Chemise and blouse decoration

Decoration on chemises

The patterns of embroidery on blouses and underskirts vary from region to region. Embroidery is used to emphasise the lines of the cut. A straight blouse (cămașă dreaptă) usually has embroidery around neck, on the shoulder seam and along the lengthways seams of the sleeves, and on the hem of the poale. These blouses also are sometimes made from fabric with woven motifs (especially if made of thin woollen material or silk). Gathered blouses (cămașă încrețită) usually have embroidery around the neck, front, and sleeves, with little or no embroidery on the back. The hem of the poală was usually decorated with a narrow band of embroidery. In areas where catrințe were worn (parts of Oltenia, and southern parts of Muntenia – Teleorman, Vlașca, Ilfov,) where the poală was more visible, vertical rows of embroidery continued up the seams on either side, and in Pădureni, Hunedoara the seams of the gussets were marked with rows of embroidered motifs.

Threads used for embroidery were made at home originally from local materials; wool, hemp, linen, or silk. Industrial threads were introduced from the end of 19th century. The colour schemes varied from region to region. The main colours used were red, black, sometimes dark blue, white, black, brown, beige or yellow. Older blouses were decorated in geometric designs. Floral designs were introduced later, also more elaborate blouses were decorated with gold and silver metal thread, spangles, beads. The range of colours used broadened once factory made threads were available. On a single women’s blouse there can be 8-10 different types of embroidery stitches.

Decoration on variants of cămașă dreaptă (straight cut chemise)

Maramureș region

Decoration on variants of cămașă dreaptă with platcă and umerași in northwest Romanian (Țara Oașului, Sălaj, Bihor, and Maramureș) have decorative patterns grouped into compactly stitched areas on the edge of the shoulders. Seams are joined using 2 rows of decorative motifs (cheița de dantelă) sewn in white thread. White thread is used in many rows (râuri), along the cheița in middle of the sleeves from the shoulder to the wrist. Sometimes these vertical râuri continue into a tablă on the sleeves, as in Arad. In Maramureș cheițe are used together with white smocking (crețuri de Maramureș) around the neck, and top of sleeves. The smocking is decorated with small embroidery stitches in white and yellow thread. The cuffs are gathered tightly and decorated with a narrow row of coloured geometric embroidery, and then open out into a frill edged with white drawn thread embroidery called ciur împiedicat.

Decoration on cămașă încrețită (gathered neck chemise)

There were four main typical types of decoration on cămașă încrețită which can be differentiated by the arrangement of the motifs. The first type was found on gathered blouses in Oltenia, Muntenia, Dobrogea and Moldavia, the other three types of blouse decoration were found in Transylvania.

Cămașă cu altiță – typical in Oltenia, Muntenia, Dobrogea and Moldavia

Gathered chemise decoration

Decoration on the sleeves of this style of blouse is divided into three parts, the altiță, Încreț and râuri. A rectangular strip is embroidered across the top of the shoulder (altiță). Originally this decoration was a single row of embroidery on the base of the altița as can be seen on old blouses from Oltenia and Muntenia, Hațeg, Târnavelor, middle Carpathians, and blouses of Moții Apuseni and in certain zones of northwest Transylvania. This decoration developed into rows on three sides of the rectangle, leaving the middle white, without ornament. This form was still found in Câmpia Dunarii. Most often embroidery on altiță was in horizontal rows embroidered with silk or dyed cotton thread, older blouses had between 3 and 9 rows with the row on top separate from the body of the altiță. The motifs on the altiță were traditionally not repeated anywhere else on the blouse. Since the end of the 19th century the structure of the blouse has changed so the altiță is not separate, so the sleeve is often cut from a single piece of cloth and the altiță became purely an element of decoration.

