Cultural diplomacy takes many shapes and forms. The forms and ornaments found on Romanian folk blouses, called “ia” (pronounced E – A), are just the latest and probably most unusual manifestation of what cultural diplomacy can be. Unbeknown to most, the Romanian blouse is truly an universal cultural icon. Worn by celebrities, part of cultural revolutions such as the hippie movement in the 60s, loved by famous fashion designers from around the world, and an inspiration for famous artists or movie characters, the Romanian Blouses trace their origins back to the ancient civilizations found along the Danube river thousands of years ago. They preserved a part of the language of signs and symbols specific to the mythical thinking of those times.
To celebrate this cultural treasure, June 24 was declared the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse. The celebration started in 2013 as a Facebook initiative and is coordinated by the online community “La Blouse Roumaine.” June 24 marks the Midsummer Day – Sânzienele in Romanian folk beliefs. In a few short years, the “Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse” has become a truly global event celebrated on six continents, 48 countries, 109 cities, and 143 events. 25 years after the fall of the communist regime, this movement has contributed decisively to the rebirth and a renewed interest in traditional Romanian culture. On that day, Romanians and those who love and appreciate Romania and its culture, are asked to wear a traditional Romanian blouse or shirt.
Bogdan Banu, Program Officer at Meridian International Center and President of ASTROM, the Association of Students and Young Professionals from Romania in the Capital Region has spearheaded the celebration of this Romanian symbol in Washington for the past three years marking the event with gatherings in front of the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.
This year, over 100 Romanians, friends of Romania, and officials from the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC wearing traditional Romanian blouses and folk costumes gathered on Sunday, June 21 in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, to once again mark the “Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse” and to join thousands of other Romanians from around the world who were doing the same in front of famous landmarks from the Opera House in Sydney to the Space Needle in Seattle, and the Tabletop Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Cultural diplomacy at its best!