, chemises, blouses, and vests. Visitors can admire a variety of Romanian embroidery techniques, mediums, and styles. According to Curator of Art Steve Grafe, “This marks the first time that we have mounted an exhibition of this scale of Romanian textiles. (…) It will give the public an opportunity to see many objects that we have recently acquired as well as pieces that were gifted to the museum when it was first established.”

The Romanian suman - on display for the world to see

Horniman Museum & Gardens

Sumans, vests and other clothing pieces of similar type of embroidery continued to be made and wore without interruption for hundreds of years. Their beauty and amazing embroidery turned them into real treasures for museums around the world. And I picked two of these museums which started collecting various pieces of the Romanian folk costumes since the beginning of the 20th century. 

Opened to the public since Victorian times and located in South of London (UK), The Horniman Museum & Gardens mission is to connect us all with global cultures and the natural environment. It’s on Horniman website photo gallery I found these amazing Romanian sumans, coats and vests. Photo credits belong to Horniman, I only put it together in these collages for you to enjoy.  

Romanian Suman @ Horniman Museum
Romanian Vests @ Horniman

The Romanian National Rugby Team

Ioana Corduneanu

Graduating “Ion Mincu Institute of Architecture” (Bucharest), Ioana Corduneanu is recognized in Romania as one of the most important contributors for preserving the tradition of the national folk costume. Many years ago she launched Semne Cusute project where she meticulously started documenting the symbols and patterns embroided by the Romanian women from all corners of the country on their family’s folk costumes.

The reason I mention has to do with the fact that she was one of the first to bring back to the attention of the international and local public the Romanian suman. And this is the story of how she did.  

Ioana Corduneanu
Photo: Ioana Corduneanu Facebook page

On December 17, 2013, the Romanian Rugby Federation officially announced the long-term partnership with Semne Cusute Association founded by Corduneanu. This meant that starting the beginning of 2014 Stejarii, the Romanian national rugby team will wear the symbols of the Romanian traditional culture on their equipment. 

When asked about this initiative,  Lucian Lori, Communication & Marketing Director of the Romanian Rugby Federation, said: “We wish Stejarii to be the essence of what Romanian means. We all know the sport is the best ambassador and we would like to take advantage of this opportunity and show the world proofs of our culture. Out of the dozens of Romanian traditional motifs, we chose the strongest ones for what they signify inspires us. Moreover, the symbol we chose for 2014 will be embroidered on the t-shirt to strengthen the message linked with the preservation of our tradition.”  

Suman - symbols explained
The Spiral & The Horns of the Ram symbols - explained by Ioana Corduneanu
It is an honour for us to support the connection between our Romanian tradition and such a sport with a long history, by ennobling Stejarii t-shirts with ancient symbols expressing the values of our people. Taking such responsibility is is a step forward towards rediscovering our identity.
Ioana Corduneanu
Ioana Corduneanu
Founder, Semne Cusute Association
Romanian Rugby National Team 2015 T-Shirts
Romanian Rugby National Team

IIANA 2015 - Queen Marie Suman

Alina Elena Iankovic

Alina Elena Isakovic
Source: Alina Iancovik Facebook page

Back in 2015, Alina Elena Isakovic, founder of IIANA, an online fashion shop brand of ethnic inspiration, revived the classic peasant winter coat called “suman”. Back in 2015, Alina Elena Isakovic, founder of IIANA, an online fashion shop brand of ethnic inspiration, revived the classic peasant winter coat called “suman”. 

It is not by chance that now I bring to your attention IIANA’s 2015 collection. Yes, it has everything to do with Tory Burch copy-cat Romanian suman.

My inspiration comes from old books I have been collected along the years from antique shops. I believe that the best source of inspiration is the one from coming from the old Romanian books. In my design shop, we do not necessarily take into consideration the fashion trends. We rather prefer to think of new ways of how to integrate an old traditional Romanian piece of clothing into a stylish modern urban outfit.
Alina Elena Isakovic
Alina Iankovic
Fashion designer, Founder of IIANA

One of the pieces is a suman named “Queen Marie”. It makes a meaningful connection with Queen Marie of Romania, one of the most elegant and influential royals of her time. The pictures are self-explanatory, yet I added a few details below. 

IIANA 2015 - suman

It is worth mentioning that all these pieces use natural fabrics and the hand made embroidery is mostly by local artisans in Gorj area, Oltenia. It’s a region well-known for the suman both men and women wear for centuries. This means a lot when it comes to preserving the authenticity of the embroidery and respect for what it means. As you know, symbols carry meanings and when put to together, they tell a great life story. 

Just a brief conclusion

Marrying original folk pieces and modern clothing

To the present days, Queen Marie of Romania remains the greatest promoter of all times of the Romanian traditional folk costume. The sumans, the IAs, the rich and amazing folk costumes she so proudly wore were not just an inspiration for the fashion designers across the world. For Her Majesty, wearing the Romanian folk costumes was a way of connecting with the energy of the people who welcomed her as their Queen of Hearts. Queen’s Mary legacy is today carried out by fashion designers and folk costume curators such as Alin Gălățescu, Iulia Gorneanu, Ioana Corduneanu, Alina Elena Iankovic, Philippe Guilet and many others.  


  1. Corduneanu, IoanaAbout me,
  2. Clay, Henry L. — A Rumanian Quee in the West, Frontier Times, April-May 1968
  3. Deacon, KristineQueen Marie of Romania’s 1926 visit to Oregon, The Oregon Encyclopedia, 
  4. Edwards, Tom — Queen Marie and Her 1926 Visit to the Pacific Northwest, Maryhill Magic Newsletter, 2008
  5. Galescu, RoxanaIIANA, eleganță cu influențe tradiționale, Fashion Premium Magazine, January 16, 2019, 
  6. Marie, Queen of Romania — America Seen By A Queen: Queen Marie’s Diary of her 1926 Voyage to the United States of America, Bucharest, The Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House, 1999
  7. Moldovan, Medeea — Gypsey Vest – cojoc tradițional românesc, made in India, vândut de un brand celebru la un preţ exorbitant, November 19, 2018 
  8. Neblea, Andreea — Cum a ajuns cojocul românesc să fie made in India şi vândut de un brand celebru la un preţ exorbitant, Adevărul Newspaper, November 19, 2018
  9. Pakula, Hannah — The Last Romantic, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984
  10. Însemne solare și modelele pandurilor pe tricourile de cupă mondială, Romanian Rugby Federation, August 18, 2015
  11. Simboluri ale culturii românești vor fi promovate de Sttejarii începând cu 2014, Romanian Rugby Federation, December 17, 2013
  12. Maryhill Museum of Art Opens 80th Anniversary Season with Romanian Textiles Exhibition, Maryhill Museum of Art, January 31, 2020
  13. Maryhill Museum of Art, January 31, 2020


I I highly encourage you to click on these links and enjoy even more amazing images. 

When Fashion Designers Forget to #givecredit

The fact that the Romanian IA continues to be an is amazing source of inspiration for fashion designers all over the world is a fact. The Romanian IA – The Fashion Icon Designers Love is one article I wrote many years ago, but updated it recently. It honors those fashion designers who, continuing Henri Matisse’s work, spread the word around the world about the beauty of the Romanian IA. Sadly, this new article about the Romanian folk costume tells a different story … about those fashion designers who forget to give credit and honor the Romanian local culture which inspired their collections. I am talking about Tom Ford, Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera, Valentino, Isabel Marant, Joseph Altazzura, Nili Lotan and others. 

Fashion designers who forget to give credit

One needs to understand that in the fashion industry, the use of local cultures symbols, patterns, cuts and so on is not something new. Some fashion designers acknowledged their source of inspiration. They gave credit to the local cultures, this way honoring generations of women who preserved these traditions. To be very clear, they adapted those elements in a manner fit for the contemporary women. It’s not something they just copied and pasted. 

In the recent years, the online space talks about fashion industry’s unfairness towards local cultures and cultural appropriation is a hot topic. If fashion houses like Gaultier or Valentino are great examples for crediting their source of inspiration, some of fashion designers did exactly that. They just took credit for something it was never theirs. Or, in other cases, as you’ll see, they attributed to other cultures.  

Tom Ford (2012)

Tom Ford’s 2012 spring collection was one of the most well-kept secrets in the fashion industry. Critics and fashion lovers had to wait for 2 months before seeing a glimpse of the mesmerizing collection. There were lots of pencil skirts with tops, raffia, lace, beading, intricate embroidery, fringe, leather and sex appeal, but also many folk-inspired pieces. Spain, South America and Romania were the main sources of inspiration. 

Hamish Bowles, mentioned in his Vogue article dedicated to Ford’s 2012 spring collection:

" (...) there was a thread of Pre-Raphaelite romanticism in embroidered peasant blouses (of the type Matisse loved to paint), and even frothy, Renaissance-sleeved dresses that evoked the work of the great sixties and seventies London designer Ossie Clark."
Hamish Bowles
Hamish Bowles
English fashion journalist and editor

Singer Adele made Vogue magazine’s cover photo (2012) wearing Tom Ford’s outfit inspired by the Romanian IA from Sibiu area (Transilvania). What is representative for the peasant blouse of Sibiu is the harmony of the white and black colors; the thin and intricate embroidery is mostly done with black threads. In rare cases, it has some red, green, blue, golden or silver threads. 

In an interview with Laura Kathleen, Fashion Magazine, Tom Ford himself makes some kind of acknowledgment to Yves Saint Laurent’s influence. 

“I’ve streamlined things more this season. I think I’m very classic, because what I do is always based on something you’ve seen before. And yes, maybe there’s something YSL about it. When I left off designing for women, I was at YSL so I’m working through that to be me, asking myself, What do I like? What defines your brand?”
Tom Ford
Tom Ford
American fashion designer

Carolina Herrera (2013)

Carolina Herrera 2013 Spring/ Summer collection uses embroidery elements that look quite similar with those found on the Romanian folk blouse.

Carolina Herrera - Spring 2013

Joseph Altuzzara (2014)

French-born, luxury women’s ready-to-wear clothing designer Joseph Altuzzara, launched his brand, Altuzarra, in New York in 2008. The patterns from some of the pieces of Altuzzara’s Pre-Spring 2014 collection are not similar or inspired, but quite identical! No personal touch, no real contribution of his own. The gallery below illustrates quite well, I would say, this resemblance. I was really happy to easily find great quality online resources documenting Romanian traditional embroidery. Ioana Corduneanu’s Semne Cusute blog is just one of them.

Romanian IA
Altuzarra used what in Romania is called "creasta de cocos" symbol or coxcomb in English (see image on the right corner).
Once again Altuzarra uses another Romanian folkloric symbol, the eigth-pointed star. On the left side you can see some examples taken from our original IAs.
This time it's about a bunch of traditional Romanian symbolic elements combined.

Yet, Altuzarra told Vogue magazine that this collection he designed this supremely elegant collection “in the heat of summer—in Greece” and the clothes certainly seemed ready to waft into an Aegean island wardrobe.

Don’t get me wrong, Greek traditional embroidery is amazing, yet has nothing to do with Romanian tradition. You will never see a meander (aka meandrous), the so well-known Greek decorative motif on a Romanian IA. Oh, yes, I forgot, when it comes to marketing, Greece or Aegean Sea sound much better than Romania!

