Ia, the Romanian blouse, is an important item of clothing within the traditional folk costume worn by women and celebrated on June 24 every year on the International Day of the Romanian Blouse. Nicknamed the Carpathian shirt or the Dacian shirt, its origins go a long way back to the ancient Dacian civilization. In fact, the Romanian blouse was depicted on various bas-reliefs dating 2000 years ago. In modern times, specialists view it as the Romanian people’s contribution to the diversity of European clothing.
Besides the typical cut and wide sleeves, the Romanian blouse is embellished with embroidery in natural colors, harmoniously combined. Over time, it has been worn by peasants, artists and royalty alike. Moreover, the Romanian blouse has inspired distinguished artists such as Henri Matisse who painted the famous "La blouse roumaine".
The Romanian blouse is made of white cotton cloth, flax or silk. It is adorned with Romanian embroidery motifs, especially at the sleeves, chest, and neck.
The interesting thing is that every region of Romania has a unique style of ia. The most used pattern for the Romanian blouse is the one with the embroidery made on the shoulders, named camasa cu altita (shirt with altita). You can find this in Bucovina, Moldova, Oltenia, Muntenia, Bran, and Covasna area.
Camasa cu tablie (shirt with headboard) you can find in Hunedoara, Padureni area, and Arad. It is characterized by rich ornamentation throughout sleeves with no folds. The pattern is one of the most spectacular of all, with a great visual impact.
In Sibiu and in Southern Transylvania we find a new style of traditional folk blouse. On the ia’s shoulder, there is an ornamental strip called shoulder or hanger (camasa cu umar). A similar decoration is seen on the elbow hence the name "pisti elbow".
In Saliste, there is a unique traditional blouse called ia cu ciocanele (ia with hammers). It is predominantly decorated with black colors, and the embroidery is replaced by black ribbons sewn on the shirt. In some cases, inserts are red, yellow or blue and, more rarely, gold thread.
Camasa cu lancez is found in southern and eastern Transylvania. It is characterized by the appearance of an ornamental strip under the collar, like a gallon. It is actually a shirt with ruffles called fodore.
Camasa cu platca (shirt with inset) is the specific traditional Maramures and Bihor Romanian blouse divided into two subcategories: Oas shirt (chromatic yellow) and Maramures shirt (where green predominates). Decoration on the shoulder is in both creates a sort of honeycomb.
In Romanian clothing, you can also find camasa incarcata (laden shirt) and camasa cu chiept/ciupag. The first one has decoration made of cotton, silk and even beads and the second one is distinguished by the rich embroidery on the chest made from geometrical ornaments.
The Romanian blouse is a series of paintings depicting stylized women wearing Romanian clothing. Traditionally, the ie used to be entirely handmade. It was woven by countryside women, its manufacture requiring many hours of work and dedication. The patterns and symbols sewn on the white fabric have different meanings, depending on the geographic region. For instance, a recurrent pattern is the spiral, symbolizing the evolution of life. In some regions both the cut and fabric quality used to be related to the wealth or prestige of the family of the person who wore it. However, regardless of financial status, along with age, there is a general tendency to simplify patterns and ornaments, peasants’ clothes becoming soberer.
Nowadays, in an attempt to turn to authentic values, younger women find the Romanian blouse fashionable and integrate it creatively into their casual style clothes. Interestingly, this trend was assimilated by world-famous fashion designers who found a genuine source of inspiration in Romanian clothing, among whom Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford or Philippe Guilet. In fact, Guilet’s 2012 fashion collection was entirely inspired by the Romanian folk wear.
Nowadays you can even find online stores where you can order your favorite ie. A great store is Folkage with a variety of traditional Romanian folk blouses. Here you can find ia with long or short sleeves; V-neck, square neck or round neck blouses and a variety of ornaments, all specific to Bukowina (Northern part of Romania).