Women’s aprons (and skirts)

There are five basic variations:

1) The straight apron (catrință or zadie) which are usually worn in pairs, one at the front and one at the back. A variation on this type is the fringed apron found in mainly in Banat called opreg.

2) A pleated or gathered apron (șorț or șurt) worn as a front apron.

3) The wrap round skirt (fotă) which is a single straight piece of cloth wrapped round the waist and fastened at one side.

4) A pleated or gathered wrap round skirt (vâlnic or peșteman) which can be worn either wrapped around the body or only round the back.

5) Skirts (with joined seam) called androc or fustă.

These garments are worn in many different combinations according to the local zone and the prevailing fashion. The most common combinations of these garments fall into the following 6 variants:

  1. Doua catrințe – Transylvanian, Oltenia, Dobrogea, south Muntenia
  2. Fotă – Moldavia and north Muntenia
  3. Catrință și opreg – Banat
  4. Șorț cu catrință – Alba and Târnave region
  5. Catrință cu fotă – Țara Loviștei, Argeș
  6. Catrință cu vâlnic or Catrință cu peșteman – Vlașca, Romanați

The various garment types are know by many local names, which do not necessarily fall into the criteria listed above (for example in north Moldavia fotă is called catrință).

Straight apron – catrință (pl. catrințe), zadie (pl. zadii) or zăvelcă (pl. zăvelci)

Barbeni, Vâlcea

Double apron

The most common costume type has two rectangular straight aprons (most commonly called catrință or zadie) which are worn at the front and back with the white underskirt showing at the sides. This type exists in Oltenia, southern Muntenia, central and east Transylvania, south-east Moldavia, Banat and Dobrogea. These aprons are made of a rectangular piece of woollen material, either a single width or two widths joined together either vertically of horizontal. The size varies from zone to zone, as does the style of decoration. They are tied round the waist using cords (baiere). This type of costume is found throughout the Aegean and Mediterranean, and possibly may have a Slavic origin.

Miheșu de Câmpie

Women’s single apron

The zone of origin of a catrință can be determined by colour, size, and decoration style and arrangement. The most common type of decoration is woven alternating colour stripes (vâstră, pl. vâstre) in various widths, either horizontal or vertical. More richly decorated catrință may include woven patterns (alesătură). In Transylvania, Oltenia and south Muntenia the stripes are predominantly horizontal. In Dobrogea the stripes are usually vertical. In parts of south west Oltenia (Mehedinți, Gorj) the stripes on one apron are horizontal and the other are vertical. In Banat & parts of Oltenia the entire surface is often covered with woven patterns, or embroidered flowers. In Transylvania woven patterns are found on the lower half of the apron. Aprons from north Transylvania around Bistrița are brightly coloured while in southern Transylvania, in Sibiu, Alba, and Hunedoara, black aprons are the most common.

Straight apron with fringes – opreg (cu ciucuri) (pl. oprege)

In Banat and the west of Țara Hațegului a fringed apron called an opreg is worn. This is a form of catrință, which comprises a rectangular piece of fabric 12-16 inches long (petec) which is the remains of the original catrință, from which long multicoloured fringes (ciucuri) usually made of red, gold or silver thread, hang in bunches. This type of apron is also worn by Romanians in Yugoslavia, and is found in parts of Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria. Young girls wear two oprege cu ciucuri, whereas older married women wear a catrință in front and an opreg at the back. The catrință and petec are often made in silk with heavy woven decoration (alesatură) in diamond shapes, using goblin stitches in gold and silver threads. This style of decoration possibly has Oriental influences.

There are two types of opreg:

  1. Wide petec and short fringes (ciurcuri). This is the older version. The petec usually has a dark coloured background and is decorated with woven patterns (alesãturi). This type is worn in the mountain regions of Țara Hațegului
  2. Narrow petec with longer ciurcuri – up to 2-3 feet long to match the length of the underskirt. The petec is decorated with bright coloured usually red woven patterns. The dimensions of the “petec” are variable, very narrow in Hațeg and in Valea Bistrei, or very broad in Valea Jiului and Valea Almăjului.