Emilio Pucci (2015)

Peter Dundas injected a Sixties’ vibe into his pretty Emilio Pucci 2015 resort collection. Inspiring and feminine at the same time! Yet, what caught my attention was once the incredible resemblance of certain patterns and motifs he used with the Romanian symbols of the hand-made embroidery from Muscel area. To see for yourself, I’ve put together some examples of such Romanian authentic embroidery next to Pucci’s creations.

Emilio Pucci 2015 - Resort collection

Isabel Marant (2015)

French fashion designer Isabel Marant, known for her bohemian aesthetic and fervently coveted creations, caught the attention of the public eye with her collection. What she failed to mention was the fact that some of her most representation pieces were inspired by the Romanian folkloric costume.     

Isabel Marant - Etoile collection
Isabel Marant 2015 Etoile collection

Some of her pieces are identical with the modern folkloric blouses you can buy anywhere in Romania. The starting price s around Euro 50 for less embroidered IAs. For those handmade IAs that long sleeves and are almost entirely embroidered, the price can go up to Euro 250-300. In Marant’s case, the retail price is USD410. If you loved it, definitely you should try finding some authentic IAs. There are plenty of online Romanian shops that sell and deliver them abroad!  

The Romanian "Suman" VS Burch copy-cat coat

Tory Burch - Resort 2018

Tory Burch 2018 Resort collection – when first made public, the American designer claimed it was inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Elizabeth of Toro, an Ugandan lawyer, diplomat, model. If you want to dig for more, enjoy what Vogue Magazine had to say on this matter. Below the initial statement made by Tory Burch on her website

“We looked to two women: Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Princess Elizabeth of Toro, the stunning diplomat, lawyer and model who lived here, in New York, in the late Sixties. They both had a unique style — they epitomized elegance in simplicity and as consummate travelers, they had a cosmopolitan sense of ease and far-flung references…"
Tory Burch
Tory Burch
American fashion designer

What you’ll be reading next is the beginning of what today is known as #givecredit movement. I say “movement” and later you’ll understand better why. Yet, a brief explanation would be that people and communities from all over the world joined around #givecredit campaign. Truth to be told, Romanians are not the only one facing such issues. 

Tory Burch 2018 Resort Collection

The Romanian coat (above) dates from the early 20th century and is credited as a 1981 gift of Christine Valmy. For those who do not know, Valmy was was born in Romania, but she made a great career in America as an esthetician, consultant and entrepreneur. She is known as a pioneer in the fields of skin care and esthetics and recognized by the United States Congress …

“for her contributions to education in America […and for] creating a new, exciting avenue of careers for the young people of America.”
US Congress
United States Congress
about Christine Valmy

Suman - The Romanian autumn-winter coat

Suman is the name of this pieace of the Romanian traditional coat used by Tory Burch. The suman was wore (and still are) by both women and men in various regions of Romania, Gorj region being one of them.

As you know, the African continent is one of the hottest on Earth. The lowest temperature ever measured in Africa was −24 °C (−11 °F) at Ifrane, Morocco. That was on February 11, 1935!!! In Romania, during winter the average temperatures are between 3˚C and -15˚C. And it is not uncommon to go below −15 °C (5 °F) in the highest mountains. The lowest temperature was −38.5 °C (−37.3 °F), registered near Brașov in 1942. 

I truly doubt the African tribes need such winter coats! I am sure if they ever needed ones, they would have made and looked totally different. 

As claims must supported by evidence, I tried to find for you some of the oldest documented Romanian folk winter coats. What I thought to be just few sentences came out as a new article.  Therefore, I invitee you to read The Suman – A Romanian Folk Coat Fit for a Queen. I believe you will love the beautiful images and footage!

Going back to designers who do not #givecredit

The copy-cat “suman” she took credit for creating it got Romanians outraged. What happened then is a life lesson everyone working in creative industries – fashion, design, music, publishing, literature, architecture, film and video, crafts, visual arts, advertising, the performing arts, should learn from. Learn it well!

Tory Burch protest

On June 10, 2013, after La Blouse Roumaine community asked Tory Burch to kindly #givecredit for the source of inspiration of one of the central pieces of Resort 2018 collection. Actually, there are few pieces, but the main one is just a copy-cate. 

So, wonder what happened next? Burch PR team got involved. First thing they did was to delete the offended Romanians’ comments and even block them form posting further. 

That was not the smartest idea! Not only that’s not the way to react during a PR crises. Theory already tells you that when you react this way, you risk making things worse than they already are. It may come as a surprise (for some), but this in part of the world, we also know how to take a screenshot!

Now, let’s take a look at the other “smart” thing Tory Burch PR team did. The official public statement made on Facebook page. Personally, eve today I find it difficult to believe that there was not one single person in that PR team who did not raised a concern. But, let’s see the statement! v

“ Resort 2018 is about the unique friendship between two inspiring women, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Elizabeth of Toro. Both were style icons, global travelers, and art lovers. In our effort to summarize the collection, we missed a reference to a beautiful Romanian coat which inspired one of the pieces. Whether it’s Romania, Uganda, or France, we are a brand that strives to celebrate, honor, and be inclusive of women from all countries and cultures, in the broadest way possible.”
Tory Burch
Tory Burch - Facebook page
June 13, 2018

Again, I am not sure what Tory Burch PR team imagined or expected when publishing this post, but for sure and good reasons, Romanians were not happy with the answer. If put yourself in our shoes, you would feel the same. Here are just some the 781 replies they got. Trust me, when I say it was hard which one to pick to reflect the best Romanians’ feelings. 

Romanians protest Burch Resort 2018

With such a lame and late excuse, you can imagine that things got bigger and bigger and I’ll let you the pleasure to see some more … there’s plenty of Romanian humor as well as irony!

Protest against Tory Burch Resort 2018

According to Andreea Tănăsescu, Founder of La Blouse Roumaine online community, the initial campaign post had over 23.000 de shares. In her IQads magazine interview, she mentioned that the overall campaign reached more than 3.500.000 million people.

No proper apology was ever presented to the Romanian people. I guess for any arrogant designer’s ego this would be too much! Truth hurts, yet it can be healing!

Before letting you enjoy a great lesson advertising people got from David Ogilvy, there’s one more thing I want to add. If you think that “the telenovela” or “the soap opera” about the designers who do not give credit ends here, you are mistaken. 

“The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.”
David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy (1911-1999))
"Father of Advertising"

The new episode is coming soon! Dior VS Bihor!


During the researching process for this article, the following resources have been used for documentation and photo collages above. 


  1. Blouse, Roumaine Tom Ford, Adele și “IA” de 4900 de dolari, August 9, 2020
  2. Bowles, HamishTom Ford’s 2012 Spring Collection, Vogue Magazine, September 11, 2011 
  3. Corduneanu, IoanaAbout me 
  4. Galescu, Roxana — IIANA, eleganță cu influențe tradiționale, Fashion Premium Magazine, January 19, 2019, 
  5. Maize, Laura KathleenThey said/We said: Tom Ford’s Spring 2012 collection photos are finally released to the public. What say you?, Fashion Magazine, November 18, 2011
  6. Moldovan, Medeea — Gypsey Vest – cojoc tradițional românesc, made in India, vândut de un brand celebru la un preţ exorbitant, November 19, 2018
  7. Neblea, Andreea

    Cum a ajuns cojocul românesc să fie made in India şi vândut de un brand celebru la un preţ exorbitant, Adevărul newspaper, November 19, 2018

  8. Phelps, NicoleJean Paul Gaultier Spring 2006 Ready-to-Wear, Vogue Magazine, October 4, 2005
  9. Phelps, NicoleValentino Spring 2015 Couture, Vogue Magazine, January 28, 2015
  10. Tănăsescu, Andreea — Interview IQads, April 28, 2016
  11. * Founded in Excellence and Expertise — Christine Valmy website


  1. New York Times Archive
  2. Time Magazine – Vault Digital Archive
  3. National Congress Library

The Romanian IA – The Fashion Icon Designers #GIVECREDIT

What today we know as the Romanian IA or “La Blouse Roumaine” represents the most representative clothing piece of the Romanian traditional ethnic costumeThe first type of Romanian blouse is considered to have been born in Cucuteni Culture starting as early as the 6th century BC.  

The Romanian IA

The detailed and colourful hand-made embroidery always bore the weight of numerous popular Romanian motifs, patterns, sacred geometry elements and mystic symbols. No element was left to chance. Each one of them was embroidered for a very good reason as by itself or all together they were telling a story. A story of the women who wore the Romanian IA. They were directly linked with the traditions and specificity of the region the IAs were made. The cut, the embroidery and even the colours on the IAs had a direct connection with the region of Romanian where they were made. One might say the IA comprises the life and history of the people living in that region.

Paul Poiret - opening the doors of tradition

It is only fair to say that it was Paul Poiret, the most fashionable dress designer of pre-World War I Paris, who got charmed by the beauty of the Romanian folk costume. Queen Mary of Romania, herself one the main promoter of the Romanian folkloric costume enjoyed wearing Poiret’s gowns. Most likely it is through this connection that the French designer got to know the Romanian traditional costume. Paul Poiret made some of his the most beautiful designs for his wife based on the elements of Romanian folkloric costumes.

Poiret opened the Romanian IA’s doors to the world’s fashion elite. Many years later the beauty of the handmade embroidery of folkloric costumes captured the attention of designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford, Emilio Pucci, Isabel Marant, Joseph Altuzzara etc. So, it’s no wonder that many actresses, singers and TV stars were spotted wearing blouses inspired by the Romanian IA: Gwyneth Paltrow, Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch, Ali McGraw, Emma Stone, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, Kate Moss, Katie Holmes, Kirsten Dunst, Adele, Khloe Kardashian or Rita Wilson.

Yves Saint Laurent's "La blouse Roumaine"

Yet, despite Poiret’s efforts, it was Yves Saint Laurent, the world’s first famous designer, to officially introduce the Romanian IA into a fashion his collection back in 1981 in Paris. Almost 50 years later after Henri Matisse finished his painting “La blouse Roumaine”, Yves Saint Laurent launched his autumn-winter haute couture collection. It was as a homage to Matisse’s famous painting and as you can below the resemblance is astonishing, yet you can easily spot the designer’s personal touch.

A Romanian blouse does not belong to any period. All the peasant clothes are passed down from century to century without going out of fashion.
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008)
French fashion designer
La Blouse Roumaine
Matisse's La Blouse Roumaine was YSL's source of inspiration for one amazing collection
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent - runway photos
Yves Saint Laurent
Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent, also reimagined a stylized skirt inspired after the Romanian folk skirt “fota” that is usually worn by Romanian women. It’s probably by chance that Yves Saint Laurent’s Romanian-inspired pieces made the tour of museums around the world.

„A fost, în mod clar, o poveste de dragoste. Când a decis să facă o colecţie “românească”, a fost cu totul neaşteptat. La vremea aceea locuia în Marrakesh, dar a fost oricum o dorinţă reală. S-a inspirat din ceva ce îi plăcea extrem de mult.” (2009 – Didier Grumbach, decan Institutul Francez de Modă și Președinte al Camerei Sindicale de Haute Couture)
Didier Grumbach
Dean, The French Fashion Institute

In 2009 with the occasion of Fashion Festival “Pasarela”, Laurent’s collection was on display at The National Art Museum in Bucharest. 

Chapeau to all designers giving credit!

