Fabric overcoats, waistcoats & jackets

Eliznik home > Romania > costume > coats & jackets > fabric overcoats, waistcoats & jackets

Suman, Valca

Suman, Bihor

Suman, Rădăuţi, Bucovina

Valea Stejarului, Maramures 2002

Dobroteşti, Dolj, Oltenia 1998

Oltenia, 1998

Guru Riului, Sibiu 1997

Quick links:
  1. Overcoats - Suman, Dimie, Şubă and Giubea
  2. Sleeveless felted jackets - Giubea, Cosacs, Cosace and Sumanul
  3. Fabric jackets - Chebău, Mintean
  4. Fabric waistcoats – Laibăr, chintusand Ilic

Overcoats - Suman (pl. Sumane), Dimie, Şubă and Giubea

Straight or flared overcoats are made of white, grey, black or coloured felted wool (frieze). These overcoats are cut from rectangular pieces of thick woollen fabric woven with 4 heddles. It takes around 18-25 pounds or 5-7 metres of woven wool to make a coat so it was considered a luxury garment. There are many variants in name, cut, cloth colour and decoration depending on the region. The most common names are suman in Transylvania, Banat and Moldavia and dimie in the south. The different styles of overcoat were determined by the length, number and arrangement of the lateral gussets, cut of the sleeves, the existence of underarm gussets (pavelor), type of collar, style of cuffs and pockets.

These coats can be divided into 2 main groups; straight long coats, & flared long coats. The former were made of rectangular widths of woollen material and were found around Hunedoara, in the Apuseni Mountains, in Moldavia and along the Carpathians and also further north in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and the Urals. The latter style had with gussets inserted so it was flared towards hem. This type of cut showed influences of Ottoman fashion and was found mostly in the south of Romania. Sumane for festive wear are made from higher quality wool and have more gussets, larger collars and are more richly decorated. 

Tailors- Abagii or sumănari

Coats were made by specialised makers called abagii or sumănari" (Bulgarian terzije, abadžije). By 17th century  guilds of weavers, cloth makers & tailors were established. In 18th century 18 “sumănari” existed in Iaşi, who made coats for all the surrounding area of  Moldavia. By 19th century entire groups of villages specialised in the production of coats, for example the village of Sârbeşti in Bihor. The craftsmen developed this occupation in order to supplement their income from agriculture. In 1914, with exception of 4 dwellings, the entire village was involved in manufacture of suman, making both coats to order and for market.

Suman made in Sârbeşti were worn in many groups of villages. Eight variants were made differing only by the precise positioning of the decoration and the colours used (rather than in cut). Every craftsman knew all the models but specialised only in one variant. Sumănari from adjacent areas in Crişana and Banat used a different style of decoration as every group of villages had their own style of coat. Sumane were found in Vaşcău (Bihor), Ineu, Moroda, Hontişor (Arad), Ţundre from Vidra (Alba). Sumanele for festival days were made of pănură in Cisnădie, using cloth bought from Câmpenei, Brad, or Lupşa, (Alba).


The decoration on overcoats was used to emphasise the line of the coat.  Braid (găitan, şinior, sărad), satin stitch embroidery in silk, wool or cotton, or  appliqué in leather or coloured woollen cloth (postav)  was arranged on front of overcoats and on sleeves, edges of hems and gussets. Various geometric and floral motifs were used, these becoming more elaborate with time to include more colours and more complicated patterns.  Piping and braiding, machined onto coats with a special sewing machine, was used both as decoration, and to protect the edges of the material from fraying and to strength seams. This decoration was completed with white embroidery, sometimes used to accented with red or dark blue.

Sleeveless felted jackets - Giubea, Cosacs, Cosace and Sumanul

Sleeveless felted jackets are worn by women in Oltenia, Muntenia and the Bulgarian Danube Plain. These are usually made of white felted cloth (aba), although navy blue or striped fabrics were used outside Romania. These are hip length with gussets to make a flared "skirt".

The style of decoration depended on the zone. Cloth or braid was appliquéd around the edges of pockets often in red, sometimes blue or black, and was then decorated with embroidery in red, black, white or blue.

Fabric jackets - Chebău, Mintean (pl. Mintene)

Long fabric costs called Mintean are worn in Gorj, and Mehedinţi. These are made of white thick woollen cloth, and are in some cases decorated with black braiding based on the style of costume adopted by a freeholder Dincă Schileru in first half of 19th century.

In Gorj a coat called Chebău is worn on working days. This is made of white thick woollen cloth (dimie) and was hip length, straight cut, with lateral gussets, a high collar and wide sleeves.

Fabric waistcoats – Laibăr, chintus and Ilic (pl. Ilice)

Fabric waistcoats made of various materials are worn by men or women in many zones of the country. This type of waistcoat is usually waist length or slightly longer.

In Oltenia, Banat, Arad and Hunedoara a waistcoat of pănură, the same white felted woollen cloth as the trousers is worn. This is called "ilic" and is decorated with black braid in patterns derived from the uniforms of the Habsburg army. A similar style of waistcoat called "chintus” is worn in Banat but these are very richly decorated with coloured braid, embroidery and appliquéd in coloured thick cloth.

Dark cloth waistcoats called giubea are worn by men in Dobrogea, and southern Muntenia.  These are made from woollen cloth woven using 4 heddles. The cloth has a, dark colour background such as brown, dark-red, violet blue, black and may be striped "în coaste" or have patterns in the shape of rhomboids like eyes "în ozoare". These are decorated with appliquéd black braid and have a round neck and are buttoned up with two rows of buttons – similar to those worn in northern Bulgaria indicating Ottoman influence.

In northern Muntenia (Râmnicul Sărat, Buzău, Prahova, Muscel), Oaş and parts of Southern Transylvania (Bran, Haţeg, around Hunedoara, Sibiu and Câmpia Transilvaniei men's waistcoats (laibăr) made of plain black felted wool (postav), decorated with discrete black braid decoration were worn from 19th century.

In Sibiu and north Muntenia black velvet ilice have replaced sheepskin waistcoats for women's festive wear. Those from north Muntenia were often decorated with small brightly coloured beads. In richer areas ilice were also be made of silk, fur or red or brown velvet. These versions were influenced by town fashions.

In Ţara Oaşului and Maramureş waistcoats are crocheted in multicoloured wool.


© Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated March-07