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he Romanian blouse is an important part of traditional Romanian clothing. Often made in linen, cotton canvas or silk, with geometrical patterns, butterflies, flowers, even sequins, hand embroidered around the neckline, on the front and the sleeves. Patterns and colours vary within Romania’s regions. The best known are derived from “COLONE” (X, angle, round) and the “cult of the sun” (circle, cross, eye). The same symbolic influences are found in the work of the Romanian artist Brancusi.

Today, fewer blouses are produced but there are still artisans hidden away in the countryside in isolated villages, who respect the same ancestral traditions. The blouse in Romanian is called “IE”, derived from the Latin “tunicae linae”.

In France, the Romanian blouse was made famous by Henri Matisse, through his well-known 1940 paintings of famous Romanian women: Elvira Popescu, Martha Bibesco, Anna des Noailles, Elena Vacarescu. But the blouse as a fashion item goes back much further. Ethnic shirts traditionally worn by peasant women became fashionable among the higher social classes, after members of the Romanian royal family, Elisabeth of Romania and later Queen Marie and her daughters, started wearing them in the mid-19th century.

There is also the famous Comtesse de Noailles, born Princess Bassarabe-Brancovan (Basarab-Brancoveanu), the first woman to become a Commander of the Legion of Honour. Her poems received first prize at the Académie Française at the turn of the century. Her portrait was sculpted by Rodin and painted by Zuloaga. Her cousin, Martha Bibesco was a Parnassian poet and society woman who inspired Marcel Proust, Cocteau, Paul Valéry and D’Annunzio. She cleverly surrounded herself with the influential people of the time.

Or again, the tragedienne Marie Ventura – a pillar of the Comédie Française who outrivaled the famous Sarah Bernhardt and became the memorable actress in the best classic plays by Corneille, Racine or Molière.

Not forgetting the fascinating Elvira Popesco (Elvira Popescu), Countess of Foy who first at the Théâtre du Colombier and later the Comédie Française, enchanted the public for her part in “Ma Cousine de Varsovie” and became known as Our Lady of the Theatre. Popesco played with Sacha Guitry in “Paradis Perdu”.

The war put an end to this cross fertilization between Romania and the Parisian literary and artistic circles, just as the natural bond that existed between Romania and the west was broken by the Iron Curtain. The country was heading towards a dark period of ideological censorship, imprisonments and extermination which lasted 50 years.

But the blouse remains! it came a long way, launched by the women in the Dada and Surrealist eras and adopted again and again by their hippy descendants, Baba then Bobo.

So loved by the fashion world, it comes out every year on the catwalk, in the collections by Saint Laurent, Chloé or Antik Batik, even a thoughtful presence in Zara and H&M… at deToujours, Blouse Roumane Shop we have the authentic item, from the Roots of Style… and when we close our eyes, we could well have landed in a Matisse paintig

Photos: Andreea Macri for Blouse Roumaine Shop

Documentation and text: DeToujours X Blouse Roumaine Shop