Philippe Guilet (2011) - 100%.RO PREJUDICES

In November 2011 Phillipe Guilet, a French designer based in Romania launched an entire Romanian-inspired collection called 100%.RO Prejudices. It was a special project aiming to show the world a different face of Romania. The collection aimed to promote Romania’s cultural patrimony and image abroad. A daring response to the negative stereotypes against Romanians at national and international level.

Phillipe Guillet
Phillipe Guilet - Prejudice ... 100% Romanian

The astonishing 34 outfits, reinterpreting the Romanian cultural patrimony were created by the designer with the contribution of over 50 Romanian artisans was presented on the 10th of November 2011, in Bucharest.

Phillipe Guilet and Romanian artisans
Phillipe Guilet, Henry Paul (French Ambassador in Bucharest) and the Romanian artisans. and the Romanian artisans (project launch event)

Guilet’s inspiration came from the wooden roofs in Maramureș, the hand-painted Easter eggs, the Endless Column of Constantin Brâncuși and the symbols of the old Romanian embroidery.  In a modern artistic expression he combined the ship skin, pottery, glass and metal. Check Guilet’s latest Romanian inspired projects. 

Back to Matisse & La Blouse Roumaine

Tata Naka, Issa London & Aquilani Rimondi (2015)

My stories about the Romanian folkloric costume started with Matisse’s La Blouse Roumaine, so I guess it’s only natural to go back to him as he continues to inspire fashion designers all over the world. 

Over time Matisse’s style has evolved and so did the Romanian-inspired paintings. This is can be clearly seen in his late ’40 and ’50 pieces. Just the same, more fashion designers found their inspiration in Matisse’s paintings. Laird Borrelli-Persson,‘s Editor, mentioned in one of her articles, that it was also Matisse’s “La blouse Roumaine” who inspired designers such as Tata Naka, Issa London, or Aquilano Rimondi.

Romanian IA 2015
1. Tata Naka (2014, spring/autumn collection) inspired by Matisse 2. Issa London (2015, spring/summer collection). 3. Aquillani Rimondi (2015, spring/summer collection)

Chapeau, to all those fashion designers who give credit and honor the cultural heritage and the traditions that have been around the world for thousands of year. Unfortunately, there are also some fashion designers who forget to #givecredit. 

The Magical Garlic of All People

As promised, I’m back with the second article about the magical properties of the garlic. Vampire Stories was all about how cultures across the world believe garlic to be a universal repellant against vampires and evil spirits. This time, you’ll see how garlic protection and benefits women and children, soul, crops and abundance.

Garlic protection – Romanian traditions

Help for women, children and soul

Besides the traditions related to the garlic’s protective power against evil spirits, there are also a few other traditions where it plays a part in the welfare of the young married couples and child care:

  • On the wedding day, in Dolj county, the couple that gets in the church must go three times by each icon; in the meantime, a woman takes seeds of barley, raisins, three garlic cloves, five coins, seeds and fruits and throws them towards them; this will bring the young couple good crops;
  • In Moldova, the bride who wants to have only two children puts two garlic cloves in the shoes received as a gift from the brom; also, if a woman wants to get pregnant, she must put nine garlic scapes in half a liter of rachiu (local home-made alcoholic drink obtained through twice distilling of the wine or certain fruits like plums, apples, without adding sugar or sugar syrup); the bottle is left for nine days on the chimney crown and after that the woman has to drink it;
  • In Suceava county when women give up breastfeeding their babies, they should rub their breasts with garlic to stop the milk.

Garlic for abundance and crops

Gorovei & Ciausanu have found in the Romanian folklore several traditions that link the garlic with rich harvests, but also recommendations on how and when it should be planted. On the morning of the Resurrection Day, when women go to the church bringing pasca, they put garlic beneath it, believing that the blessed garlic once planted will never be destroyed. Also in Suceava, once the people have eaten the garlic, the left threads are thrown on the road so that next year will bring rich harvests.

If you plant garlic in one year, then you must plant it every year; if not, things will not go well for you; Garlic must be planted on Saint Dumitru’s Day (October 26); those who do it later die; the garlic is a head and asks for a (human) head; in autumn, before planting the garlic, one must jump over it so that the bulbs will grow big for the same reason, when planting it one must take the garlic from a cap.

Ciausanu also mentions the fact that Romanians link the planting of the garlic with Moon’s phases: hard, strong seeds (e.g. rye, corn, wheat) should be planted during the Waxing Moon, while soft, delicate seeds during Waning Moon. According to him,

“Onion, garlic, potato and all eatable vegetables are grown around the house should be sowed before the sickle of the first moon quarter.”

Garlic protection – what other

Gorovei & Ciausanu have found in the Romanian folklore several traditions that link the garlic with rich harvests, but also recommendations on how and when it should be planted. On the morning of the Resurrection Day, when women go to the church bringing pasca, they put garlic beneath it, believing that the blessed garlic once planted will never be destroyed. Also in Suceava, once the people have eaten the garlic, the left threads are thrown on the road so that next year will bring rich harvests.

If you plant garlic in one year, then you must plant it every year; if not, things will not go well for you; Garlic must be planted on Saint Dumitru’s Day (October 26); those who do it later die; the garlic is a head and asks for a (human) head; in autumn, before planting the garlic, one must jump over it so that the bulbs will grow big for the same reason, when planting it one must take the garlic from a cap.

Ciausanu also mentions the fact that Romanians link the planting of the garlic with Moon’s phases: hard, strong seeds (e.g. rye, corn, wheat) should be planted during the Waxing Moon, while soft, delicate seeds during Waning Moon. According to him,

“Onion, garlic, potato and all eatable vegetables grown around the house should be sowed before the sickle of the first moon quarter.”

Garlic protection – what others have to say about it


Garlic nicknames

Ancient Greeks are responsible for spreading throughout Europe the placement of garlic braids as well as squashing garlic in the rooms were women gave birth.

There are also some Eastern Europe traditions that connect garlic with the soul. Namely, placing garlic in the mouth of the deceased prevents the soul from re-entering the body and keep wandering evil spirits from entering and re-animating the body.

Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, as well as Montague Summers mention how Batak people in Borneo use garlic to bring back the soul in the body and for good luck:

It may be noted that the Battas or Batakas of Sumatra ascribe pining and wasting away, sickness, terror and death to the absence of the soul (Tendi) from the body and the souls must be lured back to his tenement. One of the most powerful soul-compelling herbs which is used by them in their mystic rites on these occasions is garlic. At the St.John (Midsummer) Festival of Fire, on the Vigil of the Major solemnity of that Saint, 23rd of June, at Dragingnan, Var, the people roasted pods of garlic by the bonfires. These pods were afterwards distributed to every family, and were believed to bring good luck.”

“The air of Provence was particularly perfumed by the refined essence of this mystically attractive bulb.” Alexandre Dumas

Czech tradition claims garlic is an essential part of Christmas and it should not miss at any Christmas dinner. It is believed to provide strength and protection. A bowl of garlic can be placed under the dinner table.

Africa & Palestine

Stephanie Bird mentions two types of African spiritual healers from different parts of Louisiana who use garlic as a protective amulet. It is placed in a protective pouch made of symbolic cloth sealed and strung on a string. This is carefully knotted in a special manner passed down for generations. The amulet is hung around the waist of children as a vermifuge (expelling intestinal worms) or around adults to protect them from illness. Being a holy herb, garlic is used to curb evil and bring goodness, which in turns yields health and well-being. Bird also mentions that such type of amulet medicine is traditionally practised in Africa, Caribbean, various parts of South and North America, most notably Louisiana.    

Since ancient times garlic was believed to be the best way to protect everyone from the bad or negative energies. In other words, garlic was a very strong protection talisman against the Evil Eye.

In Palestinian tradition, the bridegroom who wears a clove of garlic in his buttonhole is assured a successful wedding night. Also, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners regard garlic as an aphrodisiac and having the ability to increase semen.

Love and hate of garlic

Cervantes - about garlic smell
“Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant.” Cervantes

Although globally praised for its reputation for warding off evil and use as a medicinal herb, garlic was also deemed for its strong smell. This pungent smell of garlic is unfavourably referred to in the Talmud that recounts stories of people taking the blame for actions they did not commit, with the goal of saving another from embarrassment.

Those who smelled of garlic were considered vulgar by Roman, Greek and Indian in the upper classes or aristocracy. Egyptian priests worshipped garlic but actively avoided cooking and eating the fragrant cloves. Greeks wishing to enter the temple of Cybele had to pass a garlic breath test. Author Jason Johns mentions the fact that at the court of King Alfonso de Castile the knights caught smelling of garlic were cast out of polite society for a week.

In The Book of Garlic, Lloyd J. Harris mentions the name “pilgarlics” for bald men (lepers). Here’s his explanation:

(…) in Medieval Europe because of their use of Allium as a scalp tonic and as an application for leprosy. Another theory is that the shape of the bad head suggested a peeled garlic bulb.”

In England, garlic breath was also deemed and considered unsuitable for refined young ladies and the gentlemen who wished to court them. Yet, even so, an English saying goes like this:

“Eat leeks in March, garlic in may, all the rest of the year the doctors may play.”

Probably it’s not by chance that also many Americans adopted the English attitude and didn’t embrace garlic until the 1940’s. Until then it was considered an ethnic ingredient and known by slang terms such as “Italian perfume” or “Bronx vanilla”. There are some of you who might not know, but the official story about the origin of the Chicago city name is the French version of the Miami-Illinois word shikaakwa (“Stinky Onion”), named for the garlic plant (Allium tricoccum), common along the Chicago River.

It is also said that Muhammad, the Prophet and founder of Islam, did not eat either garlic or onions because they conversed with supernatural beings and that he disliked its odour. Nevertheless, garlic is permitted for consumption, though Muhammad says that those who eat it should stay away from the mosque.

While in the past some did not appreciate garlic that much, the Italians from Salerno Regimen of Health (Italy) highly recommended it:

“Since garlic then hath powers to save from death, Bear with it though it makes unsavoury breath.”

And, it would not feel right to me to forget about an old Indian proverb I came across: “Garlic is as good as ten mothers.”

The magical garlic of all people

In the past decades, Dracula might have cemented into people’s the collective memory the idea that garlic is a repellant for vampires, yet looking at the long list of examples above, one must admit that garlic has far much longer affair with nations from all over the world. The beliefs related to garlic protection can be found anywhere. It’s a connection built over thousands of years and with more magical meanings we could have ever imagined. 

For those of you who wonder how come I have not mentioned anything about the healing powers of the garlic, the reason is very simple. This is going to be the subject of my next article dedicated to the all-mighty garlic.  

This article first appeared on, yet this version has been edited and updated. 

READ MORE: Garlic Stories

Initially, I wanted to give a short reply to BBC’s article Why Romanians are obsessed with garlic. That was my initial intention, but that’s how it turned out. I ended up with a series of articles is dedicated to the almighty garlic. All the things I found out while doing my research were far too fascinating, so I thought they worth sharing. So, you have several articles based on well-researched and selected information about garlic, vampires, myths and its medical use.  