Pleated or gathered apron – șorț (pl. șorțuri) or șurț

Sălciua, Muntii Apuseni

A șorț or șurț is a gathered or pleated apron which appeared in the late 19th century. It is worn either as a front apron over a chemise, replacing older pieces such as catrințe, oprege, zadii, or over a fustă or androc. It is made of home woven material, thick or thin cloth (pânză), wool, cotton or cashmere, and decorated with embroidery, or more recently of factory woven material such as floral printed calico. In Western Transylvania, Arad, Bihor and Oaș, these aprons were originally made of white linen and were decorated with woven or embroidered motifs, which matched the decoration on the skirt, and blouse. These were replaced by aprons made from the floral printed factory made material from the mid 20th century. In parts of southern Transylvania a black or dark coloured șorț replaced the front catrință towards the end of the 19th century possibly based on the gathered aprons worn by the Saxons in these areas.

Pestelcă (pl. pestelci) (prestilka in Bulgarian)

Pestelcă is the name used for a gathered apron in parts of south Muntenia, Dobrogea and Moldavia. In Moldavia a pestelcă is worn over a fustă. It is made from woven wool, decorated with vivid coloured vertical stripes, which can contain woven decorations called alesatură pe rost, and is edged with a band of black silk and lace (horbotă).

The name pestelcă is also used for a straight rectangular apron (catrintă) in south east Romania along the Danube, in the zones of Vlasca, and in Dobrogea.

Wrap round skirt – fotă (pl. fote)

Topoloveni, Argeș

Wrap round skirt

A rectangular piece of fabric (fotă) about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide worn wrapped around the waist is found in Carpathian mountain areas in Western Moldavia, northern Muntenia, (zones of Argeș, Muscel, Dâmbovița, Râmnicu Sărat, Buzău) and Transylvania (Covasna, Harghita, Bran). This form of skirt is also worn beyond the borders of Romanian in Ukraine and Moldavia, and also further to the East (for example the Indonesia sarong). It is one of earliest recorded forms of clothing with the catriță. Neolithic figurines, from the Vădastra and Cucuteni-Tripolie cultures show possible representative of fotă, or some opinions consider it possibly has Illyric origins as fotă can be seen on Iliyro-tracian funeral stones in the museum of Zagreb. Similar pieces of clothing are seen on Assyro-Babylonian relief’s.

The fotă is made of woollen material, or cotton mixed with wool, woven on 4 heddles. It fully covers the underskirt (poale) except for, in some areas, the hem . The oldest fote were made of black or greyish brown fabric using the natural colours of the wool. The earliest decoration was a red border (bete roșii) at the lower edge, and on the front edge, which strengthen the fabric. This type of fotă is still found in north Moldavia where fote made of hemp or flax were formerly worn in some parts in summer. Fote with vertical stripes (vâstre) are also common in this area. The extent of the decoration becomes more elaborate as one moves south. The stripes change from simple woven decoration to alternately simple stripes and stripes of woven motifs (alesăture). In Muntenia the stripes are replaced by compact woven decoration, or heavy geometric embroidery, covering the whole surface except for the area which is overlapped in the front. The richest decoration is found in Argeș and Muscel zones where the fotă itself is occasionally made from silk, and the woven decoration is in gold or silver thread.

Pleated, wrap around skirt – Vâlnic (pl. vâlnice) or Peștiman (pl. peștimâne)


Map: pleated wrap around skirt

A vâlnic is a pleated skirt made from a rectangular piece of woollen cloth up to 12 feet long and 3 feet wide. It is found in Oltenia, parts of Muntenia, certain villages in south west Moldavia, and across the Danube in northern Bulgaria and in north east Serbia where it is worn by Romanians in the Timoc valley. The vâlnic is found in Oltenia parallel to the double apron costume, and can be worn either by itself or with a separate front apron. This type of garment can be seen in church murals in Oltenia from 17th-18th century.

