folk costume

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. 

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.

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!

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.