The traditional mens shirt (Cămasă, pl. Cămăsi ) is one of oldest elements of costume in Romania and the surrounding countries. The cut and form of mens’ shirts has fewer variants and less elaborate decoration then women’s chemises. Traditional shirts were made of rectangular widths of white fabric woven on 2 heddles, both of vegetable fibres. Working shirts were made of hemp; shirts for festive wear were made of flax or cotton or animal fibres such as cocoon silk and very thin wool yarn. In some parts the fabric used for shirts was woven with strips of various colours (rust, cherry, light blue, yellow) known as chenars or with cocoon silk thread stripes. In central & north Moldavia shirting was sometimes woven in simple geometric patterns (lozenges) of white cotton yarn on background of thin woollen cloth.
The length of the shirt varies from waist length in the north west to ankle length near the Danube. Shirts are worn over trousers, and usually with a belt. In some areas the shirt has a flared lower part (poale) forming a skirt (fustă) which could be pleated with narrow pleats. In some pastoral zones of Moldavia, Muntenia and Oltenia this flared skirt was made as a separate garment.
This is the oldest form of men's shirt. It is made from one piece of cloth forming the front and back, with a hole cut out for the neck and a slit from the neck to the chest. This style has straight sleeves wider at the wrists which are joined to the main garment at the shoulder and had no cuffs. The only variation is to insert side gussets to give extra width, and a square of cloth (pavă) under the arms. The oldest version had no collar and was decorated only around the neck and sleeve ends. Later versions have collars and cuffs added, and have wider gussets which may be gathered into the collar and are more elaborately decorated.
A second type of straight shirt (Cămaşă dreaptă) was found only in North Maramureş. This type was made of a piece of cloth stretched lengthways so it formed the front, back and upper parts of the sleeves. Due to narrowness of home produced cloth the lower parts of the front and back were made of another piece of horizontally stretched cloth forming a hoop and sewn onto the lower edge of the front and back. Due to the cut this type did not need gussets to widen it.
In Maramureş, Lăpuş, Oaş, Bihor and Arad a derivation of Cămaşă dreaptă called the "short shirt" (Cămaşă scurtă) is worn. This type of shirt is waist length and is worn over wide trousers (gaci) in summer. Originally this type had no collar and had cords as ties at the neck opening. The sleeves were originally open at the wrists but more recent versions have cuffs.
This type of shirt was made with up to 8 triangular shaped gussets inserted in the front and back with pointed ends upwards forming a "M" shape, which was accentuated by black or yellow embroidery. The "skirt" (fustã ) was fuller due to the gussets and was often pleated. This style of shirt was worn mainly by shepherds in the zones of Sibiu, Petroşani, Târnave, Alba, Orãstie, Haţeg, and certain villages of north Gorj, Mehedinţi and Vâlcea
Shirts with separate piece(s) of material joined at the shoulders to form a yoke, or with inset pieces of material over the shoulders became common in the west of Romania from the early 20th century. This is a modern type of shirt derived from the Cămaşă dreaptă found in North Maramureş and based on styles fashionable at this time in towns. The lower part of the shirt and top of the sleeves was usually gathered where they were joined to the yoke or shoulder insets and the sleeves were gathered into cuffs (pumnaşi). This type of shirt usually had a collar. The tops of the shoulders and the cuffs were decorated with embroidery, and there was also decoration on the collar. These shirts were found mostly in Maramureş, Lăpuş, Oaş, Bihor, Arad and Năsăud.
There are four main methods of decoration used on mens’ shirts.
- Coloured stripes (chenare), woven into the fabric, the type of
stripe depends on the zone.
- Muscel, Argeş, and Bran: yellow colour or brown woven on edges along the cloth.
- Petroşani, Alba, Orăstie: very thin red or black horizontal stripes
- Oltenian plain, Moldavia, Dobrogea, Banat, and SW Transylvania: White longitudinal stripes.
- Woven motifs (alese) in white cotton, or wool were used in Iaşi, Botoşani, Dobrogea, and Bacău.
- Ornamental stitched (Cheiţă) seams were used to join fabric widths in all zones of country.
- Embroidery in wool, cotton, silk or cocoon silk thread worked around neck and front slit of shirt, on collar, shoulders, sleeve ends or cuffs, hem and along the lines of the front and sometimes back gussets. The motifs being arranged to emphasise the cut of the shirt. The patterns used are mainly geometric or stylised vegetable. Even working shirts have some decoration. Main colours are white, red, blue, and black with brighter colours being used for younger men. In certain areas such as Năsăud and Bucovina small brightly coloured beads are also sewn onto collar and cuffs.