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A visual presentation of the similarities and differences between various Romani Fashions

Romani Dress Stew

Romni Rokja Zumi   

ıɯnZ ɐظʞoR ıuɯoɹR
Roma StylesRoma Styles
Roma StylesRoma Styles
Romani Dress Stew

ʍǝʇS ssǝɹD ıuɐɯoR

     Whether it’s the vibrant reds of the mystical Kalderash, the seductive belly dancing outfits of Miss Piranda beauty pageant or exaggerated gowns featured in My Big Fat Gypsy wedding, the gypsy dress is one of the world’s most recognizable costumes – not for its uniformity – but rather its focus on being “outstanding”.  The Gypsy costume is about colorfulness and plenty of “bling” that catches people’s attention – yet at the same time raising plenty of questions like where did the wild style come from, and what caused the various alterations between tribes. Yet this study – like nearly all inquiries into Gypsy lore - concludes with more question than answers.                               

mystical kalderash red Gypsy fashion
Mystical Kalderash Red
miss piranda Gypsy fashion
Miss Piranda - Romania
my big fat gypsy wedding fashion
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Dress



Tzigania Project is sadly no longer able to freely offer our exclusive research online due to plagiarism and other unconsented usage of our material.

 Our movement has always strongly believed in sharing objective truths of Roma history and culture as a means of combatting the abundance of misinformation and biased opinions feeding the stereotypes.

 Our excusive research is still freely available at our learning center locations. Contact us with ANY questions:

India Gypsy

India, the origins

    Cultural, linguistic and genetic research has placed the origins of the Roma people to various tribes  of north-western India

India Gypsy 1India Gypsy


   Area of origins: Romania:
  (tinsmith and coppersmith)

Like most Roma tribes , Kaldarash identify themselves by the traditional trade of the ancestors, a custom tracing back to the jati of India(occupational tribes).

     Gypsy Fashion Kalderash

Kalderash Fashion

     The valued metalworking trade, which penned Balkan sayings like “every village needs a Gypsy and a church”, combined with the segregation of the nomadic lifestyle helped defend against the forces of change and preserve the old traditions

    Kalderash consider themselves the purest of the groups and guardians of the Romani culture.

     Abolition of slavery in Romania in the mid-19th century set off a wave of emigration of what has become known as “the second great Romani diaspora”.   Some Kalderash groups headed east settling in the Ukraine while others crossed the Danube into Europe and subsequently the Americas.

Kalderash fashion

    Vibrant red is a common color of Kalderash fashion. It’s a symbol of life and vitality, yet more importantly is the color’s mystical power of repelling evil spirits and the harm they bring.


   Location: Transylvania Romania

    Gabor, a branch of the larger Kalderash nation, settled in Hungarian region of Austro-Hungarian controlled Transylvania. Their namesake “Gabor” comes from Hungarian pronunciation of Gabriel, the presumed patriarch of the clan.

 Gypsy Fashion Gabor

    The elaborate fashion trends of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburgs influenced the Gabor style of dress in ways that show in their unique pleated dress styles, pastel color schemes and ornamental use of lace, ruffles and ribbons.

Gypsy Fashion Gabor

    Most prominent feature of Gabor style is the “joie de vivre” color patterns: various shade of red, alluring yellow, radiant orange, and bright, luminous blues and greens with elaborate trimmings. Their middleman minority status as merchants and tradesmen, and resulting lucrativeness of standing out in a crowd and being noticed played a significant role in the evolution of the style, supporting the theory that Gypsy culture is a product of economics.

    The Gabor skirt is separated into two parts: the pleated, wrap around skirt with a center pocket, dubbed the “money pocket” - covered by a pleated apron adorned with lace trimmings. The apron supplies aesthetics to the costume as well as a mystical value as a protective shield to the female impurities permeating through the lower half of the female body. The pure and clean upper body is less regulated and thus presents itself in more various levels of outlandishness. The women’s clothing is worn loose and baggy designed to accentuate the shapeliness of the woman’s figure.

Gypsy Fashion Gabor

Gypsy Style Gabor hair style

    The female hair is considered one of the most sensual parts of the body and is therefore covered at all times under colorful, ornamented headscarves. The covering of the head also signifies a woman’s marital status, like a wedding ring. The Roma wife covers her head while maiden Gabors braid their uncovered hair with elaborate red ribbons.

Gypsy Style Gabor maiden hair style

Tent Gypsies

   Location: Romania
Gypsy Fashion Spoitori

The “Tent Gypsies” are a composite of tribes identified in Romania by the generalized term “Cortorari” from the root word “cort” meaning "tent", as a means of identifying the resulting culture of their recently nomadic way of life. 

Gypsy Fashion Zavragi

Gypsy Fashion Pieptanari

Nomadic segregation that for some of the Cortorari tribes lasted well into the 20th century, helped preserve the ancestral way of life.  Cortorari still maintain many of the old traditions and beliefs tracing back to their Hindu-Indian origins.

 Industrialization and improved trade networks caused a slow devaluation of many of the traditional trades. Loss of income led to compromises to the traditions, including the dress styles as they scramble to re-invent themselves.

