Felted jackets, coats and cloaks

Shepherds’ cloaks – țol or țolică, glugă

Felted woollen cloaks are the oldest and simplest form of felted woollen over garments. Cloaks are worn throughout the Balkan-Carpathian area, and are also found in many other parts of Europe, around the Mediterranean, in north Europe (e.g. the Finno-Karelian byrik) and in the South American Andes (poncho).

Simple cloak – țol

The simple cloak (tol) is the most basic form of cloak and is worn mainly by shepherds in mountain areas in Transylvania, Maramureș, North Moldavia, Banat, northern Muntenia and Oltenia. Reference to similar garments has been found in historical records of the ancients Egyptians, Persians, and Hittites.
This basic cloak is made of rectangular pieces of fulled woollen cloth (dimie) woven in a striped or checked pattern of brown or black squares alternating with natural colour, and joined together with decorative stitches (cheiță). These cloaks were worn over the shoulders and could also be used as a bed covering.

Țolică is also made of fulled woven fabric and is used for covering horses. A special țolicațolica cusută was used for covering horses for weddings in Mărginimea Sibiului. This has red and blue coloured tassels on its ends, and is decorated with multicoloured stitches.

Hooded cloak – glugă

This type of hooded cloak was used by shepherds to cover the head and shoulders, and was thought to be derived from similar garments worn by the ancient Thracians as depicted on Greek vases. Glugă means hood, the name (Gugel) is of medieval German origin and is still used as a dialect word in Bavaria and Switzerland. Gluge were found throughout Romania and also in Bulgaria (where they are called opandzhak, yapandzhak) and Ukrainia. They were used both as a cloak or a sleeping bag or the hood could be used as a rucksack for food or as a pillow.
There are many variants of gluge. The simplest variant is made of a single piece of natural colour woollen cloth (white or grey) possibly with black stripes and long woollen tassels on the bottom end. It is held onto the shoulder by a cord. This single piece of cloth was folded in two lengthways on top of the head and was found in the zones of Avrig, Hațeg, Mărginimea Sibiului, Poiana Ruscă andValea Bistriței. The more elaborate kinds of gluge are made of several pieces of cloth, possibly with gussets and cover the whole body and were found in Central Transylvania in Cluj, Reghin and Năsăud. These cloaks are made of white or black woollen cloth and are decorated with black or brown woven (alesături) patterns on the white ones and coloured decoration on the black ones or are made of alternate brown and white rectangles of a mixture of wool’ and goats hair.
There is also a smaller kind of glugã, called the gluguș, which is a hood attached to a small cloak. The glugă is also used as a ceremonial garment, worn by the vătășels (wedding heralds) on horseback.

Felted overcoats – suman (pl. sumane), dimie, șubă and giubea

Vâlcea region

Straight or flared overcoats are made of white, grey, black or coloured felted wool (frieze). These overcoats are cut from rectangular pieces of thick woollen fabric woven with four heddles. It takes around 18 to 25 pounds or 5 to 7 metres of woven wool to make a coat so it was considered a luxury garment. There are many variants in name, cut, cloth colour and decoration depending on the region. The most common names are suman in Transylvania, Banat and Moldavia and dimie in the south. The different styles of overcoat were determined by the length, number and arrangement of the lateral gussets, cut of the sleeves, the existence of underarm gussets (pavelor), type of collar, style of cuffs and pockets.

These coats can be divided into two main groups; straight long coats, and flared long coats. The former were made of rectangular widths of woollen material and were found around Hunedoara, in the Apuseni Mountains, in Moldavia and along the Carpathians and also further north in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and the Urals. The latter style had with gussets inserted so it was flared towards hem. This type of cut showed influences of Ottoman fashion and was found mostly in the south of Romania. Sumane for festive wear are made from higher quality wool and have more gussets, larger collars and are more richly decorated.

Sleeveless felted jackets – giubea, cosacs, cosace and sumanul

Valea Stejarului, Maramureș

Sleeveless felted jackets are worn by women in Oltenia, Muntenia and the Bulgarian Danube Plain. These are usually made of white felted cloth (aba), although navy blue or striped fabrics were used outside Romania. These are hip length with gussets to make a flared “skirt”.

The style of decoration depended on the zone. Cloth or braid was appliquéd around the edges of pockets often in red, sometimes blue or black, and was then decorated with embroidery in red, black, white or blue.

Tailors – abagii or sumănari

Coats were made by specialised makers called abagii or sumănari” (Bulgarian terzije, abadžije). By 17th century guilds of weavers, cloth makers and tailors were established. In the 18th century eighteen “sumănari” existed in Iași, who made coats for all the surrounding area of Moldavia. By the 19th century entire groups of villages specialised in the production of coats, for example the village of Sârbești in Bihor. The craftsmen developed this occupation in order to supplement their income from agriculture. In 1914, with the exception of four dwellings, the entire village was involved in manufacture of suman, making both coats to order and for the market.

Suman made in Sârbești were worn in many groups of villages. Eight variants were made differing only by the precise positioning of the decoration and the colours used (rather than in cut). Every craftsman knew all the models but specialised only in one variant. Sumănari  from adjacent areas in Crișana and Banat used a different style of decoration as every group of villages had their own style of coat. Sumane were found in Vașcău (Bihor), Ineu, Moroda, Hontișor (Arad), Țundre from Vidra (Alba). Sumanele for festival days were made of pănură in Cisnădie, using cloth bought from Câmpenei, Brad, or Lupșa, (Alba).


Beiuș, Bihor

The decoration on overcoats was used to emphasise the line of the coat.  Braid (găitan, șinior, sărad), satin stitch embroidery in silk, wool or cotton, or appliqué in leather or coloured woollen cloth (postav) was arranged on the front of overcoats and on sleeves, edges of hems and gussets. Various geometric and floral motifs were used, these becoming more elaborate with time to include more colours and more complicated patterns.  Piping and braiding, machined onto coats with a special sewing machine, was used both as decoration, and to protect the edges of the material from fraying and to strength seams. This decoration was completed with whit, red or dark blue embroidery.

Published on 11th March 2017, last modified on 25th February 2018