Monday, 24 June 2013

Romanian blouse day

Slight overload of posts today but such a date could not be left uncommented on.

Today is Romanian blouse day and the patriot in me clearly arose. I'm not one for national days necessarily and rarely keep to traditions (unless it revolves around my name-saint-days when I get small presents) but I thought this initiative of celebrating the best of Romanian heritage suited me down to an I.

 I say 'I' because this blouse is traditionally called an 'ie' and it has only been recently that it surfaced on the Internet as an awareness campaign. Through the efforts of organisations such as 'LaBlouseRoumaine' and magazines such as TheOne that this quintessential element of Romanian dress was propelled to the attention of the wide public.

I guess we tend to take it for granted. I would assume most Romanian people -mainly women- own some sort of variation or take on this traditional blouse but would we have held it in high esteem before this campaign?

Interestingly, it seems that an item that one would have thought to be either mundane or perhaps obliterated by new fashions creeps into the fabric of our society every 2 seasons or so. You might have seen it too: designed by Tom Ford and worn by Adele in Vogue, taking centre stage in Yves Saint Laurent's 1981 fashion show or maybe as part of Isabel Marant's 2012 collection?

This is just to name a few as it seems that over the years, the Romanian blouse served as artistic inspiration to many a brilliant minds. Speaking of which, it would be shameful of me to omit Henry Matisse's expressionist painting bluntly entitled 'La Blouse Roumaine'. The colour scheme of this painting I think accurately reflects the candour of the Romanian woman, proudly wearing her 'ie'. We might ask, why not call it portrait of a Romanian girl? But then again, look at the sheer volume taken up by the garment itself. The contrasting white on the ochre-red not only establishes the blouse as the focal point but also as a separate entity in itself. 

To understand this, being an outsider of all-things Romanian, you'll need some background information. The term itself of 'ie' has been in use since the 6th century in a small, rural area of Romania. It started off as the daily clothes that peasants would wear on the fields. Slowly but surely, the coarse flex and hemp fabrics were traded in for the softer cotton or the even more expensive silk. It then on became a symbol of social status. The simple cross embroidery on the chest spread and flourished into gorgeous geometric prints and floral details, complete with coloured beads. The traditional colours were black and red but nowadays they can be found in almost all coloristic variations.

The social aspect of the Romanian blouse is also interesting. The meticulous process usually took up to 5 weeks and it brought together generations and generations of women. The elder would sow them for their younger daughters and would ornate them in bright colors to symbolise youth, happiness and being single - I guess it also made it easier for men to spot which one's what. It would have been worn daily but the most beautifully worked ones would be paraded at family celebrations and important events. It used to be the case that women would dress in full traditional dress at weddings some 60 years ago as my grandmother's photographs stand proof but the Western world was the shiny bead to our nation's magpie.

In this day and age, when cheap, fast and meaningless fashions fly off our hangers with every new seasons, I turn to my Romanian blouse for comfort. It's been there to witness the making of a people and by now I would think it as the definition of Romanian culture. The pride we take in all that we do, the hard work, the celebrations, the can take it all. But it needs us now more than ever and I think it's in my duty as a Romanian person to help raise awareness and make people, including ourselves, appreciate our unique cultural heritage.

Queen Maria of Romania 1875-1939

Smaranda Braescu 1897 - 1948, flight pioneer
Today, I wore mine to school. Yes, I took my 180 years old blouse out of its tissue paper and wore it like I meant business. And I did considering I even cycled to school this morning. I just felt slightly fuzzy at the thought that my great-great-grandma wore this -perhaps even made it...what would she say if she saw it now, in the 21st century?

Feeling very proud here ^.^


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