  1. Aggarwal, Bharat B. Mirodenii vindecatoare. Brasov: Adevar Divin, 2016. Print
  2. Bane, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. McFarland, 2012. Kindle.
  3. Bird, Stephanie Rose. The Big Book of Soul: The Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit. Charlottesville: Hampton Roads, 2010. Print.
  4. Block, Eric. Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and The Science. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015. Kindle.
  5. Chevalier, Jean & Gheerbrandt, Alain. Dictionar de simboluri. Bucuresti: Artemis, 1995. Print
  6. Ciausanu, Gh. F. Superstitiile poporului roman. In asemanare cu ale altor popoare vechi si noi. Bucuresti: Saeculum Vizual, 2014. Print.
  7. Cooper, Levi. World of the sages: garlic breath. 2008.
  8. Craznic, Oliviu. Despre strigoi si vampiri. 2011.
  9. Evseev, Ivan. Dictionar de magie, demonologie si mitologie romaneasca. Timisoara: Amacord, 1998. Print.
  10. Gorovei, Artur & Ciausanu, Gh.F. Credinte si superstitii romanesti. Bucuresti: Humanitas, 2013. Print.
  11. History of Garlic.
  12. Johns, Jason. Growing Garlic – A Complete Guide To Growing, Harvesting and Using Garlic. CreateSpace, 2017. Kindle.
  13. Pamfile, Tudor. Mitologie romaneasca. Bucuresti: All, 1997. Print.
  14. Porritt, Gwen. Garlic. 2007.
  15. Stanculescu, Catalin. Strigoi vii, morti, moroi si pricolici in mitologia romaneasca. 2017.
  16. Summers, Montague. Vampires and Vampirism. New York: Dover Occult, 2005. Kindle.
  17. Voronca, Niculita Elena. Datinile si credintele poporului roman adunate si asezate in ordine mitologica. Iasi: Polirom, 1998. Print.
  18. Vulcanescu, Mircea. Mitologie romana. Bucuresti: Editura Academiei, 1985. Print.

The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse

This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the modern Romanian state. Therefore, that makes The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse (Sunday, June 24, 2018) celebration even more special. On this summer day, Romanians gather all over the world to celebrate Ia, one of our national identity symbols.

Romanian folk costumes encapsulate not just simple signs and symbols on clothing to obtain an amazing aesthetic effect. For the wearer, it carries a great energetic, religious and spiritual significance. The traditional handmade embroidered motifs give the wearer different things. A cross, for example, brings protection against bad, the evil eye, or expel spells and hatred. The diamond, or flower, or sun bring harmony, happiness and peace.

Romanian ethnic blouse
Romanian Lady (1882). Painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman (oil on canvas)

Consequently, it would have been impossible for The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse not to be given such importance. It’s also an opportunity to show and strengthen the unity of all Romanian communities living abroad. This celebrations also welcome all those who love and appreciate Romania and its culture. 

Social Media hashtags you can use to promote this global event:

  • #ZiuaIei, #iaday2018, #ia(cityname)2018, #June24, #24iunie, #ziuaieie2018, #LaBlouseRoumaine, #RomanianBlouse, #RomanianTraditionalCostumes, 

Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse – celebrations around the world

Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse
Celebrating the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse across the globe

The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse is a celebration of the traditional Romanian blouse (ia) uniting Romanians and people around the globe who cherish our traditional folk costume. Here are some of the major events I have gathered to share them with you. I shall do my best to update it as often as possible, so you can revisit this post.

  • Antwerpen, Belgium — The local organizers of the fifth edition hope to bring together this year over 100 Romanians and Belgians who appreciate our beautiful Ia.
  • Castellon, Spain — The third edition of the event is organized in Castellon by Asociación Rumanos en La Plana Association with the support of Centrul Civic Român, Uniunea Cultural Română and Asociación Rumanos en La Vall.
  • Coventry, United Kingdom Romanians will meet in front of Lay Godiva statue and walk towards Trinity Road. Attending the event will give you the chance to taste delicious Romanians sweets and cookies. Shared, but also admire the traditional costumes.  
  • Frankfurt, Germany — Whether you live here or you are just passing by, join the reunion taking place in front of the City Hall at 5PM local time; the event is hosted by Saint Bartholomew Romanian Orthodox Parish.
  • Gelderland, Netherlands — Hoge Veluwe National Park welcomes two days of Romanian customs and traditions. There are 25 traditional craftsmen from Romania, more than 30 stalls with food, drinks and Romanian folk tradition and five various exhibitions. You can also watch movies and documentaries, but the one worth special mentioning is “Between Earth and Heaven on the Path of Souls” about sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. Music will be represented by top Romanian top artists and ensembles.
  • Ljublajana, Slovenia — Slovenian Ethnographic Museum with the support of the Romanian Embassy in Ljublajana will host a very special exhibition displaying traditional costumes from private collections, but also some from the Muzeului Național al Țăranului Româ. The curator of the exhibition is PhD Corina Gabriela Duma, professor at Bucharest Arts National University.
  • New York, United States — Dressed in Ia, the traditional blouse, or a shirt with Romanian design elements, people will gather in Washington Square Park for a celebration picnic.
  • Rome, Italy — The Romanian Cultural Institute along with other important contributors organize a series of events dedicated to the 100 year Romanian Union and The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse. You can attend popular art workshops or Valahia National Orchestra concert at Accademia di Romania Art Gallery.  Femininity and adornments exhibition will give you an amazing view of the Romanian folk costumes from various regions of the country, hats and scarfs, hand-painted furniture and decorations, fabrics and pieces of jewellery.  
  • Washington, United States Washington celebration will take place in Lafayette Square in front of the White House. It is worth mentioning that this is the same location wherein 2015 the proclamation issued by the Mayor of Washington, DC was read. It recognized June 24 as the Day of the Romanian Folk Costume in the Nation’s Capital and thus conferring its first official recognition.
  • Waterloo, Ontario, Canada — Celebrate the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse with traditional folk dances, sewing workshop and dance workshop! Chapeau to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who officially recognized The Universal Day Of The Romanian Blouse last year on June 24.

How we celebrate the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse

As expected The Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse is celebrated in Romania by hundreds are events in all parts of the country. Some of the celebrations start as early as on June 20 and end on June 24. Happenings cover free markets, concerts, exhibitions, workshops, presentations etc. Below you can find some of the events designed by local organizers, so if it happens you are in Romania starting June 21st, have a look at the list below:

Bucharest loves the Romanian Ia

As far Bucharest is concerned, there are several events, but I would like to start by letting you know that there are certain hotels, restaurants and clubs that offer special treatments.

On June 24, ladies wearing the Romanian traditional blouse visiting The President club (Tei Park) will enjoy a fresh lemonade on the house. Few hotels situated in historical buildings in Bucharest together with Iiana, a local brand producing Romanian traditional clothing, decided to join forces and promote the Romanian blouse and present it to their guests in a novel way. The ladies working at the reception desk at Hotel CismigiuLe Boutique Hotel Moxa and Grand Hotel Continental will welcome their guests wearing the traditional Romanian Blouse. The blouses are hand-sewn with traditional patterns and symbols from different parts of the country.

June 23, Summer Solstice celebration

One of my favourite boutiques in downtown Bucharest is deDor, the place where I can always find vintage original handmade folk costumes, but also exquisite Romanian souvenirs. The reason I mention deDor is that they not only sale beautiful things but because each year they keep the Romanian traditions alive by organizing various events. And this is the case with June 23, when we celebrate Sânziene, the summer solstice! 

Sânziene Day @ deDorThe northern summer solstice is relevant in many Christian cultures as the feast of Saint John (also known as St. John’s Eve, Ivan Kupala Day, Litha) is celebrated from June 23 to 24. Generally speaking, the summer solstice is connected in various cultures with honouring the fertility of Mother Earth, so crops will be good. There are plenty of festivals, holidays and rituals, Sânziene is just one of them. 

On the night of June 23, starting 9PM, women gather at deDor to celebrate the Sânziene, the night when the gates of the sky open and fairies come down on Earth. In the Romanian folklore, Sânziene is the name given to gentle fairs. The etymology of the name goes to San which is a common abbreviation of Saint and Zână (fairs). The word Sânziana (singular for Sânziene) is also a girl’s name. 

Women and men altogether will experience on the oldest tradition related to Sânziene night. Dressed in traditional ethnic blouses, women will make floral crowns of Sânziene flowers. This is Romanian name for Lady’s bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw (Lat. Galium verum). Actor Florin Nan will share authentic stories from the life of the Romanian people and read great poems, while guests enjoy a good glass of local wine. If you plan to attend this event, you need to confirm your presence by sending a message on deDor’s event page.

My Romanian IA

Romanian Wedding Day
My grandparents on their wedding day wearing hand made folk costumes (Photo: personal archive)

As some of you already know, I have a passion for the Romanian ethnic blouse, so I did write about it a few times before. I hope you will find these articles inspiring enough to get you interested in joining our celebration of the Romanian IA.

The Magical Garlic – Vampire Stories


Called everything from ”stinking rose”, “rustic cure-all”, “Russian penicillin”, “Bronx vanilla” to “Italian perfume“, garlic has been loved and despised throughout history for its taste and other mysterious properties. Garlic’s healing properties started a conversation thousands of years ago that still goes on. Though, the most fascinating stories surrounding the garlic have all to do with its magical attributes. This article tries to summarize the most important magical aspects as revealed by the Romanian folklore and traditions, while also taking into account what other cultures across the world have to say about it.   

The birth of the garlic’s legend

Romanian saying about garlic

The amazing world of folklore and mythology gives us a very different answer regarding garlic’s origin. In the Romanian folklore, garlic is not just a simple aromatic and medicinal plant. According to Elena Niculina Voronca, one of the most respected Romanian folklore experts, it is believed that “garlic is human; it has a head a cross, and it’s wears clothing”, and the garlic leaves are named “căței” (“puppies”). Garlic is a Christic plant as “it bears on it the sign of the cross”. It’s also a sacred plant: “God made garlic and it’s a pity to step on it. When you peel the garlic and throw the sheaths in the fire, don’t let them fall down.” 

The Indian tradition gives garlic a sacred origin as it is said that it was born from a drop of amrita (divine ambrosia) unintentionally left behind by tired Garuda, a large bird-like creature, or humanoid bird that appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle, drives away evil spells, black magic influences, negative spirits and removes all poisonous effects in one’s body.

A Mohammedan legend states that when Satan left the Garden of Eden, garlic sprang from the place where his left foot stepped and onion from his right foot. The Bowers Manuscript, a fifth-century Buddhist medical treatise, includes a tale that says the first garlic appeared from the blood of a demon.

According to Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), garlic and onions were invoked as deities by the ancient Egyptians at the taking of oaths. Archaeologists discovered clay garlic bulbs placed in Egyptian tombs with the dearly departed, yet they are unsure whether they were intended as funds for the afterlife or as idols to appease the gods.

Garlic – the vampire repellant

Dracula's Castle
Bran is also known for being Dracula’s castle

Although Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, had a lot to do with making famous Romania’s belief that garlic wards off the vampires, the truth looks a little bit different from this side of the world. With all due respect for those of you who think that garlic is just Romania’s vampire repellant, allow me to tell you that this is not quite accurate. Montague Summers, author of Vampires and Vampirism: 

“Certain trees and herbs are hateful to him, the whitethorn (or buckthorn) as we have seen, and particularly garlic. Often when the Vampire is decapitated his mouth is stuffed full with garlic; garlic is scattered in and all over the coffin by handfuls; and he can do no harm. In China and among Malays to wet a child’s forehead with garlic is a sure protection against vampires.”   

