Have you ever been to a party where everyone asked the same boring questions? Where are you from? (Barf!) What do you do? (Yawn!) Are you dating anyone? (Eye roll.) Ok, perhaps if you’re nicer, sweeter, and more generously predisposed than I am, you find such questions to be good-natured attempts at conversation between people who feel awkward coming up with more imaginative ice-breakers. But if you are complex and complicated (and aren’t we all?), a carefully self-curated amalgamation of identity elements, a patchwork of the inherited and the chosen, a stripped-down-to-the-essentials poem of the many times you’ve willingly deconstructed and reconstructed yourself, you won’t feel comfortable or straightforward answering such questions. You’ll feel like you’re being categorized (because you are) and thus stripped of a little of your magic. You’re being demystified. It’s so unsexy!
So yes, when and if you feel cornered by the world’s need for socially constructed classification, don’t you ever wish you could point to a piece of art instead and say: “I made this!” Perhaps that’s why I love the Romanian blouse and why I became so involved with La Blouse Roumaine, the movement that’s celebrated its magic and reintegrated its ancient heritage into our very contemporary cultural and sentimental aesthetic for five years and counting. Perhaps I’ve inherited the attitude of some spunky foremother who, bored out of her mind with the people chatting her up awkwardly at ancient feasts would point to the symbols she’d sewn onto her blouse as an explanation. She’d draw some perverse pleasure from the irony, because yes, the symbols, for those who could read them, contained the answers to all the boring questions (place of origin, family, social status, age, bla bla bla), but the truth of who she was was perhaps most accessible to those who couldn’t or wouldn’t decipher the meaning of the symbols. The essence was in the creation, in her personal touch, in the things (flaws, perhaps) that made the garment into a piece of art as opposed to mere craft. Perhaps that is what’s magical about wearing vintage Romanian blouses now. We no longer understand the symbols. We can only access the essence.
Happy Cultural Fashion Day/ Day of the Romanian Blouse!