La Blouse Roumaine

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 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.

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.