The Romanian blouse seen around the world

When a woman wears the traditional clothes of her people, she wears the entire Cosmos.
– Pavel Panduru

What do Halle Berry, Adele and Nicole Kidman have in common?

Halle Nicole Adele

At some point or another, all of them wore fashion inspired by the Romanian traditional blouse – the ie.

The ie (pronounced ee-eh) is a blouse, traditionally worn by Romanian girls and women. When you hear “traditional”, you might think of the countryside, of idyllic villages and green pastures – but the truth is, the ie has earned its place as a source of inspiration for fashion designers worldwide, including heavy names such as Tom Ford, who based one of his 2012 collection on traditional Romanian motifs.

Every part of the ie, from the fabric itself to the intricate embroideries on the chest and sleeves, is entirely hand-made, and the design hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

A mother and daughter pose in a traditional Romanian costume, twenty-five years apart.
A mother and daughter pose in a traditional Romanian costume, twenty-five years apart.

Of course, the signs and symbols embroidered on the front, back and sleeves of the ie aren’t just random decorations, but each has its own significance, depending on the region, the seamstress, and the person who wore it. Every ie, together with the other parts of the traditional costume, tells its own story – and with the right guide, anyone can understand that story.

A fairly often encountered symbol, a tree – or any other arbor-like structure – is a symbol for life, wisdom and renewal. Sometimes, instead of a tree, the seamstresses choose to embroider only a few branches.

Among these, particular importance is given to the fir tree – especially among the mountain folk. The fir tree means eternal youth or immortality, a frequent motive in Romanian mythology (in many ballads, the hero would leave on a quest for the “water of life”, which would make him young, strong and immortal, only to realize in the end that there were important things than eternal life).

A circle or a sunflower signifies the sun, day or Divinity; since Romanians were traditionally an agricultural society, living off the boon of the land, the sun was of capital importance and was often associated with God and abundance. Likewise, depending on the region, more motives related to daily activities can be found: water (either as a river or as sea waves) and fish in the fishing villages along the rivers and sea coast, wheat or corn stems in agricultural villages, wheels or coin in crafting traders’ villages, and so on.

Foreground: The plant-like motifs (flowers, thistle, three-leaf clover) show that this ie comes from an agricultural village. Background: Thread-of-gold embroidered ie, worn on celebrations and special occasions.
Foreground: The plant-like motifs (flowers, thistle, three-leaf clover) show that this ie comes from an agricultural village.
Background: Thread-of-gold embroidered ie, worn on celebrations and special occasions.

And let us not forget colors, which also vary according to region, motif and destination: greens and golds for the plains, red, gray and brown for the mountains, blue and silver for the rivers, and so on.

All in all, the ie is a fascinating piece of Romanian traditional culture, and one that we take pride in to this day.

Did you know…?
June 24th is a worldwide celebration: “Ziua Universala a Iei” – Universal Ie Day! Romanian communities in 48 countries and more than 100 cities have made this a truly global event. Will you be wearing an ie this June 24th? If you do, be sure to send us your pictures here or on Facebook!

Photo sources:
1- Artizanat Autentic
2- Courtesy of S.B.
3- Traditional Romanesc

About Odeena

Odeena loves driving around the country and often wanders off the beaten track, braving any dusty ol' road in her trusty Volkswagen Golf and hoping there'll be something awesome at the end of it. Her other passions include literature, cats and playing the piano.

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