Obviously, there are numerous vampires, vampire-like creatures and all sorts of evil spirits present in worldwide mythology. Consequently, it’s not surprising that this far-reaching fears of such beings needed an all-mighty resource to ward them off, but … 

“In truth garlic is not a universal deterrent; other common foods that can be used to thwart a vampire attack are poppy seeds, grains of rice, sesame seeds, iron shavings and peppercorns. Each of these items when thrown or left for a vampire to discover will compel it to stop and count each one. Ideally, this obsessive counting will take the monster all night, stalling it long enough for the sun to rise and destroy it; this is believed to be true of the Sucoyan of the West Indies.” (Theresa Bane)          

Vampires – not a Romanian invention

It seems that term “vampire” appeared for the first time as “upir” (in Old Russian, 1047) in an old note written by a priest who transcribed a book of psalms. There he referred to “the evil upir”. It is also assumed that the word “upir” comes the Tatar word “ubyr” which means “witchcraft”. Another mention of the eleventh century goes back to Saint Gregory who talks about the pagan worship of the “upirs”.

Legendary healer Melampus and Theophrastus (c.371- c.287 BC) both suggested in their writings the Greeks’ belief that garlic protects people from witchcraft and vampires. Yet, if you go far much deeper and search the literature, you will realize that the term “vampire” was never actually used in the Antiquity’s texts. True, in the ancient texts across the world there are many references to supernatural creatures who feed on blood or human flesh. Vampires were presented as demons or malefic spirits. Here are just a few examples of such creatures that had vampire-like features:

    • Vetalas and goddess Kali in the Indian mythology;
    • Empusae, Lamia and Strix in Greek-Roman mythology;
    • In the Scriptures of Delphi, a collection of myths and legends attributed to Babylon era, but gathered as a collection around 1700, there’s an entire chapter dedicated to vampires;
    • Xortdan (Hortdan) is creature in the Azerbaijani mythology which raised from its grave and could transform in any kind of animal;
  • The Vrykolakas or Kallinkantzaros have been in ancient Greek history for centuries.

Not just vampires, but also different evil spirits

The full list is extremely long, but, that does not mean, all evil creatures of the worldwide mythology qualify as vampires in the current definition of the word. Theresa Bane, the author of Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology, also makes in her extremely documented book distinction between “vampires” (e.g. Agta, energy vampire in the Phillipines, Abchachu in Bolivia) and “vampiric spirits” (e.g. Chochonyi in Argentina, or Aipalookvik in Alaska, Greenland and Nothern Canada). As she also very well underlines, not all these creatures feed on blood and neither can be ward off only with garlic.

The Romanian mythology abounds in supernatural creatures. In his “Romanian Mythology” book, Tudor Pamfile talks about 46, out of which 37 (84%) are malefic creatures or evil spirits, while 8 % are benevolent and 8% neutral. Therefore, one can say that in the study of Romanian mythological supernatural beings, those with evil or malefic characteristics dominate.

Romanian ethnologist Romulus Vulcanescu, identifies few major categories of such creatures, namely “strigoi”, “moroi”, “pricolici”, “tricolici”. Their names are impossible to translate in English; the closest terms I would choose are ghosts, phantom or wraiths. It would not be accurate to say that they are the exact equivalent of what is generally understood as “vampire”.     

Garlic – the ancient antidote for the evil spirits

Garlic protection
Garlic protection

According to Theophrastus, garlic was placed by the ancient Greeks on the piles of stones at crossroads, as a supper for Hecate, the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy. The reason behind this superstition is linked to the fact that the garlic placed at crossroads protects travellers from evil spirits and disorientates demons.

Montague Summers also mentions the use of garlic against evil spirits or witchcraft: The West India negroes today smear themselves with garlic to neutralize the evil charms of witches and obeah men.”  On the other hand, Buryat people of Mongolia believe that the presence of the women who died during birth, and who is known for coming back at night to torture the living, can be recognized by the garlic smell they spread around.

The Korean folklore mentions the garlic in the foundation myth of the ancient kingdom of Gojoseon, when eating of nothing but 20 cloves of garlic and a bundle of Korean mugwort for 100 days, let a bear be transformed into a woman. There are also mentions that eating garlic repels tigers while eating pickled garlic for those travelling dangerous mountain passes frequented by striped predators.

Romanian traditions

The ethnology and cultural studies report many customs and traditions related to garlic, yet most of them are related to specific areas, regions or villages across the Romanian land, so we cannot consider that they refer to the entire population. As in the case of other plants, popular traditions related to garlic’s magical powers are connected with some important religious celebrations (St.George’s Day, Pentecost, Saint Andrew’s Day, Christmas, New Year, etc), but not only. Garlic garlands are also seen around the houses even today.

Generally speaking, in Romania garlic is believed to be a magical plant which keeps safe people, animal stocks and households from dark or energies, evil spirits, ghosts, evil-eye and various diseases. Mainly on St.Andrew’s Day (November 30), Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Eve locals use garlic juice to make a Christian cross sign on the door frames and locks, window frames, house eaves, stables and barns to protect themselves from evil spirits. Here are just a few examples I’ve found:   

    • In Transylvania it is said that those who eat garlic gloves on the eve of important religious celebrations (Christmas, Baptism of the Lord, Easter and others) will have nothing to worry about being bothered by the ghosts;  
    • To drive away ghosts you can ignite incense and garlic in a brass pot;
    • In Moldova, on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30), there’s a traditional party where young people who are not married gather; in the meantime, one or two old women guard the garlic brought by the girls, so men won’t steal it; at sunrise, in some villages takes place what’s called Hora Usturoiului (The Garlic Dance); following this, they believe the garlic gets miraculous powers, meaning it’s good for healing;  it is also believed that this garlic it’s good to be kept with them by travellers and while doing business or negotiations;   
    • When you are on a field and suddenly smell the garlic, it means there’s a snake nearby;
    • In some regions of the country (e.g. Suceava, Valcea, Bihor), there’s a belief that if you lubricate the udder of the cows with garlic juice, they will give good milk the entire year;  
    • To protect the castles from being attacked or bitten by snakes or weasels, people in Olt country hang garlic yarns (threads) in the stables;
  • In Hațeg county, people put garlic cloves in the dead’s coffin so it won’t turn into a ghost.

READ MORE: Garlic Stories

Initially, I wanted to give a short reply to BBC’s article Why Romanians are obsessed with garlic. That was my initial intention, but that’s how it turned out. I ended up with a series of articles is dedicated to the almighty garlic. All the things I found out while doing my research were far too fascinating, so I thought they worth sharing. So, you have several articles based on well-researched and selected information about garlic, vampires, myths and its medical use.  


  • Aggarwal, Bharat B. Mirodenii vindecatoare. Brasov: Adevar Divin, 2016. Print.
  • Bane, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. McFarland, 2012. Kindle.
  • Block, Eric. Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and The Science. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015. Kindle.
  • Chevalier, Jean & Gheerbrandt, Alain. Dictionar de simboluri. Bucuresti: Artemis, 1995. Print
  • Ciausanu, Gh. F. Superstitiile poporului roman. In asemanare cu ale altor popoare vechi si noi. Bucuresti: Saeculum Vizual, 2014. Print.
  • Cooper, Levi. World of the sages: garlic breath. 2008.
  • Craznic, Oliviu. Despre strigoi si vampiri. 2011.
  • Evseev, Ivan. Dictionar de magie, demonologie si mitologie romaneasca. Timisoara: Amacord, 1998. Print.
  • Gorovei, Artur & Ciausanu, Gh.F. Credinte si superstitii romanesti. Bucuresti: Humanitas, 2013. Print.
  • History of Garlic.
  • Johns, Jason. Growing Garlic – A Complete Guide To Growing, Harvesting and Using Garlic. CreateSpace, 2017. Kindle.
  • Pamfile, Tudor. Mitologie romaneasca. Bucuresti: All, 1997. Print.
  • Porritt, Gwen. Garlic. 2007.
  • Stanculescu, Catalin. Strigoi vii, morti, moroi si pricolici in mitologia romaneasca. 2017.
  • Summers, Montague. Vampires and Vampirism. New York: Dover Occult, 2005. Kindle.  
  • Voronca, Niculita Elena. Datinile si credintele poporului roman adunate si asezate in ordine mitologica. Iasi: Polirom, 1998. Print.
  • Vulcanescu, Mircea. Mitologie romana. Bucuresti: Editura Academiei, 1985. Print.

La Blouse Roumaine and Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse and his La Blouse Roumaine painting are the subject of this new article dedicated to the beauty of the Romanian traditional blouse. When I wrote the first article about IA, little did I know what feedback I would get. So, here I am again with what I hope to be a nice story about colors, symbols and friendship. And you’ll se why I mentioned the latter one!

La Blouse Roumaine … the best known Romanian IA

First of all, few know that French painter Henri Matisse was one of the first to capture the beauty of the Romanian traditional blouse simply called IE. Although he painted and draw many sketches of the Romanian IA, his painting called La Blouse Roumaine is the best known one. It’s an oil-on-canvas painting dated 1940. It measures 92 × 73 cm and is held at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.

Henri Matisse paintings
Henri Matisse paintings – 1. La Blouse Roumaine (1940) 2. Peasant blouse (1936) 3. La Hongroise a la blouse verte

It took Matisse few years to show the world his Romanian paintings. There were hundreds trials and sketches before there was a Romanian blouses collection. There are plenty of Romanian symbols used in the traditional IA embroidery.

“Each work of art is a collection of signs invented during the picture’s execution to suit the needs of their position. Taken out of the composition for which they were created, these signs have no further use.” (Henri Matisse)

Henri Matisse - drawings
Few sketches of Romanian IAs by Henri Matisse. The second (middle) sketch called “Femme à la blouse roumaine” (1943) was drawn in Vence was sold by Christie’s in 2011 to a private collector for $191,951.

Henri Matisse, Theodor Pallady and the Romanian IA

Furthermore, even fewer know that Matisse’s Romanian paintings were inspired by a collection of traditional blouses he received as a gift from Theodor Pallady. Pallady was and still is one of most famous Romanian painters of all times. Matisse had been friend with Pallady for many years when he got this gift. They met around 1892, in Paris, in Gustave Moreau’s studio were they were working along with Georges Rouault and Albert Marquet.

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse – 1. Woman Seated in an Armchair, (1940); 2. Still Life With Sleeper (1940)

Matisse’s interest in oriental themes first emerged in the 1920s when he began to express an interest in the interplay of ornamental patterns. This fascination with decorative designs is seen in these works and it will remain with Matisse till the end of his life.

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse – 1. La Blouse payssane 2. The Dream (1940)

Noteworthy is that in 2012 New York Metropolitan Museum of Art opened “Matisse: In Search of True Painting.” Vogue magazine called it “the eye-opening new exhibition”.  The star painting of the exhibition was Matisse’s voluptuous called “The Dream” (1940), another portrait of a woman sleeping and wearing a Romanian traditional blouse.

Falling in love with colors …

As one would expect from such a great artist as Matisse, his style evolved throughout time, yet he kept the traditional costume as a source of inspiration and ideas. I’m no art expert, but my feeling is that the generous color palette of the Romanian IAs had something to do with this. Matisse’s own personal beliefs about the use of color are most noteworthy:

“Seek the strongest color effect possible… the content is of no importance.

“The use of expressive colors is felt to be one of the basic elements of the modern mentality, an historical necessity, beyond choice.”

Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse – 1. La Gerbe (1953) 2. Stained glass, Chapel of the Rosary (Vence)

“A certain blue enters your soul. A certain red has an effect on your blood-pressure.”

“Color helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain.”

“Drawing is of the spirit; color is of the senses.”

