Folkwear Society's vision is to create a global knowledge platform that reignites the curiosity of discovering the folk visual and material cultures by salvaging and preserving original folk clothing, by triggering discussions around the meanings of heritage and authentic and by embedding these full of life artefacts into their own history, as well as into our contemporary story.

Initiated in Romania, Folkwear Society is a not-for-profit initiative, which seeks to explore the vast diversity of Romanian folkwear and attempts to uncover the complex historical, social and political dynamics conveyed by peasant cultural productions which are otherwise often silenced, or lost for good.

Folkwear Society is a celebration of local traditions, of cultural artefacts that age beautifully, still as voluptuous as they were a century ago, of the skilfulness, creativity and artistic taste expressed by folk cultures.
A work in progress, Folkwear Society aims to bring together contributions from anthropologists and art historians to photographers and folk enthusiasts alike, continually generating both visual content and thought-provoking pieces of writing.

By joining in Folkwear Society’s endeavours, you may contribute to the perpetuation — both material and symbolic — of these unique artefacts in order to prevent them from vanishing without a trace, or avoid their replacement with new commoditised reinterpretations in the collective global memory.
Folkwear Society was founded by social anthropologist Ana Bogdan.

An urbanite for most of her life so far, Ana first immersed herself in the beauty of Romanian folk culture and traditional wear in 2010, during a field research trip in Maramureș (northern Transylvania) where she was enthralled with the beauty of the old folkwear still being worn, yet simultaneously saddened by the slow disappearance and dismissal of folk clothing. After completing her Masters degree at the University of Cambridge, where she focused her line of work on the sociology and anthropology of art, cinema and collective memory, Ana delved into the study and collection of folkwear from all around Romania, an effort which led to the creation of Folkwear Society.



Folk art is not something that can be institutionalised — on the contrary, it is alive, unconventional, unrestrictive, untheorised, open to change and transformations.

It starts with folk wear. We refrain from using the term “costumes” which implies lifeless objects of contemplation, and prefer "folkwear", "folk clothing", or "folk dress", to reflect their spiritedness and vibrancy.

Created in a time long past, folkwear lies at the border between cultural artefact (depicting the everyday life of the Romanian peasant) and work of art (as items whose aesthetic beauty, creative ingenuity, uniqueness and handmade effort and dedication, make them valuable in themselves).

Grassroot decentralisation of "heritage"

Heritage is a malleable concept. Any item can be assigned to a system of meaning, whether it is of personal value or of national utility. In essence, each individual makes his/her own heritage. Romanian peasants certainly made their own heritage. In a sense, the items that we now regard as “vintage” have in reality been someone’s “heritage”.

Mothers would pass beautiful pieces of their clothing on from generation to generation, investing everything into their daughter’s dowry – zestre. These items would be stored in beautiful oak chests - or displayed in a room dedicated to the dowry. These garments are slowly disappearing with the last generations born before the 1950s, by being disposed of or sold for nothing in return for “Western” clothes.

It is up to each and every one of us to endow these vintage and unique pieces with the value they deserve, in order to prevent them from completely disappearing. They all have a story of their own, but the story can only survive through it being activated, listened to, and then shown off.

History of folk clothing in Romania

Traditionally, folk wear reflects kinship relations. The skills and craftsmanship (craftwomanship, we would add) is passed on matrilineally, from mother to daughter, from generation to generation, and each unique item becomes a symbol of both identification and differentiation.

These clothes are entirely the result of human labour: from handspun hemp cloth, to the meticulous hand sewing and embroidering of symbols — thus reifying the uniqueness of each item.

Folkwear tells a story about ethnicity, ethnographical regions and climate, time, economic possibilities, social status, occasion and could even reveal aspects of the wearer’s personality.

These artefacts are not static, rigid labels of a time long past, but rather dynamic, constantly recreated throughout centuries of socio-historical interactions and transformations. They reflect on cultural diversity as well as human creativity, both harmonious and conflicting at the same time and they play an active role in the process of identity creation of individuals and communities, regions and nations.

  • Clothes are not merely defining but they are also self-consciously used to define, to present, to deceive, to enjoy, to communicate, to reveal and to conceal alike.
    Schneider & Weiner, 1989