The Back Story
Most people on Earth have no idea what Roma fashion is or much about the Roma people in general. Roma is a more politically correct term to describe the Gypsies as the latter has now become a pejorative term. They are a subculture of nomadic people who live all over Europe, North America, South America, Russia, Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East. It is believed they originated in India and traveled through Persia to other parts of the world because societies would reject them and consider lesser peoples. One of the main stereotypes about the Roma is that they have terrible hygiene and seldom bathe. Another is that they’re conniving and always stealing things, picking people’s pockets, and running petty scams. The latter is where the term “getting gypped” originated.
The Roma have no sovereign nation, and they have faced constant discrimination everywhere they roamed. They were one of the main groups targeted by the Nazi regime amid the perils World War II. Historians estimate anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 Roma were exterminated during the holocaust. They were even placed in gas chambers or ovens and slaughtered. Others were forced to do hard work and labor in the concentration camps and died of starvation alongside the six million Jews. Most people by now don’t like to think about that dark chapter in our history. It is therefore more prudent for everyone to refer to them as either Roma or Romani. If you want to learn more about the Roma genocide, you can check out this link.
The Purity of Clothes
The Roma attire reflects their religion and traditions. One of their customs is that they wash the clothing from their upper and lower body separately because their belief system states that the impurities of lower body garments bay contaminate those of the upper body. They want to make sure that none of their outfits are in any way, shape, or form desecrated. In addition, the heads of the men and scarves of women are kept away from any surface such as the seat of a chair or anything else that encounters the lower body. Men and women’s close are kept separately for the same reasons. They that a woman’s clothes can be deleterious for a man.
It is not uncommon for the Roma to attain new clothing for special occasions to feel purer. For instance, it is imperative within their community for everything to be unpolluted during a wedding, a funeral, a Saint’s Day feast or some other formal event. To mix lower and upper body material or the outfits of men and women is considered bad decorum and can leave a less than favorable impression on the whole of the group should anything happen. During the death ritual, the person who represents the deceased is expected to wear be dressed in brand new attire and is nominated “the wearer of clothes.” This ritual they believe makes the person stand in the place of the individual who has passed. If you want to learn more about their clothing etiquette, check out this webpage: https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/clothing-around-world/roma-gypsy-fashions
What They Usually Wear
The Roma aren’t too concerned with being stylish as most folks in mainstream society are. The men are more concerned with looking masculine and powerful whereas the women are focused on looking modest. It’s not uncommon to see Roma men wearing old Western-style attire. You may see an older man wearing a cowboy hat, bolo tie, jeans, and cowboy boots. Or you can also see him donning the attire of a New York or Chicago-style gangster with a pinstriped suit and a fedora hat. The younger Roma males usually dress more casually as they’re not considered old and mature enough to project such power. They may don tie-dye shirts and stovepipe pants. Children are another story. Most of them dress the same way as all other kids. Normally, the boys don T-shirts and blue jeans whereas the girls have dresses and pants but wear their hair in ponytails.
We all know the Hollywood stereotype about Roma women having scarves around their heads. That’s usually married women. Single women may still wear their hear in a bun or braid. They are all expected to cover their legs at least mid-calf, nonetheless. Because many Roma don’t wish to be identified and want to remain inconspicuous, it’s not uncommon to see Roma women dressed in Hopi or other Native American attire to pass as Indigenous. In the Eastern Hemisphere, it is considered acceptable for women to wear low-cut blouses or V-necks to show a little cleavage. There are some companies that focuses in this kind of fashion such as Aura clothing. They specialize in all sorts of garments that suit the Roma people’s needs. Their focus is on Bohemian style clothing which would fit into the Roma women’s compendium.
They Look and Live Like Us
The other stereotype about the Roma is that they all travel and live in caravans. Though that may hold some truth in parts of Western Europe, it’s not uncommon for them to live in bungalows and houses. Because they’ve lived autonomously for century, they’ve made a conscious effort to maintain a low profile. They do that to avoid drawing unwanted negative attention and prejudices from the general population. It is therefore not unheard of for modern day Roma to blend in as regular people but still practice their culture in the home behind closed doors and not in broad daylight for the public to see. Though Hollywood has pigeonholed the Roma as vagabonds in movies like Snatch and Thinner So the stereotype that Roma parents don’t allow their children to attend regular schooling is long outdated. Many of them go to the same schools as all the other children in their community. The only difference is that they wash their upper and lower garments separately.