There are two main types of vâlnic found in Romania:

  1. Red vâlnic with brown, black, or navy blue vertical stripes woven into the fabric and decorated with geometric motifs or stylised floral patterns are worn in Vâlcea, Gorj, Dolj, Mehedinți, and south west Moldavia. In Vâlcea and Romanați the vâlnic is worn with a front apron (catrință). These vâlnice can be made from 2 pieces of woven material 75cm wide and 2m long woven using 2 heddles and joined together horizontally. They are gathered or pleated at waist using 3 or 4 woollen cords (baiere), which are also used to tie the vâlnic round the waist. The width of the pleats and type of motifs used depend on the zone and age of the wearer, either floral patterns representing garlands of flower buds or roses, or the most common geometric motifs which are called roata, pălmița, crângul, gura păpușii, or zăluță.
  2. Black, blue, or dark red vâlnice, also called crăt are found in south west Oltenia, in Mehedinți and Dolj. They are decorated with geometric motifs sewn in silver tinsel or sequins, mainly on the lower third of the skirt. These motifs are sewn onto the woollen material using a special technique, the arrangement of the motifs often representing the hora, i.e. a line of people dancing. This type of skirt is considered one of the most spectacular pieces of Romanian costume and was worn only for weddings and festivals.

Peștiman (also spelt peșteman)

The peșteman is a cross between a fotă, vâlnic & catrintă. It is a strip of black or navy woven material made on 2 heddles and wrapped round the body. It can be even or gathered – the former looks like fotă, latter like vâlnic. Its ornamental structure indicates that it derives from fote.

There are two main types of peștman:

  1. A black or navy pleated peștman with a coloured border (chenar) is found in the Danubian lowlands in the zone of Vlașca, Muntenia. It is made of two pieces of fabric joined vertically and pleated except for the border on both sides of the front which frames the front apron (pestelca). The chenar comprises woven red coloured stripes around 15cm wide intersected by narrow stripes worked in white, red, green, olive, dark yellow or brown woollen thread.
  2. A navy blue peșteman is worn in Moldavia, in zones of Roman, Neamț, Bacău by young girls and brides. It is made of hair or coarse wool woven with 2 heddles. The fabric is 5m long, and 1m wide with two pieces being joined to make the 2m width. It is decorated on the side and hem with woven flowers in commercial wools in red, yellow, blue, brown, green, and white. It differs from the peșteman worn in Vlașca in that it is more richly decorated on the sides and is not pleated. It is passed over the hips and folded in 2 wide pleats so the vertical decoration is visible.

A pleated fotă is also worn in Prahova, northern Muntenia. In this case it is called a fotă creață or fotă încuctată. Originally this type of fotă was made of 2 pieces of black or navy blue homespun fabric woven using 4 heddles, fulled and joined horizontally using decorative stitches (cheiță). More recently thinner, more supple fabric woven on 2 heddles has been used, and is decorated with wide and narrow horizontal woven stripes on the hem in red, or green or yellow. The most modern variant is the fotă cu șurț (wrapped round skirt with ‘apron’) where the front edge has a vertical band of 2 stripes of woven decoration, usually in red, that cross the horizontal stripes on the hem.

Skirt – androc, fustă (pl. fuste)

Bogdan Voda, Maramureș

Androc or fustă is a wide skirt made of homespun or factory made wool worn in certain areas of Romania since the 19th century. These can be distinguished from the older style wrap around aprons by the fact the material is gathered and sewn onto a waistband, rather than being tied around the waist using a cord, with the ends of the fabric not being joined. The origin of these is most likely from urban fashion. Skirts are found in the west of Romania, in Arad, Bihor, Oaș and Maramureș and further east, in Câmpia Muntenia, Tulcea, Zona Vasului, Bârlad, Valea Tutovei, Bacău, and Iași, and are worn by the Hungarians in Covasna, Harghita, on the Transylvanian Plain (Mezőség), and around Cluj (Kalotaszeg). The Hungarians usually wear these skirts with a small fabric bodice – giving the costume an Austro-Hungarian ‘dirndl-like’ appearance.

Published on 11th February 2018, last modified on 12th June 2018