Coats, cloaks and waistcoats made from animal skin have been worn either with fleece outside or skin outside since earliest times over much of Europe and beyond. These garments developed a regional identity both in cut and decoration from around 18th Century.
Cloaks - Sarică, Bituşca
Shepherds cloaks (sarică or bituşca) are worn by shepherds in the Southern Carpathians. These are made of three or four sheepskins and are worn fleece outside in Romania. Sarice can be calf or ankle length and are either sleeveless or have long sleeves, which are left free and are used by the shepherd as pillow when sleeping outside.
These can also be made of woollen material with long tufts of wool. This type is worn around Făgăraş. Similar sheepskin cloaks were found in Hungary but were usually worn fleece inside with the outside being decorated with embroidery and appliqué leather.
Cojoc is a sleeved sheepskin coat and pieptar is a sleeveless waistcoat. These are worn throughout Romania by men and women. Sheepskin is readily available, smaller pieptari can be made of lambskin, and larger cojoci are made of fleecy sheepskin. They are usually worn with fur on inside and are decorated according to local fashions with embroidery, appliquéd leather strips, tassels, buttons or small pieces of metal or mirrors.
Leather dressing was originally done in households but as production became more specialised it was transferred into artisans' workshops and was organised into specialist craft guilds. Centres of Cojocari were based in:
|Oltenia||Dăbuleni, Horezu (Vâlcea)|
|Moldavia||Ghizdăoani, Vama, Târgu-Neamţ, Rădăuţi|
|Transylvania||Bistriţa, Năsăud, Abrud, Viştea, Beiuş, Făget, Sighet, Lapuş, Drăgus (Braşov)|
Cojoace can be either straight cut or flared, each ethnographical region having its own characteristic style. Flared Cojoace have gussets inserted to make them wider. Cojoace can be long, 3/4 length, or short and cut onto the waist. Pieptare are usually shorter than cojoace, being either waist or hip length depending on region. An exception to this is the Bucovinan “pieptar cu poale” worn by women, which is hip length, with a flared “skirt”. Pieptare are either înfundat (closed with opening at side) or crăpat (split in front), whereas cojoace always have a front opening.
The extent of the decoration on sheepskin coats and jackets depends on the purpose of the garment. Cojoace and pieptare made for work wear generally have little decoration, whereas a cojoc or pieptar for festive wear is often completely covered with embroidery and appliqué and takes around 8 days to decorate. Regional styles of decoration were the same for both cojoc and pieptar.
Originally thin coloured leather strips “Meşină” were used for edging, these were later appliquéd in floral motifs (possibly originating from Hungarian influence), later wool, coloured cloth and silk stain stitch embroidery was worked onto strips of soft leather, which were applied to the garment. This type of appliqué was also used on felted coats (szurs) in Hungary and West Romania in 19th century. Metal accessories such as eyelets, studs and small pieces of mirror were also used. The use of these may possibly have originated with the Huţilor.