In conclusion …

Matisse and Pallady’s friendship lasted a lifetime. What neither one of them imagined is that their admiration for our national blouse years later will make the Romanian IA a fashion icon. But, that’s another story worth knowing! And if you want to know more about the Romanian IAs, you can check these two articles: Falling in Love with My Romanian IA and Wearing the Romanian IA on Wedding Day.

Finally, you can also check out on Facebook La Blouse Roumaine or follow on Twitter the stories published by La Blouse Roumaine, the first online community supporting IA, the symbol of the Romanian cultural identity.


Those of you who have read my posts know I write about Romania in general whether it’s about innovation, start-ups, amazing places, art & cultures, traditions etc, so this new post won’t come as a surprise. Lately, I came to realize that taking a sabbatical year was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done… and it’s not just about the fact that you get to do those things you really wanted to do, but never found the right time. Mostly, it’s about the people you get to meet when least expected … This is the case of my meeting with painter and artist Ciprian Istrate whose A’TOPIA exhibition is now opened for the public at Galateca in Bucharest. He’s one of those great storytellers who do not use many words, but colors, imagination and talent to send his artistic messages to the world.


One of the first things you’ll read about Ciprian Istrate is that he loves the search, “the constant tearing apart of the landmarks” as he likes to say. And, if you take the time and look at his paintings, you’ll understand that this is not just a simple statement meant to impress the audience.

A’TOPIA is Ciprian Istrate’s first solo show at Galateca Gallery exhibition space. In case you are in Bucharest, take the time and go see A’TOPIA exhibition which is open between July 13 – September 3, 2017. For more details, please check Galateca Facebook page.

Paintings @ Ciprian Istrate
Paintings @ Ciprian Istrate

It’s on purpose I did not illustrate this article with the paintings you can admire when visiting A’TOPIA 🙂

In a world that lives under the sign of violence, populated with new kind of angels, with questionable values, Istrate proposes to it viewers an introspection and at the same time an outside reflection of the consciousness. His paintings tell the story of dangerous oneiric excess by taking an absolute and full responsibility of his own the state of freedom. The mirror-eyes of the characters, the mirror-consciousness, the military helmet, the war within us, the war of the world … it all reveals viewers a personal perspective that is visually translated in a code which needs to be decrypted.

Paintings @ Ciprian Istrate
Paintings @ Ciprian Istrate

The viewer’s relationship with the work of art is alive, empathic, definitive. The portraits are well studied compositions which may seem both narrative and decorative at a first sight, yet becoming disturbing and unsettling, when you want to communicate with them. It is an ongoing movement of the image between what is real and what is illusive, bearing the signs of timelessness. As the curator of Istrate exhibition says, Iulia Gorneanu, “A’TOPIA is the place without a place where this encounter happens”.

Ciprian Istrate – the painter

Ciprian Istrate
Ciprian Istrate

A graduate with major in church painting from Iasi Orthodox Theology Faculty, Ciprian Istrate chooses the easel after 20 years of painting tens of churches and iconostasis, and by consequence thousands of portraits. He has worked in many techniques, but mostly fresco painting. This technique of craftsmanship and speed is the one that Michelangelo considered to be “the most manly”. Today, only the approach of large painting surfaces remind us of the Istrate’s passion for fresco painting.

His paintings are to be found in many parts of the world—Romania, United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy. He had numerous solo and group exhibitions both in Romania and abroad. He also participated biennials and art fairs. For Ciprian Istrate, art remains art, regardless of the transformations it experiences and regardless of how the others position themselves in relationship with it… and the painting that Istrate had thrown to the pigs in the exhibition that took place in a farm in Basta County reflects his artistic credo the best. This piece of work is part of Istopia installation that can be admired in the exhibition.

Vintage Romanian IA Exhibition at ParkLake  

As you well know, I‘ve written before about the beautiful Romanian traditional blouse called IA … This time it’s the story behind the scene of creating The Amazing Vintage Romanian IA Exhibition at ParkLake. Celebrating The International Day of IA on June 24-25 2017, ParkLake Mall marketing team brought together Iulia Gorneanu and MSPS agency to prepare a very special full-weekend event.

Being at the same time longest day of the year celebrated across the globe, June 24 is also known as Midsummer, Summer Solstice or Litha (the fire festival in neopagan cultures), Adonia, St. John’s Feast Day, Jāņi, Liða / Litha, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Mittumaari, Alban Hefin, etc.

It’s a day when the sky opens up and let’s the charming, yet mean Sânziene (also known as Baccante, Nimphys, Fees, Naiads or Dryads) to dance till they burn the ground where they gather/ It’s the day when the two worlds, The Sky and The Earth, communicate at energetic and vibrational levels just the same way two people who truly love each other do. It’s the moment when plants get miraculous healing powers and women wear Sanziene flower wreaths on their heads.

Unique vintage Romanian IA

I shall not keep you too long reading as I would rather have you gaze at the pictures I’ve taken at ParkLake while Iulia Gorneanu and her great friends, MSPS team and myself were working on making happen a very special IA dedicated event ParkLake. It all started around 10PM and lasted until around 4AM in the morning, when we finally said “yes, this is it!”.

We assembled a customized 3 meter high aluminum construction and secured it, so it can hold over 35 Romanian traditional IAs dating back to the beginning of the XXth century. And it only took 8 people to do this, great dedication and much attention to detail. Iulia is a perfectionist, so make no mistakes, assembling the metallic display support was far easier than choosing and arranging the IAs. With a collection of more that 50 vintage Romanian IAs to choose from, we had to be extremely picky, so we can show the different types of symbols, patterns and IA models covering all Romanian ethnographic regions.

These wonderful handmade embroidered IAs are part of Iulia Gorneanu’s personal collection. Putting together piece by piece such a vintage Romanian IA collection is quite extraordinary! Each one of these IAs has a story behind and I’ve listened many of them. It’s just captivating! With a soft voice, big blue eyes and very gentle touch, you can actually feel the love Iulia has for the Romanian traditional blouse. These wonderful IAs have been collected with great diligence, fitted and cared for with great love that such creations born around 1900-1940 deserve. And Iulia’s mom put huge efforts in helping her keep the IAs’ beauty.

Sacred geometry

Many of these IAs are extremely difficult to see and those familiar with the sacred geometry or with the traditional costumes from other parts of the world will not be surprised to discover that the signs and symbols are sometimes identical.

Reinterpreting the traditional …

For years Iulia Gorneanu is known for being an IA curator, creative director and fashion stylist showing and teaching women how to reinterpret in a modern registry the different elements of the Romanian traditional costume. She’s also known for her long-term collaboration with some well-known Romanian designers. Fortunately, this weekend (June 24-25), if you visit ParkLake mall in Bucharest, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about… in the meantime, just for you, my dear readers, a small incentive to get you out of the house! Credits and applauses got to photographers Ciprian Strugariu and Cristian Floriganta, Art Director Alin Galatescu and proud IA collector Iulia Gorneanu.

Romanian IA

Vintage Romanian IA @ ParkLake

and celebrate the International Day of IA

I do hope this story will convince you to visit ParkLake Mall in Bucharest with your friends and family and enjoy all the things that a large team of dedicated people put together for you, so you can properly celebrate International Day of IA with your family… and if your are not convinced yet, allow me to summarize below why you should spend few hours at ParkLake this weekend:

  • Iulia Gorneanu’s vintage Romanian IA collection
  • Photo Exhibition – see how you can reinterpreting the traditional clothing in a modern context; don’t miss the chance the see some first-time ever shown pictures of old folk costume elements combined with modern clothing pieces; credits go to….
  • Free make-up and hair braids (2-8PM) – take your IA, go to ParkLake main area and Kendra beauty magicians will give you a millions bucks look;
  • Photo-booth (2-8PM) – great moments must be preserved, so once you’re done with the makeup, go and get your free picture and take it home with you;
  • deDor boutique corner – shop really authentic IAs, vintage Romanian clothing and
  • Creative workshops for kids (4-8PM, Saturday and Sunday) – where they will learn how to make their own toys and create various accessories and objects with Romanian elements;
  • Romanian traditional music – (6-8PM, Saturday and Sunday) – listen and dance the Romanian way with Silviu Biris and Diana Matei, two great singers and entertainers.

All above events will take place at ParkLake, Main Square area. The exhibitions are open to the public starting 10AM till closing time (11PM). Join us in celebrating The International Day of IA!

Urban Unit Live @ Tête-à-Tête Club Lounge

Last night was all about Kusak/Pop’s Urban Unit band playing at Tête-à-Tête Club Lounge in Bucharest. The night’s mood changed when the first sounds of drums and keyboard made themselves hears in Herastrau park. The spontaneous sound conversations developed in a way that can only be felt when hearing Pop and Kusak playing live. From where I was standing, I could see hands and feet playing the drum beat and many bodies trying to dance along with Kusak and Pop’s music.

Our hands are the extensions of our thoughts and feelings.” Kusak/Pop Urban Unit

I know a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m sorry mine’s are not quite of the best quality, so I thought I would leave it all to the sound. It always does a better job as it goes unfiltered and straight to one’s heart.

Later last night I spent few minutes talking with Liviu Pop about what just had happend. He was all sweating, a bit tired, yet smiling and happy. You could see the kind of joy that nobody can fake. It was all real and authentic. The humility, the passion, the kind words, the gestures, the way he looked at people, the smiles—everything reminded me of passion breathing through his hands when beating the drums like in trance.

“We must be the happiest people of all as we have the chance to feel so, so different, in so many ways, when we play in the same place. You guys are wonderful!” Kusak/Pop

Those were the words I’ve heard from Kusak last night at the end of the concert. Just as Pop told me, all music is great when the authenticity of the passion for music meets the right audience in the right place. Last night all these met in Herastrau Park … just as many times before. To Pop and Kusak this kind of encounter is the most important of all and it’s not by chance they decided to play once again at Tete-a-Tete Herastrau.

P.S. Pop/Kusak will play again next week at Clubul Taranului. It will be a different sound, yet same amazing guys, so stay tuned to find out all the details

Beyond Threads — Romanian Tapestry at Its Best

On August 25, Orizont Gallery opened the doors of a unique Romanian tapestry exhibition. Georgeta Mocanu and Marijana Bitulescu, opened the doors to their souls by revealing an amazing exhibition of tapestry and textile collages. It’s called Beyond.Threads (Dincolo. De fire). It’s not just a collection wonderful pieces gathered on the same roof, but a rewriting by four magic hands of all meanings of contemporary tapestry.

Romanian tapestry

Forgetting your own people’s traditions and customs is not an option, at least not from my point of view. Therefore, whenever I get the chance to see Romanians honoring our own traditions, I feel humble, happy to share such moments, so I can write about them later on.  This time I have witnessed a moment of cultural and historical uncover of the past and present reflected in the artwork of two Romanian artisans and artists.

As Alexandra Craciun, the curator of this exhibition so nicely said it at the opening, when looking at these pieces, one understands that

“Tapestry is not just an art. It’s a science of getting to the bottom of all things, of growing woods without acorns, of raising offerings of threads.”

Georgeta Mocanu

A graduate from Nicolae Grigorescu Plastic Arts Institute (Bucharest), since 1979 Mocanu has presented her tapestries and textiles in numerous local and international exhibitions.  In 1986 she moved to Paris to work as a conservator for Chevalier Conservation, an establishment founded in 1917, which specializes in the restoration, conservation and cleaning of carpets, rugs, tapestries and textiles be they ancient or contemporary.  Her restoration pieces are part of important French museums such as Louvre, Musee de la Renaissance, Ecouen, Rouen, Musee de Beaux Arts etc.

