The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (altiţă) — an element of cultural identity in Romania and the Republic of Moldova


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Video Art Studio, 2021/Ghenadie Popescu 2020

The art of the traditional blouse with embroidery on the shoulder (called altiță) is an essential part of Romanian and Moldovan folk dress for men and women. It juxtaposes a simple cut with rich and colourful ornamentations that are stitched using complex sewing techniques. The blouses are white and made of natural fibres (flax, cotton, hemp or floss silk), and the complex stitch combines horizontal, vertical and diagonal seams that result in a specific pattern and texture. The styles and techniques vary according to the region and the wearer’s age, as well as to the skills of the women who create the blouses. The motifs and ornamentation are also varied: from geometric and stylised registers to organic shapes, and from sombre to vivid colours. Traditional blouses with altiță are made entirely by hand, and recent attempts to mechanize certain steps and to simplify the ornamentation and techniques constitute deviations from tradition. The craftsmanship is exclusively female and generally passed on within families, although some organizations, museums and schools organize camps and courses. Today, interest in creating these blouses is steadily increasing, with the practice viewed as a means of relaxation and of affirming one’s national identity and maintaining visible ties to the past.