Fashion has a way of renewing, using, transforming and modernizing the old. The corset, the tutu, everything can be used, mixed and matched. But what is the richest source of inspiration, the biggest pull of ideas and beauty? It simply lies in the traditions of each, individual people. The fashion creators have very soon realize that immersing in the specifics of a culture will offer them an enormous inspirational fountain.
The Romanian blouse is one of the most wonderful pieces of traditional legacy, and it is probably the most beautiful blouse in the world. The richness of its embroidery makes it stand apart from anything else, it is a piece of clothing, but in the same time a piece of jewelry altogether.
The international recognition of this very special clothing item came late in its history, but sooner compared to the notoriety of other folk costumes. Queen Mary of Romania, that was not born a Romanian, but she always behaved and acted in the best interest of Romania, was the first one to publicly wear the blouse that was part of the national costume of this country. She has been photographed in this blouse, she wore it at official meetings, and she made a star out of it. Not only she was seen wearing it, but she also wrote a lot about this special blouse. Queen Mary was one Queen Victoria’s numerous granddaughters and she married King Ferdinand of Romania. She was English, beautiful, but completely foreign to Romania. She had a great respect for the Romanian village and its inhabitants. She loved the incredible blouse that she saw the Romanian peasant women were wearing, so through her the world first found out about the “ia”.
Paul Poiret was a fashion designer in Paris before the 1st World War. Most people suppose that he saw Queen’s Mary wearing this Romanian national blouse and he was completely taken by its beauty. Poiret was one of Mary’s favorite Parisian designers and she had worn his creations a number of times. He created a whole range of dresses for his wife, all inspired not only by the blouse, but the traditional costume as a whole.
It was, then, Henri Matisse in 1940 the one that displayed the wonderful painting called “La Blouse Roumaine”. Matisse has become fascinated with this blouse and the way Romanian women wore it and has made a series of paintings and studies on this matter. He was helped in his mission by his friendship with Theodor Pallady, a Romanian painter he had met during his apprenticeship in Paris. They exchanged letters and Pallady sent him a collection of traditional blouses from his country. This is one of the most famous paintings created by Matisse and it still hangs on the walls of Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris as a testament of both Matisse’s skill and art, and also as a proof of Romanian beauty and color. Few know that the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art had featured a Matisse exposition in 2012, exposition that was centered around the main characteristic of his painting, color, and at the center of this was a painting called “The Dream”. “The Dream” portrays a woman wearing a traditional blouse while sleeping.
It was another visionary French that remembered and saw once again the beauty of “La blouse roumaine”. Yves Saint Laurent was inspired in 1981 by Matisse’s work to create a whole collection based on the Romanian traditional blouse. His vision encompassed not only the main element of the Romanian national costume, the blouse, but all other elements: the skirt, the wide belt and even the hair style of the peasants that wore them here, in our country. The final piece of his collection is a beautiful bride costume worn by the voluptuous Letitia Casta with a white on white embroidery of the blouse, a large belt and a wide skirt, wearing her hair up in a crown made from a pigtail of hair and adorned with wheatear. Around her neck, a cross, a symbol of Romanian belief, simple and eloquent. Yves Saint Laurent was one of the major creators of modernity and trends in fashion, but it is worth knowing that his “Romanian collection” will be forever remembered.
In 2008 the American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta has found inspiration in the Romanian folk motifs in his spring collection. The stitches were hand-made, the materials were mostly natural, and the details were incredible. Then, in 2012 Tom Ford launched one of the most hidden collections in fashion. No one knew what the collection was made of, and in the end, it turned out it was an ethnical inspired collection. Its combined elements from Latin America and Spain, but also from Romania. It made the headlines, and one of the Vogue covers featured the English singer Adele dressed in a tom Ford creation inspired by a traditional blouse from Sibiu, white with black embroidery.
Emilio Pucci, the Italian fashion house, launched in 2015 a collection that included blouses inspired by the Romanian design. In 2012 one fashion designer, Philippe Guilet created a collection named 100%. ro. He is a French designer established in Romania and he worked for both Jean Paul-Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld. What it is extraordinary regarding this collection is not only the fact that he used and modernized each piece of traditional clothing, but he gathered craftsmen and folklore artists and worked closely with them, studying the significance of the pieces and getting to know the real art behind the clothes. His goal was to make the Romanian traditional costume known to the whole world.
The fame and recognition that the authentic Romanian blouse has known during the past years, especially since 1989, it makes us proud as a nation, but it gives way to a lot of abuse. There are a lot of people, bog names in fashion and industry, that use the Romanian tradition in hand stitching to sell clothing items, but they do not recognize their source of inspiration. They use the exact same symbols and motifs that cannot be found nowhere in the world but in Romania. Stealing patterns and models from different small population has become quite a practice for some and that is why the public opinion started a campaign that shines a light on recognizing the source in fashion: #givecredit.