Folk Costumes from Romania and Moldova Featured at Woodrow Wilson House’s Inaugural Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace Exhibition

Starting on May 6, two folk costumes from the collection of Bogdan Banu will represent Romania and the Republic of Moldova as part of the inaugural Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace Exhibition hosted in the historic home of President Woodrow Wilson in Washington, DC.

The two costumes representing Romania and the Republic of Moldova as part of the Inaugural Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace Exhibition, pictured here as they were being set up inside the historic home of President Woodrow Wilson.

The Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace Exhibition, will open with a gala honoring the late Ambassador Esther Coopersmith on Monday, May 6, 2024 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM at the President Woodrow Wilson House, a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The event promises an unforgettable evening of elegance and an opportunity to support a meaningful cause with all proceeds going to the Wilson House Museum. It will be a specular exhibition of international style, where cultural diversity and fashion unite, promoting global connection and bridging nations.

The poster for the inaugural Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace Exhibition.

Following the opening gala, for five days only, the exhibition Fashioning Power, Fashioning Peace will be open to the public showcasing authentic clothing from more than 30 different countries, each symbolizing power, diplomacy, and tangible cultural heritage. They include diverse attire from folk costumes and military uniforms to culturally-significant outfits and high-end haute couture, designed by some of the world’s leading fashion icon. To learn more, please visit:

Romania is represented in the exhibition by a costume from the region of Oltenia, in South Western Romania. This costume, which consists of two pieces: a traditional blouse and a skirt, both lavishly embroidered, is a reflection of centuries old folk traditions from that region. It is meticulously hand-embroidered with beautiful patterns and adorned with delicate lace. The fabric is handwoven linen. Particularly noteworthy is the designed around the neck, specific to the region which brings together the ample material used for the blouse for a delicate closing around the neck. The fascinating embroidery on the aprons, called “catrințe” is made with multicolored silk, and the colors that appear are discreet, pastel, perfectly combined. The two aprons have delicate hand-crocheted lace on the edges and fringes at the base. Completing the costume is a belt in matching colors that closes in the front with clasps called ”paftale,” one of the few metal ornaments found in traditional Romanian folk costume. These are specific to folk costumes throughout the Balkans but in Romania are only found in this particular region. No costume would be complete without a pair of opinci, the home-made leader shoes, found throughout Romania and the wider region.

Details of the costume from the region of Oltenia representing Romania.

The Republic of Moldova is represented by a costume from the northern part of the region. The costume serves as a poignant symbol of national identity, reflecting centuries-old traditions and the ingenuity of regional creativity, encapsulating not only the aesthetic essence of the culture but also embodying a profound connection to heritage, unity, and the enduring spirit of its people. Recently, the folk blouse with ”altiță” – the specific shoulder embroidery – from both the Republic of Moldova and Romania has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Home-made linen, intricately stitched with threads colored by natural fibers and embellished with beads for added elegance, forms the basis of this ensemble. Additionally, the wraparound skirt, meticulously crafted from wool on a home loom, adds to the authenticity of the attire. Complementing these pieces, the vest crafted from sheepskin by local artisans is adorned with hand-embroidered designs unique to each region, and occasionally, even specific to individual villages, showcasing the rich diversity and craftsmanship rooted in tradition. A nearly identical vest is currently on display at the National Ethnographic Museum in Chișinău. Completing the ensemble is a small necklace made of beads, an incredibly elaborate sash, and a head cover called ”maramă” decorated with white patterns woven onto a white background and often grouped toward the ends. Opinci, the home-made leader shoes, with wool socks were typical footwear for the villagers.

Details from the costume from Moldova.

Both costumes are part of the folk collection of Bogdan Banu. Bogdan has been collecting folk costumes and folk items from Romania and the Republic of Moldova for decades and his collection consists of over 120 costumes representing most of the ethnographic regions of the two countries. Bogdan has also been the organizer of the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse in Washington, DC since 2013, one of the most emblematic events in the Romanian community, and through his efforts, June 24 was declared in 2015 by Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Day of the Romanian Folk Costume in the Nation’s Capital.

Hundreds of Romanians and friends of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova come each June to celebrate the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse. Pictured here are those attending the event in 2018, one of the largest gatherings of Romanians in front of the White House.

The President Woodrow Wilson House is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded, non-profit corporation, helping people protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the museum is dedicated to preserving the historic DC home of President Woodrow Wilson, examining his controversial legacy, and promoting open dialog and honest appraisal of history, in an effort to better understand ourselves as a nation and a people. The Woodrow Wilson House is regularly open to the public for guided tours, public programs and events, and available for special event rental. Please visit the President Woodrow Wilson House website, Instagram, and Facebook for more information.