Gypsy Fashion Spoitori

Florari Postacard


   Area of origin: Romania

Florari, are named for their trade of peddling flowers in the market place and street corner kiosks.  They can be spotted managing their outdoor stands in every Bucharest neighborhood and in numerous towns and cities across Romania. The female dress of the Florari is a modest contrast of dark and white color patterns. The prominent use of white represents the purity and cleanliness of their Roma heritage while contrasting black or dark colors symbolizes the “yin and yang” philosophy of the Roma dualism belief system.



Horohani of Turkey Postcard

      The Horahani, colloquially known as Turkish Gypsies, is the Islamic branch of the Roma nation living in Turkey and Balkan territories formerly under Ottoman control including the Romanian coastline region of Dobruja that having been under Ottoman rule till mid-19th century is home to a large Horahani population.

Horahani Gypsies of Dobruja

Horahani Gypsies of Dobruja

    The Horahane dress style is influenced by Turkish fashion. It’s characterized by loose, baggy pants known as harem pants along with long, decorative head coverings. The color patterns comprise of modest shades of spectral colors blues, reds, greens.

Horahani Gypsies of Dobruja


   Area of origin:
   Moldova, Romania and Republic of Moldova

       Ursari are named for their trade as the former bear trainers from Romanian root word “urs” meaning bear. The animal training profession links this group to the earliest bands of Roma arriving into Europe: 

Gypsy styles of Ursari. Ursari family

    “Those who lead around bears are called bear keepers…. Others, who are called Athinganoi, would have snakes wound around them, and they would tell one person that he was born under an evil star, and the other under a lucky star; and they would also prophesy about forthcoming good and ill fortunes.” Theodore Balsamon, Byzantine Canonist, 12th century

Gypsy dress of the Ursari

   The Ursari belong to the Balkan dialect of Romani speakers, generally found in areas of former Ottoman military bases in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.  These Roma were employed by the expanding Ottoman military machine as tradesmen, entertainers and labor.  The Ursari tribe settled in Romania after having being carried off by Romanian troops and sold into slavery following victories over Ottoman forces.

Ursari Gypsy former bear trainers

    Ursari follow a diluted version of the purity codes; they wear a fully covering skirt, and head covering yet like other tribes of the Balkan dialect they prefer more earthy tones in comparison to the rich, illuminous color schemes of the Romanian “Vlax dialect” that includes Kaldarash, Gabor, and numerous Cortorari tribes.

Rudari (Khashtalo)

     Rudari of Wallachia (southern Romania) and sister tribes Lingurari of Moldova and Boyash of Transylvanian, are identified by Romani speakers for their woodworking trade as “Khashtalo” from the root word “khasht” (wood).

Gypsy of Forest Fashion Hetea


Forest Gypsy Fashion

   The Khashtalo culture evolved over 500 years as slaves of the monasteries where they went through a transformation of forced assimilation. The Roma language and culture fully exorcized from their memory would be ultimately replaced with the antiquated Romanian culture.



Gypsy Fashion Lingurari Moldova Romania

    The traditional Rudari dress is defined as old-Romanian, peasant style. The loss of the purity codes allowed for the traditional Roma hem line to rise from the arch of the foot to just below the knee. The length as well as the tight and rigid pattern of the skirt stands in stark contrast to the long, loose and baggy style of the Roma dress code. Color schemes follow dark, monastic shades with little to no patterns.

  The upper body clothing, including the head covering, often expresses the remaining vestiges of a “gypsy spirit” through a variation of colorful reds, greens and blues.

Gypsy Fashion Rudari


Kale (Gitanos) of Spain

    Kale of Spain, also known as Gitanos, identify with Andalusian culture, famed for bullfighting, Andalusian horses and flamenco of which the Kale had instrumental influence.

Gitanos painting

Gypsy Dance in the Gardens of the Alcázar 
by Alfred Dehodencq. 1851,

     “Traje de flamenco” (The Flamenco dress) evolved from  the extraordinary styles of the Gypsy maja (female street vendors) who’s exaggerated costumes drew attention to themselves and consequently their merchandise. It’s the cause and effect of costume advertisement that supports the theory that Gypsy culture is a product of economics.


    The maja costume consisted of an inner vest and outer jacket with heavily embellished sleeves. A bold red sash was sometimes worn across the chest or shawl. The head was covered by a silky veil called a mantilla over a comb raising the material high or a hat called a montera that was cocked to the side and garnished with a flower.

    Since the upper classes tended to imitate French vogue, it was thought that the costume of the maja or lower classes represented what was more uniquely Spanish.  When nationalistic movements brought fashion trends back home it was the maja that fashion designers turned to for inspiration. Francisco Goya (1746-1828) further popularized the style in his paintings.

Flamenco Dress

Finnish Kale dress


Kale of Finland

    The traditional dress of the Finnish Kale adapted from the traditional dress of the native Finns while still keeping to Roma guidelines as fully covering, loose and baggy, and elaborate. 

    The dress features a padded, heavy black velvet skirt worn high at the waist to the feet and a puffed blouse, often ornamented with ruffles, lace and a metallic sheen of dully placed sequins
Finnish Kale dress

by Chuck Todaro

Final Note: this study concludes "with more questions than answers”. 
This is a work in progress and we welcome ANY and ALL feedback that will help us fill in 
the many blanks and produce a more comprehensive explanation of the evolution of Romani style.

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