Cămașă cu altiță (var1)

The încreț (literally, “puckering”) is a band of 1-2 inches wide which separates the altiță from râuri. Its main function was originally to join 2 pieces of fabric of unequal width and it was initially gathered. It is decorated with one horizontal stripe of monochrome embroidery in white, greyish or yellow silk using an embossing stitch also called încreț. The design of the încreț runs at right angles to the sleeve embroidery which gives a contrast to the altiță and râuri.

Cămașă cu altiță (var2)

The râuri contains between 1 and 5 vertical (or occasionally diagonal) rows of embroidered motifs. These cover from below the încreț to the sleeve hem. Occasionally individual motifs were spread all over the sleeve in a decoration called flori sărite (jumping flowers) The râuri can also merge into a tablă when all the sleeve below the încreț is covered in a rectangle of closely grouped embroidery motifs.

Cămașă cu altiță (var3)

The fronts of gathered blouses (cămășă încrețite) are decorated with several vertical rows (râuri) of embroidery reaching to the neck of blouse. The width of these râuri varies, the narrowest are found on blouses from north Moldavia, wider râuri are found on blouses from Muscel, Argeș, Vâlcea, and Mehedinți. The neck and collar edges are decorated with a row of small delicate motifs. The back of the blouse is either be plain or alternately has a smaller number of motifs either in râuri or scattered, the latter being found especially in Oltenia.

Types typical of Transylvania

Blouse with block – cămașă cu tablă

Blouse with block

In the zones of Hunedoara, Arad, Caraș-Severin, Timiș, and part of Bihor the sleeves of the cămașă are decorated with a large rectangle of compact embroidery covering from shoulder to wrist. The colour of the threads depended on the zone; red predominated in Pădureni, Hunedoara, black in Făget (Timiș), and white in Bihor.

Blouse with shoulder and rows – cămașă cu umeraș și șire

Blouse with shoulder and rows

In Sibiu, southern parts of Alba, Târnave valley, south and east Hunedoara, and north Brașov a narrow horizontal line of motifs is embroidered in black on the shoulder (umeraș) with 3 to 5 vertical rows of tiny motifs down the sleeves (șire). The sleeves are gathered with a frill at the wrist, which is often edged in black crochet lace. This type of blouse is also found across the Carpathians in certain villages of north Oltenia, where this costume type was called ungureasca (Hungarian) referring to Transylvania having been part of Hungary in the past. This was a modified survival of an older blouse with altlță and râuri found in southern Transylvania.

Blouse with row above elbow – cămașă cu șire peste cot or cu piu peste cot

Blouse with row above elbow

This type of cămașă was found in a large part of Transylvania, in the zones of Sălaj, Cluj, Bistrița–Năsăud, Hunedoara, Alba, Mureș, Lapuș, Făgăraș and Târnave (in the last two it appeared concurrently with the type above). This type of cămașă has two distinct characteristics. The sleeves are gathered in just below the elbow and then opened out into a flounce fodor decorated with hand woven lace at the wrists. These sleeves were decorated with a horizontal linear band of embroidered motifs at elbow level. The rest of sleeve is undecorated except for a single row of embroidery at the wrist end of the sleeve. In some areas the neck of this type of blouse is tightly gathered (smocked) into an embroidered cuipag. In the Apuseni mountains. and central Transylvania this cuipag extended over a large part of the front of the blouse. It is embroidered in one colour – red for young women, black for older women, and consisted of small geometric patterns, occasionally grouped around a large central pattern. The blouse with ciupag is coexistent with the distribution of zadii vânătă (blue aprons) in a large area of central Transylvania from Valea Arieșului in the Apuseni mountains to Valea Gurghiului in the upper Mureș and along the Someș valley in the zones of Năsăud and Lăpuș.

A recent decorative variation is mâneca cu râuri de la umar sau râuri lungi. These blouses have 1 to 3 straight parallel vertical lines (râuri) of embroidery down the sleeves from shoulders to wrists. This style is found in Vrancea, Oltenia and in certain zones of Transylvania and more seldom in the rest of Moldavia and Muntenia.

Published on 11th February 2018, last modified on 22nd February 2018