“The traditional folk costume is my identity mark“, Alexandra Negrilă, 29 years, Bucharest
Alexandra summarises in a very interesting way her passion for the Romanian traditional folk costume. She grew up in the village of Moromeții, at her grandparents. She had the idyllic childhood that I – growing up in the city – could have only imagined through books. Barefoot on the grass and eating vegetables directly from the garden, Alexandra recalls that she was attracted by the folk costume and by the rituals of the villagers since her first years of life. At that age, the fascination was a natural gift because it was the only universe in which she was living in. The honesty of her love for traditions and costume came true after her 20s.
8 years ago, she went searching for pieces of folk costumes through the villages of Romania, pieces that she would keep in good condition over the years. She traveled around all the regions of the country and knocked on villagers doors telling them about her intentions to promote the Romanian folk costume. Some doors opened to her with love and people offered pieces of their traditional dowry, some closed in refusal, which she totally understood. However, what she didn’t understand and made her sad was that in some homes pieces of the traditional costume were used carelessly: “Many of the pieces are forgotten, thrown off in inappropriate places. I don’t even want to say the things I’ve seen. For example, shirts with metal thread thrown in the dog’s cage, ‘fotas’ with metal thread covering the cheese chunks and some other absolutely sad cases such as shirts from Bucovina used as rags for wiping the feet at the door entrance. I tried to make people understand that the stories behind the clothing pieces can be preserved if we take care of what belongs to the history of the Romanian folk costume.”
After her travels in the regions of Romania, Alexandra managed to gather about 100 pieces of traditional folk costumes. She doesn’t consider herself a collector because a collector gathers pieces that are ethnographically valuable and she chooses pieces that tell the stories in a different way. “I gather pieces that have stories. Even if, for example, a shirt has been sewn on an industrial textile, ethnographically, it is not a valuable shirt, but it is for me. As long as the woman who sewed it, let’s say, didn’t have any material possibilities but she wished that for Easter she went to the village gathering and feel beautiful, she sewed on whatever she laid her hands on.”
Her interest in the folk costume got so far that she wears something of the traditional outfit daily. In this way, Alexandra manages to create a combination between the modern outfit and tradition. “For me, the traditional folk costume is my identity mark for sure. I try to wear it almost every day and to integrate it into the modern urbanised outfits, as I called them. The feeling when I get into a restaurant and I have a traditional shirt (‘ie’) on is absolutely fabulous. First, because it gives me confidence. Yes, this shirt has a story behind, it’s not just a trashy thing made and worn by 50,000 people. Each time I get dressed in a traditional folk costume I feel primped. You know, all women are beautiful in a traditional folk costume.”Because she is convinced that every woman is special when wearing a folk costume, she chose to organise weddings with Romanian traditional themes so she enjoys each time she has the opportunity to dress up a bride and to create a beautiful environment for the spouses and their beloved, making them feel special on that day.
And because life sometimes builds up a personal map for us, full of new experiences, last year, Alexandra went back to the village of her childhood through the “Moromeții” movie project. “I’ve heard they were shooting and I wrote a letter to Mr. Stere Gulea, the director of the movie. I left the letter to my aunt who lives vis-à-vis of the Moromeții’s house and Mr. Gulea used to visit her each time he came to the village. I wrote to him about my passion for folklore and offered to get involved in the project as a volunteer. Later, Dana Paparuz, the designer dealing with the costumes in the movie contacted me and expressed her enthusiasm in helping her. We gathered pictures from the village and clothes from the elderly and we tried to stick to the original version of the area as much as possible.”
Alexandra is a young woman of a harmonious complexity. Beyond her passion for Romanian traditions, she also loves horse riding. She started practising this activity 6 years ago and she feels it is a good way to relax and also a good method to have a good body posture.Alexandra graduated from the Physical Education and Sport Faculty specialising in Physical Therapy, plus a Masters in Physical Therapy and one in Tourism. She practised both as a physical therapist and as a fitness and yoga instructor. The balance in her life is given by all the beautiful and healthy activities that she loves and shares with the people she works with.
Photographers: Ileana Radulescu; Gabriel Boriceanu; Claudiu Bekk; Mircea Avarvari