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Who Brought the Floral Patterns to Bukovina?

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Who Brought the Floral Patterns to Bukovina?

If you ever observed the Romanian traditional textiles from Bukovina, they have strong floral patterns, as you’ve probably noticed already. Roses are the most popular and prevalent motifs on tapestry, rugs, table runners, waist belts and peasant blouses.


floral patterns

Looking back to the traditional designs in the early 20th century, they were predominantly geometric, sometimes combined with abstract geometric vegetal and floral patterns, stylized avian (birds) or anthropomorphous motifs (human figures). But the floral designs that we are used to see today are nowhere to be found.

In his book, Folk Art in Bukovina, the Romanian researcher Tancred Bănățeanu mentions these designs as a late addition to the Bukovinean textiles.


floral patterns

“Waist belts with stylized floral motifs, similar to those seen on tapestries, bright colored roses against a plain black background, are growing in popularity. The floral motifs in high contrast color combinations emerged during the years between the two world wars.”


folk art

Soon, the new influence on tapestry weaving would have an impact on other woven and embroidered textiles, which continues even today. Bukovina is dressed up with flowers.

These motifs can be found on peasant blouses in an astonishing variation of combinations, colors, shades and distribution of the ornamental field.

I began to wonder where did they come from? They surely must have been borrowed from somewhere or through something. So I looked to the North, to see if our Ukrainian neighbors have something to do with it and I found striking similarities between their floral embroideries and ours.


ukrainian peasant blouses

With only a few differences in size and distribution, the motifs are shockingly similar. The embroidered motifs on the Ukrainian peasant blouses are notably bigger than the motifs found on the Romanian peasant blouses from Bukovina. While most of the Romanian peasant blouses have their sleeves embellished with oblique or vertical rows of embroidery and are structured with altiță – shoulder ornament – and încreț – the horizontal row across the shoulder, the Ukrainian blouses have their sleeves completely covered in beads and prominent ornament over the chest.


romanian peasant blouses

Curiously enough, the Ukrainians are also stating that this “is not a traditional form of embroidery in Ukraine” either. Trying to explain the true origins of the roses, Roman from folkcostumes.blogspot.ro has an interesting theory. These designs, he says, “were being promulgated widely within the western Russian Empire. While these designs remain exceptions among the Estonians, Moldovans and Russians, they have been embraced by the Ukrainian and Belorussian people. And they are not limited to roses, many of the designs feature other flowers, and once open, the Pandora’s box of creativity of the people resulted in many versions of this type of design.”

Vintage Woolen Scarf Roses

So the Russian Empire could be the source of origin for these floral designs and it makes sense if we look at the Russian babushka shawls. We can observe the same motifs that appear on many Bukovinean textiles. It is possible that these babushka shawls were the principal source of inspiration for the creation of a new traditional fashion trend among Bukovineans.

Sources: Tancred Bănățeanu – Arta populară Bucovineană, Ed a II-a, 1975

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