Her story-like trees are hand-made on vertical loom in a workshop in Transylvania, in Nandru village (Hunedoara county).  They maybe well be trees, cathedral columns and thoughts given to God by the artisan.

The artisans in Nandru used what is called the Persian asymmetric knot (senneh) technique. The length of the wool thread varies from 4 to 15 cm and sometimes even more and which gives the tapestry that 3D look-like.

Marijana Bitulescu

Born in Craiova city, Bitulescu has graduated Nicolae Grigorescu Plastic Arts Institute (Bucharest).  Since 1979 Bitulescu has displayed her art works in over 25 exhibitions and art shows in Bruxelles, Paris, Strasbourg, Beirut, Istanbul, Constanta and Bucharest. Her miniatures and textile collages are part of private collections from France, USA, Germany, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Spain and Romania.

Bitulescu’s creations tell stories of angels and old churches, forms and impulses, flowers and colors, yet they allow you to recreate them in your own personal style.  There’s a certain joy and happiness you can feel when looking at the textile collage…

And a couple more pictures from the opening evening of Beyond.Threads exhibition.

As Nikolai Berdiaev so nicely said it, tradition is “a communion with history’s mystery.” Beyond.Threads, the Romanian tapestry exhibition, made me travel through time and space to within me hidden moments of history, spirituality and culture. So, I’ll end my story with an open-heart invitation to visit Beyond.Threads exhibition, which is open until 5th of September 2015.

Wearing Romanian IA on the Wedding Day

I was born and raised in Bucharest, yet the stories my dad told me about his family, their life histories and the traditions they treasured kept calling me… so, from the moment I took my driving license, the almost 400 km road from Bucharest to Neamt County seemed very short. It is during one of this trips that I’ve discovered what it meant for my ancestors to wear our Romanian IA on their wedding day …

Every trip I take to one of these places, either Valea Seaca, Varatec, Agapia, Bistrita, Bicaz and so on, bring to light another story of family members, people I never met, yet their personal histories are somehow part of me… I guess there’s a connection that never gets lost no matter how many years go bye… they live through thousands of invisible wires that make us who we are.

Family wedding

This time, the story I’ve learned is about the Romanian traditional folk costumes from Bistrita and Bicaz (Neamt County) that my relatives used to wear not only on Sundays when going to church, but also on the day of their wedding.

wedding day
Aneta and Niculae Gavril Dragusanu (Secu village) – on their wedding day (late 1920’s) wearing their Romanian national folk costumes

From my grandparents with love …

St. Mary’s day brought me back to my father’s home… there my grandparents raised 7 children and tens of grandchildren and grand-grandchildren.  I never thought I would still find some things that brought tears to my eyes. Not only that I’ve found and read my grandfather’s will, but, kept in an drawer of an old dark sideboard, I’ve come across some pictures that touched my soul. These pictures below I want to share with you in this unexpected update of this post (10.45pm)

wedding day
1. Maria and Ilie Bodaproste (Valea Seaca village) – my grandparents on their wedding day (May 18, 1929) wearing their hand-made folk costumes (Valea Seaca village, Neamt region); 2. My dearest grandmother, Maria Bodaproste. The picture was taken in late 1920’s in L.Hersovici photo studio (Tg.Neamt); 3. My aunt, Victoria Bodaproste & Victor Bendrea on their wedding day (1949).

Wearing Romanian IA on the wedding day
1. My uncle, Ioan Bodaproste (Badia Jenica) with one of his sweethearts (late ’40). 2-3. Relatives in Piatra-Neamt area wearing the Romanian national folk costumes.

Hopefully, these pictures will inspire you to go back to your roots…

The traditional folk costume

The traditional folk costume of Romanian women living in Neamt region has several clothing pieces:

  • IA – the traditional blouse (aka IA) made of home;
  • Poale – the white long skirt wore by women is embroided at the bottom with the same elements sewed on the IA;
  • Catrință – similar to a skirt, it covers the poale; gold and silver threads are used if catrință is used only for special occasion (like a wedding, Christian holiday etc);
  • Bârneață – it’s a girdle or waistband tied above the catrință;
  • Bundiță – it’s a vest with rich hand-made embroidery; both women and men wear it;
  • Casâncă – it’s a black handkerchief or wrap women wear after they get married; in some villages, women wear a wrap with either floral elements or silk fringes called bariz.

IA’s rich embroidery & natural colors

The embroidery has floral, geometrical, zoomorphic and even anthropomorphic elements, which are generally sewed in two or three colors, depending on the geographic area where are made. The most used elements one can identify are flowers, buds, grapes, grape leaves, oak leaves, acorn, snail, flies, ram horns etc. After the II World War, sparkles and beads were added in the embroidery, especially of the folk costumes people were on special occasions.

In terms of color, the embroidery was done in one color; black, red, burgundy and blue; for floral elements, other colors were added (yellow, orange, green, violet etc.). The threads were painted with colors obtained from various plants and flowers such as alder bark, walnut leaves, green walnut bark, onion peel, Crocus Vernus (both purple and orange), Perforate St John’s-Wort (Hypericum Perforatum), Origanum Vulgare.

Opinci is the Romanian name of the footwear both women and men were wearing more than 50 years ago. They were made out of pork are cow skin. Today people were opinici only on special occasions.  As you can see in the pictures, quite often people would choose to wear leather shoes.

The only thing I would like to add… I’m grateful and lucky at the same time for having such wonderful people in my life who shared with me these stories.

21 Romanian Communist Jokes

I’ve shared with you my story about how humor became a way of opposing the communism in Romania. My initial thought was that it will be a decent-size blog post, but words kept coming. Therefore, I decided continue writing and ended up with a second article, only this time I’ve translated you twenty one communist jokes. They reflect the reality of the Romanian people during the communist regime. In some cases, I tried to give you the context of that time, a very brief one.

The forbidden communist jokes

Communist jokes

There was no freedom of speech! To tell communist jokes, to speak about injustice, the party, Ceausescu and his wife, liberalism or any other sensitive topic could have sent you to prison, so you had to be sure with whom you shared your thoughts.

Have you noticed that at every petrol station there is now a doctor and a policeman on duty? The doctor gives the first aid to those who faint when they see the price, and the policeman interrogates the ones who fill up about where they got the money from. 

A patient is hospitalized at the Insane Asylum. ‘Why are you here?’, another patient asks. ‘I wanted to cross the Romanian boarder’, says the first. ‘But for something like this they do not send you to an asylum!’, replies the other. ‘Yes, but I wanted to escape to Soviet Union!’

A citizen said the chief of the Communist Party is an idiot. For saying this, the citizen was sentenced to spend 25 years and 3 months in prison. Everybody was wondering why 25 years and 3 months. In the end, they old find out the answer: 3 months for insulting a citizen of the Socialist Republic of Romania; 25 years for revealing a state secret.  

The comrades working in the Miliția (aka police) and Securitate (aka internal secret service) systems were doing their best to control what Romanians were thinking and they were empowered to do whatever it took to keep Ceausescu, the Communist Party and the Socialist Republic of Romania safe. They’ve spied, threatened, beaten, tortured and killed people.

What is the difference between the wind and Militia? Militia beats you stronger!

What does Securitate mean? The heart of the Party beating, beating, beating … 

Along with party activists, these forces helped Ceaușescu build the House of People, the second largest building in the world after Pentagon. Travelers from all parts of the world coming to Romania take their time to visit it. Some are amazed, some shocked, some cannot stand the kitsch. What they do not know is that hundreds, if not thousands of Romanians, died there, forced to work to death to make Ceaușescu’s dream come true … so no wonder…

What will the Palace of People be called when it is finished? A mausoleum

Bulă & the Party

It would a unpardonable sin to talk communist joke and not mention Bulă. Nobody knows exactly who created Bulă. What is sure is that he was born in communist Romania, so I’ll take the liberty of considering him one of the most authentic fictional characters produced by the creative force of the Romanian people. He spoke for us, he made us laugh… in a way he’s a popular hero.

At school the teachers asks Bulă: ‘What does your dad do?’ ‘He’s a member of the Party, comrade’, says the boy. ‘What about your mom, Bulă?’ ‘Ohhhh, she doesn’t work either! 

Bulă’s dilemma: Shall I die now of cold or shall I die of starvation in the summer? 

Bulă comes back from work earlier and he finds his wife in bed with Nae. ‘Are you nuts? You are fooling around while they sell butter at the food shop?’

The teacher asks Bulă: ‘Tell us one more time Bulă who’s you father?’ ‘Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu , says Bulă. ‘And your mother, Bulă?’  ‘Comrade Nicolae Ceaușescu’… ‘And what would you to be?’, asks the teacher. ‘An orphan!’  

How the communist system worked

For those who lived in Romanian during communism time, this system is very different from anything you could read in the some idealistic books. Some of the quotes show extremely well how people really felt about such an oppressing system:

Is communism a science? No, if it were a science, they would have tested it on animals first.

An old gypsy man on his dying bad. Instead of sending after the priest, he asks for the local chief of communist party. ‘I would like to join the Party’, says the dying man. ‘Why would you do this?’, asks the communist. ‘You lived your whole life free as the wind and now you want to join the Party?’. ‘Well, you see, if somebody has to die, I would be much happier if that guy were a communist’, answers back the dying man. 

Communist jokes & hunger

Meat was a rarity. In the shops most of the time you could find just some bad salami, chicken wings, pate or beans can. Oranges or bananas were the blessing arriving only in December and January and to get them you had to stay in line along with hundreds or other people.

What’s the difference between the current meat shop and the old one? Before (communism) on the rooftop it was written ‘Gogu’s Meat Shop’. Now, on the rooftop you can see “Meat’ Shop’, but inside you can only find Gogu. 

Which came first: the egg or the chicken? Before (communism) we had everything. 

Why is that in Romania shops are built five kilometers away apart? Otherwise, the lines would merge.  

Communist jokes & the cold

The hot water was not running at the tap all day long as you might think. Sleeping with in your pajama during winter was not enough to keep you warm, you had to put more clothes on you and blankets as the heat system also controlled.

A man is walking down the streets in Bucharest winter. He shouts into a flat: ‘Could you shut your windows; it’s freezing out here.’

Did you hear that since last spring living standards in Romania have doubled? Before we were cold and hungry – now we’re only hungry. 

The suffering had no limit and some Romanians lost their hope of a change for the better. It’s a fact painfully reflected by one of the joke I found:

‘Good day, old man! How are you?’, asks the young man. ‘  What else can I do, young man? I’m trying to survive…’ The young guy looks at the old man with a sad look and says: ‘You might be very sorry …’

Do you know why Romania will survive the end of the world? Because it is fifty years behind everyone else.

The wonders of communism

I can hardly imagine a better closing for this article on Romanian communist jokes other then quoting the sad humorous wonders of the oppressing regime:

Everybody had a place to work.

Although everybody had a place to work, nobody actually did.

Although nobody worked, the target was achieved over 100%.

Although the target was achieved over 100%, you could not buy anything.

Although you couldn’t find anything to buy, everybody had everything.

Although everybody had everything, everybody was stealing something.

Although everybody was stealing something, nothing was missing.

