Men's & women's belts

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Brâu with alesături, Moldavia

Chimir cu repoussé

Chimir cu Meşină

detail of above

Chimir cu mărgele

Belts (cingătoare, pl. cingători) made of woven fabric or leather form part of traditional costume in most in regions. Men wear either leather or fabric belts or both depending on the region, whereas women usually wear fabric belts. Fabric belts are woven by women at home, whereas the production of leather belts has taken place in workshops since the introduction of the guilds in 1600's.

Fabric belts- brâu, (pl. brâie), bete (pl.bete)

There are two main types of fabric belts called brâu  and bete. The former are wider and are worn by men and women. Bete are narrow and worn mainly by women . The oldest technique of weaving fabrics belts is by using a scândurică, a small thin wooden board around which the warp thread is wrapped with the weft thread being passed through alternating holes and long slits. Wider belts are woven on a horizontal loom with 2, 4 or more heddles. Fabric belts are woven in wool or wool with cotton or more recently only in cotton.

Brâie worn by men are 2-4 m long and wider than those worn by women. They are woven in wool on 4 or more heddles and in some cases are bent double lengthwise to provide a space for keeping tobacco or a knife. Men's brâie can be divided into brâu late (broad), brâu mijlocii (medium) and brâu îngust (narrow.). Brâu late were originally woven in white, and this colour is still used for belts worn for working in the fields. Single colours, red, black and navy blue, are still common although stripes, woven geometric and floral patterns are now worn in certain regions. In some regions the warp threads are cut to make fringes on the ends and also tassels or pom-poms are made using the end threads. In some regions of Transylvania and Moldavia, brâie are worn under a leather belt although in Oltenia, Muntenia, Crişana and Banat only fabric belts are worn.

Women's brâie can be up to 2.5 to 3.5 m long which enables them to be wound around the body several times. Brâie can be 20 - 30cm wide, there is also a narrow variant 10-12cm, and the narrowest (and most common) are called bete (or brăcire brăciră, brăciri, brăcie, brăcii, or bârneaţa) and are 2-7cm wide. Fabric belts are worn by women in all regions except Maramureş, Oas and Crişana. In parts of Moldavia and Muntenia a brâu is worn over the chemise and under the fotă or catrinţă with a narrow bete worn on the outside. Women's Brâu can be woven with horizontal stripes, or with geometric, stylised animal, vegetable or floral woven patterns (alesături). The coloured threads used for weaving are chosen to match or tone with the colours of the other parts of the costume and in some districts include metal threads.  Narrow belts (Bete) worn in certain regions have fringes on one or both  ends made of warp threads. In some zones in Oltenia, Muntenia and Moldavia (Argeş, Teleorman, Vlaşca, Ilfov, Roman, Vasului, Bacău ) white beads (mărgele) are woven into the edges of the warp threads.

Leather belts - Chimir, Curea

Broad leather belts are worn by men throughout Transylvania including Maramures, in most of Moldavia, and along the southern side of the Carpathians. These are made from folded leather and differ in width and decoration from zone to zone. They usually have a covered pocket which is used for keeping money or tobacco. The widest belts (around 30cm) are found in Marmureş and Oaş, more narrow ones come from further south. Chimir are still worn in many areas of Romania for working in the fields and in the forestry industry.

Decorations on chimir are made with a number of techniques. The most widespread technique involves stamping the leather from the underside to make decorative patterns, (called repoussé work which means "raised in relief") and decorating with eyelets, or decorating with narrow stripes of thin coloured leather (usually green or brown) called Meşină,. Thick metal thread (especially copper) or tin tacks (ţinte de cositor) or studs are also used in some areas.

More recently the coloured leather strips have been replaced by floral designs which are filled with many small brightly coloured glass beads. This style of belts is found in North Transylvania and across the Carpathians in Suceava.


© Eliznik2005, First issue 17/2/2002, Last updated Aug-05