There Were Others Before Matisse [The Romanian Blouse]

Romanians were very proud when Yves Saint Lauren used a Matisse painting motif in a modern ensemble at his fashion show in 1981. The very well known 20th Century French painter became interested in the Romanian blouse or ‘ia’ when one of his friends, a Romanian painter, introduced him to the Romanian folklore. He painted La Blouse Romaine or The Romanian Blouse in 1940 and represented this motif in other paintings. He actually became obsessed with this blouse and created several drawings when he got ill and was unable to paint as well as he had done before. 

Move cursor over images to see names of paintings and photos.

At the turn of the 20th century, Queen Elisabeta of Romania used to dress in national costumes from different regions of the country to promote the Romanian folklore.

Since then, this Romanian folklore – inspired blouse has been made known to the entire world with the help of fashion designers and celebrities. International Day of the Romanian Blouse is now a celebration that takes place on June 24 to coincide  with a Romanian tradition. On this day, people from all over the world choose to wear the Romanian blouse.

Romanians have finally found recognition for something beautiful that they have owned for centuries and put aside for decades. Like in many cases, they had to wait for others to let them know of its value. Almost a hundred years before Matisse, Romanian and foreign painters depicted this blouse with such details and color to help us envision the tremendous amount of work that went into the perfect, delicate, and intricate patterns that were embroidered by hand. Take a look at the paintings I found. You can almost see the stitches that were used.

Garofita rosie in pahar (Small Red Carnation In a Glass) by Ioan Andreescu –
A Romanian Maiden by Franciszek Ejsmond – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Tarancuta din Muscel (Peasant Woman From Muscel) by Ion Theodorescu – Sion -Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Unirea Principatelor (The United Principalities) by Theodor Aman – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Taranca (Peasant Woman) by Petru Verussi – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Taranca cosind (Peasant Woman Sewing) by Ipolit Strambu – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Taranca cosind (Peasant Woman Sewing) by Nicolae Vermont – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Romania Revolutionara (Revolutionary Romania – Portrait of Maria Rosetti) by Constantin Daniel Rosenthal – Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Although this kind of blouse can be found in the folklore of other countries like Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia, and pretty much anywhere in the Balkan peninsula, it seems the Romanian style is more attractive because of the rich details represented especially on the over sized sleeves.

It is too bad that Romanians had to wait for the world to tell them how beautiful their folklore and traditions were. While I was growing up, city girls mostly felt embarrassed when they had to wear the blouse at assemblies and official celebrations. Having a T-shirt printed with some music band’s name was getting more attention from a teenager. I remember that my grandmother assembled a couple of these blouses. One of them was embroidered with purple thread and sequin and the other with red thread. Because I was at that age when everything “new” was better they went to waste. It has become more difficult to come across a blouse that was done with true artistry without paying a high price for it.

Featured Image “La Blouse Romaine” and Henri Matisse paintings: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Photos Queen Elisabeta of Romania: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons




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