Opposing Communism with Humor

Let me tell you something very clear! Communism for those who actually experienced it is very different from the one you may read about in some articles or books. This story is about how humor was a way of opposing the communist regime. It’s written with the perspective of today’s adult, yet having in mind the memories of those days.

Opposing Communism with Humor

I was almost 15 years old when Ceausescu’s dictatorship ended. “Just a kid” some may think! True, but that kid did not forget either the suffering or the laughter. Today that kid has a true story to tell, so people will not forget.

During communism kids were expected to become responsible citizens and defenders of a communist system they couldn’t understand… A terrifying system that sent our grandfathers in prison and took them everything… the land, the houses, everything they ever owned; a system which sent them to the grave one way or they other; some lost their lives in prison or work camps because of the torture they had to go through; those who survived died on what you call “bad heart”.  They died because they remained true to themselves no matter what, for not giving up their principles, for not betraying their families or friends. They died for freedom. That was their way of opposing communism…. Yet, Romanians also found a different way of opposing the system. Humor was their weapon.

“Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy.” Ben Lewis

Humor as an act of rebellion

Humor was a way of rebellion and survival at the same time; an escape of the mind and soul, a way of coping with all those absurd and restrictions imposed by a communist regime who did not care about its own people.

Opposing Communism with Humor

Humor was a way of standing up or fighting back, a form of active resistance against a criminal regime; at that time the political jokes served as a catalyzer of the constant state of discontent Romanians felt towards the things they did not agree or even hated… towards what was happening with our country.

It came with a price… in some cases, you could even go to jail, if the wrong person heard you saying a political joke. People went to prison. Their families had to endure all forms of oppression. Phones were tapped. People were constantly spied on.  Despite all these, political jokes were part of our daily lives. I remember I was hearing or telling them during the breaks in the courtyard of the school, although our parents had us promise not to share them publicly as it was dangerous. I also remember my dad covering the fixed line phone with pillows, so he and his friends can talk about the things you were not supposed to.

To anyone living in Western countries, enjoying a decent good life, learning about the so-called socialism from the books, such a joke may not make them laugh. If you are one of them, it would be difficult to image that hot water was scheduled. Hot water would ran on our taps few hours per week; sometimes, not at all. For those who lived it, it’s very different.

The informational oxygen

I once read that the nature of Ceausescu’s dictatorship forced Romanian society to create it own zone of informational oxygen. It still feels a correct and truthful insight of those days. Rumors and political jokes built that zone we so much needed it.  All these political jokes came anonymously and contemporaneously, from the mouth of ordinary people.

Communist jokes encompassed almost every aspect of our lives, from the queues of people waiting to get some milk, meat and bananas (only in December), to Ceausescu and his family, communists leaders, to all sorts of events.

As Ben Lewis so well pointed out,

“the rulers of Communism were wicked and they hated many things – the bourgeois, the liberals, imperialists, free elections, wealthy farmers and Capitalists, but there was one thing they hated more than anything else and that was Communist jokes”.    

Despite of the communist propaganda, secret control state agencies, these political jokes could not be controlled. They were told by ordinary people, whether drivers, professors or engineers, but what drove them nuts was that even Communist Party members or protégées of the regime told them. Just by telling them, they all kept the laughter going and the rebellion spirit alive.

“Slowly but surely the jokes eroded the strength of the leaders of Communism. Then, one day, people had enough of joke-telling and they rose-up against their cruel rulers. Then leaders quickly admitted the jokers had been right all along and Communism ended”. 

10 years & 950 Romanian communist jokes

In august 1979, Calin Bogdan Stefanescu, a former member of the Communist Party endowed with all the skills of a statistician, decided to keep a very personal kind of journal or better said an accurate inventory of the communist jokes Romanian were creating each day.  As Stefanescu later confessed, his initiative was driven by a strong and personal motivation: “I started  to perceive my collection of jokes as a way to justify myself in front of my children. I started to imagine my children asking me, ‘Dad, what did you do under Communism? Why didn’t you get out in the streets, why didn’t you do something?'”

Opposing Communism with Humor
Source: Calin Bogdan Stefanescu

After the fall of communism, Stefanescu published his collection of jokes in a book called “Ten Years of Black Humour in Romania.” What stands out it’s not the impressive number of jokes his collected, 950 to be very specific, but also the conclusions he reached by applying various complex statistical analysis:

  • a new joke was added to his collection every 4.71 days;
  • 81% of the joke-tellers were intellectuals, white-collar workers and bureaucrats;
  • only 7% of the pensioners and 13% of those under the age 30 were telling jokes;

Just like a meticulous archeologist taking down as many details as possible about the relics found on a site, Stefanescu calculated the velocity of a communist joke, making a clear connection between a social or political event and the number  of jokes appearing afterwards.

Opposing Communism with Humor

For Stefanescu, the quantity and and content of the jokes changed in significant ways as the Revolution (1989) approached; they became bitter and bitter. “What used to be grey was gradually becoming black”.

By calculating each year the number of jokes, theme, Stefanescu proved that jokes were not a form of avoiding the reality or a distraction from the struggle as communist supporters tried to suggest, but a real form of resistance and rebellion. As shown in the table below, as the forces of resistance gathered strength, the jokes increased in both terms of quantity and quality.

According to Lewis, in all communist countries where censorship and propaganda mechanism tried to control even what people thought, “a culture of the spoken joke would develop, a collective satirical work produced by the whole population”.

Conclusion on communism & humor

The state, the secret police and not even the various forms of oppression put upon Romanians could not stop them making jokes and laughing at the expense of communism. The system could not engineer how people laughed or what they laughed at. And I guess that type of attitude worked as well as for other communist countries.

If you would ask Romanians who actually lived here, for sure they would tell you that the best jokes they ever heard were during those bleak, sad and with nothing much to do outside work days. To see for yourself how that humor sounded like, I welcome you to read 21 Romanian Communist Jokes.

Falling in Love with My Romanian IA

To me the beautiful Romanian IA or La Blouse Roumaine, as some of you may know it, it’s not just a fashion icon. For me, IA is a part of me! It’s a way of being connected with the DNA of the Romanian people. Wearing it is one way of preserving the heritage left by those who came before me. IA mirrors all our life experiences — the history, the traditions and most profound beliefs, our entire history. My Romanian IA is who I am!

My friends know how much I love my Romanian IA. I’ve been wearing them for years, whether at a business meeting, social event, wedding or when going out with my friends.

I’m not sure exactly when I fell in love with my Romanian IA or why. It might have happened the first time I laid my years of the old picture of my grandparents wearing their Romanian traditional costumes on their wedding day. As well it might have happened during high-school years when I was reading Queen Marie of Romania’s memories. It’s not even important, I think.

The Romanian IA

This traditional blouse represents the main element of the Romanian folk costume. Worn by women, originally the IA was made from a homespun material either white linen or cotton. Later on, the blouse was manufactured from different materials such as silk or “borangic”. The intricate details of the embroidery bear the weight of numerous popular Romanian motifs, patterns and mystic symbols. Nothing is at chance, at least not when it comes to truly authentic or vintage IAs. They are directly linked with the traditions and specificity of the region the IAs were made. Therefore, the cut, the embroidery and even the colours on the IAs differ from one region of the country to another. Truth to be told, there are embroidery elements shared across different regions of the country. And from a cultural identity perspective, I would say, these common elements brings it all together. They unite us in one country.

One might say the IA comprises the life and history of the people living in that region. Put together IAs tell the story of the Romanian people.

Marie of Romania & a blouse fit for a Queen

Marie of Edinburgh (1885-1938) or Missy, as her dear ones used to call her, was the fifteenth granddaughter of Queen’s Victoria, wife of kind Ferdinand of Romania, sister of Alexandra of Russian and one of the greatest ambassadors my country ever had.

I came to this country at very young age, yet I became one of you. Queen Marie of Romania

Queen Maria of Romania
Queen Marie, the 22th granddaughter of Queen Victoria, became at an early age a great Ambassador of Romania.

Queen Marie brought the world’s attention on the beautiful Romanian folk costumes not just by writing about it, but also wearing them and inspiring the same love she had for it to her children. Here are just some of the pictures she had taken of herself and her children wearing these awesome Romanian traditional costumes:

1. Queen Marie and King Ferdinand (left). 2. Queen Marie with her grandson, young King Michael of Romania (right).  3. Queen Marie (middle) with her daughters – Irene of Greece (Duchess of Aosta), Princess Ileana (Archduchess of Austria), Princess Marioara (Queen of Yugoslavia) and Princess Elena (Queen Elena of Romania).

Queen Mary – English by birth, Romanian by heart

Twenty-three years have I now spent in this country, each day bringing its joy or its sorrow, its light or its shade; with each year my interests widened, my understanding deepened; I knew where I was needed to help. (…) I want only to speak of its soul, of its atmosphere, of its peasants and soldiers, of things that made me love this country, that made my heart beat with its heart. I have moved amongst the most humble. I have entered their cottages, asked them questions, taken their new-born in my arms. Queen Mary of Romania

These are some of the opening lines from Queen Mary’s book called “My Country”.  Her thoughts reveal a woman who got to know now her Romanians in a way like no other. That’s who she was … the most loved queen by the Romanian army. It was a love that grew step by step not on the grounds of the official relationship between a sovereign and militaries, but on courageous deeds of war. One could not help admire her taking care of the wounded soldiers, cholera and typhoid sick people. She did not care about the danger she exposed herself and risked her life without hesitation.

Communist regime’s historians did their best to diminish her role and influence in shaping Romania’s future, and maybe for a while they succeeded, yet their victory did not last long. Probably one of the reasons had to do with our grandparents who opposed the regime the way they knew best… by keeping alive the memory of the heroes and history as it happened, although they had to whisper it to their children. Here’s a short British Pathe interview from 1934 with Romania’s most loved queen. As you’ll see, the Romanian IA is always there!

Queen Marie once wrote, “I came to this country at very young age, yet I became one of you”. And she really did that despite all shortcomings and distrust she experienced because of it. She lived and breathed Romanian. Nowadays, her heirs are trying to give her back the place she deserves among the great Romanians.

Henri Matisse’s IA

The French painter Henri Matisse is known as one of the first to capture the beauty of the Romanian ie. Simply called La Blouse Roumaine is an oil-on-canvas painting dated 1940. It measures 92 × 73 cm and is held at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris.

It took Matisse few years to show the world his Romanian paintings. There were hundreds trials and sketches before there was a Romanian blouses collection.

Henri Matisse IAs
1-3. Sketches done by Matisse.  The second sketch (middle) called “Femme à la blouse roumaine” (1943) was drawn in Vence was sold by Christie’s in 2011 to a private collector for $191,951.

Few know that Matisse’s Romanian paintings were inspired by a collection of traditional blouses he received as a gift from Theodor Pallady, one of most famous painters, whom he had been friends with for many years.  Matisse and Pallady met around 1892, in Paris, in Gustave Moreau’s studio were they were working along with Georges Rouault and Albert Marquet.

The Romanian IA as seen by Henri Matisse

Matisse’s interest in oriental themes first emerged in the 1920s when he began to express an interest in the interplay of ornamental patterns. This fascination with decorative designs is seen in these works and it will remain with Matisse till the end of his life.

Matisse and Pallady’s friendship lasted a lifetime. What neither one of them imagined is that their admiration for our national blouse will turn years later Romanian IA into a fashion icon… and that’s my next story all about … And it’s called La Blouse Roumaine and Henri Matisse.