Woven belts

Belts (cingătoare, pl. cingători) made of woven fabric or leather form part of traditional clothing in most regions. Men wear either leather or woven belts or both depending on the region, whereas women usually wear fabric belts. Fabric belts are woven by women at home, whereas the production of leather belts has taken place in workshops since the introduction of the guilds in 1600’s.

Woven belts – brâu (pl. brâie), bete (pl. bete)

Woven belts – brâie

There are two main types of woven belts called brâu and bete. The former are wider and are worn by men and women and bete are narrow and worn mainly by women. Brâie can be 20cm to 30cm wide, there is also a narrow variant 10cm to 12cm, and the narrowest (and most common) between 2cm to 7cm wide are called bete (or brăcire brăciră, brăciri, brăcie, brăcii, or bârneața). The oldest technique of weaving fabrics belts is by using a scândurică, a small thin wooden board around which the warp thread is wrapped with the weft thread being passed through alternating holes and long slits. Wider belts are woven on a horizontal loom with two, four or more heddles. Belts are woven in wool or wool with cotton or more recently only in cotton.

Men’s belt with woven pattern

Brâie worn by men are 2m to 4m long and wider than those worn by women. They are woven in wool on four or more heddles and in some cases are bent double lengthwise to provide a space for keeping tobacco or a knife. Men’s brâie can be divided into brâu late (broad), brâu mijlocii (medium) and brâu îngust (narrow). Brâu late were originally woven in white, and this colour is still used for belts worn for working in the fields. Single colours, red, black and navy blue, are still common although stripes, woven geometric and floral patterns (alesături) are now more common in certain regions. In some regions the warp threads are cut to make fringes on the ends and also tassels or pom-poms are made using the end threads. In some regions of Transylvania and Moldavia, brâie are worn under a leather belt although in Oltenia, Muntenia, Crișana and Banat only woven belts are worn.

Narrow belt with white beads

Women’s brâie can be up to 2.5m to 3.5m long which enables them to be wound around the body several times. Woven belts are worn by women in all regions except Maramureș, Oaș and Crișana. In parts of Moldavia and Muntenia a brâu is worn over the chemise and under the fotă or catrință with a narrow bete worn on the outside. Women’s brâu can be woven with horizontal stripes, or with geometric, stylised animal, vegetable or floral woven patterns (alesături). The coloured threads used for weaving are chosen to match or tone with the colours of the other parts of the costume and in some districts include metal threads.  Narrow belts (bete) worn in certain regions have fringes on one or both ends made of warp threads. In some zones in Oltenia, Muntenia and Moldavia (Argeș, Teleorman, Vlașca, Ilfov, Roman, Vasului, Bacău) white beads (mărgele) are woven into the edges of the warp threads.

Region Summary
Banat Belts woven in horizontal and vertical stripes with diamond and eye shaped motifs and winding stripes.
Câmpia Banatului. Vivid coloured stripes.
Făget, Banat Wide vertical striped fabric belt.
Maramureș, Oaș One of the few ethnographical zones in which fabric belts are not worn.
Bistrița-Nasăud Belts woven with straight coloured stripes only.
Hațeg Belts were woven with bețisoare.
Munții Apuseni Belts were woven with scândurică.
Pădureni Brăcuri or brâu woven with zigzag stripes.
Sibiu The nationalistic movement developing from c 1850 led to yellow, red and blue ribbon representing the Romanian flag being used for belts in Sibiu and surrounding areas and for bete (baldricks) worn by Calușeri dancers in South Transylvania.
Târnave, Orăștie, Avrig, Bete are decorated with stripes and discrete woven motifs.
Oltenia Woven belts have eye-shaped motifs and winding stripes.
Gorj Narrow belts are called brăcirile. Sober colours are used and eye shaped woven patterns in navy blue, red, white and green.
Romanți Red vertical or horizontal striped fabric belt called “mocadin” or blue background with vertical stripes.
Vâlcea Belts are woven in 4 threads, with eye shaped motifs and winding stripes and white beads on the edges. Stripes can be vertical or horizontal.
Zona Slatina, Olt Bete have woven (alesături) patterns and white or many coloured beads on the edges.
Buzău Red brâu with long tassels wound over the camasă with narrow betele woven with eye shaped motifs and winding stripes worn over fotă. In north zone men wear red or white brâu under ornamental leather belts (curea) decorated with tin tacks.
Buzău – zona Buda – Dumitrești Men’s brâu have pom-poms on ends (brâu în boboci).
Ilfov Lătițar – made of beads worn as belts with tassels on the ends.
Prahova Red woollen brâu worn by men and women.
Vlașca, Bete are decorated with stripes and discrete woven motifs.
North Moldavia Brâu, named “chingi” or “frânghii” are woven with many threads in diamond shaped patterns.
Suceava Men’s brâie are woven with animal motifs, or brightly coloured floral design on a black background imitating relatively modern woven patterns (alesătură) on Moldavian carpets.
Vatra Dornei, Suceava Bete are called also brâut are woven in 2 or 4 threads. Colours predominating are orange, red, purple, green, white, yellow, black to match the colours of the costumes.
Câmpulung Moldovenesc A wider woollen belt is often worn by both men and women.
Bete are in dark red or cherry coloured woven fabric, main part is decorated with raised geometric motifs in wool or silk.
Humor, Suceava Older belts are woven in subtle coloured stripes, with colours made from vegetable dyes. Newer beltsare decorated with floral motifs.
Valea Bistriței. Woven eye and cross-shaped motifs are characteristic.
Iași Very wide fabric belt, geometric decoration – often edged with beads & tassels. Bârnete cu margele alb woven in square patterns with white beads on edges.
Bacău, zona Răcăciuni Brâu or bârnețe with vertical red stripes and fringes or tassels on ends.
Central Moldavia, Bacau, Romanului, Colinele Tutovei. Brâu are woven in 2 or 4 threads with horizontal stripes called “Sfărșii” or stylised animal or vegetable motifs.
Eastern Moldavia Woven belts have square motifs.
Neamț Brâu is woven in 4 threads. Most frequent colours are red, yellow, violet, green
and orange.
Vasului White brâu are worn for daily wear and red for holidays. Brâu is decorated with stripes and woven patterns and worn under a studded leather belt. Bârnete cu margele (with beads) woven in square patterns with fringes.
Țara Vrancei Brâu are called chimir and are woven in red, white, brown, yellow, green and pink stripes. These are worn over camasă, with bârneată worn over fotă.
Published on 15th December 2017, last modified on 25th February 2018