Two Romani women in Spain wearing their traditional dress, by Francisco Iturrino
Two Romani women in Spain wearing their traditional dress, by Francisco Iturrino

Romani dress is the traditional attire of the Romani people, widely known in English by the exonymic slur Gypsies.[a] Romani traditional clothing is closely connected to the history, culture, and national identity of the Roma people.[2][3]

Certain scholars connect similarities of Romani dress with South Asian populations due to the general consensus of the South Asian origins[b] of Romani people. However, they also note that there are many differences as well, which is indicative of the contact Romani people have had with various other groups. Because of this, Romani dress can vary drastically among different tribes, however, there are certain constant similarities that define Romani dress as a whole. Romani people are often recognizable to other Roma through their appearance and cultural dress codes. Moreover, Romani people value the outwardly display of their wealth and prosperity which is reflective in their traditional dress.[2]

Women's clothing

Romani girl from Romania wearing traditional dress by Theodor Aman
Romani girl from Romania wearing traditional dress by Theodor Aman
Romani Woman in Poland, Stanisław Masłowski, watercolour, 1877

The dress of Romani women emphasizes the cultural tradition of displaying your wealth as a sign of good fortune. Romani women tend to wear golden necklaces, bracelets, and headscarves, all of which are often embellished with golden coins. The Diklo is a traditional headscarf worn by married Vlax Romani women.[2]

For the lower body, Romani women traditionally wear skirts. The size of the skirts varies among people of different tribes, ages, and marital status. Traditionally skirts were always worn below the knees as the lower body is considered taboo in Romani culture but, this has changed in modern times. Romani women would also traditionally avoid trousers although this has also changed among the young generation. Additionally, among the Vlax Roma, married women will wear a white apron above their skirt.[2][7] The apron of a Romani women was in place to protect the food from the dirt of the dress per the cleanliness code of Romani people.[8]

In certain Vlax Romani cultures such as the Gábors, Romani women over the age of 10 are required to wear a dress code that consists of a colourful pleated skirt, colourful blouse with patterns, long pleated apron from the same material as the skirt, and for married women, the kerchief constitute the rule for clothing. Married and young women alike wear a red ribbon in their hair. For footwear, women wear sandals, slippers, boots or shoes. The color of the skirts can reflect a Romani women's status and age with brighter colors being used by younger girls and darker colors by older women. Black skirts are a sign of mourning in the Romani culture.[3]

In the Muslim Roma communities of the Balkans, women of the younger generation tend to wear more conservative Islamic dress while the older generation prefers more traditional dress featuring traditional Roma designs, colors, and symbolism.[9] In Muslim Roma society, the dress code of women is closely monitored and modesty is emphasized especially when it comes to the lower half of the body.[10]

Men's clothing

Romani men from Transylvania wearing their traditional dress, 1865
Romani men from Transylvania wearing their traditional dress, 1865

Romani men in urban areas tend to wear shiny suits and ties as a display of fashion, status, and elegance. Romani men often wear golden rings and necklaces as jewelry. The hat and vest of a Romani man is indicative of his tribe and clan affiliation. Because of the Romani stigma surrounding the lower body, Romani men will often avoid wearing shorts.[2]

Romani men's clothing was standard throughout their respective clan and the sharing of clothes between clan members was seen as a symbol of brotherhood.[11]

In certain Vlax Romani cultures such as the Gábors, Men are required to wear a dress code consisting of a broad-brimmed hat, loosely fitting black trousers, a dark overcoat and shirt, and a waistcoat with silver buttons. For footwear, men wear black closed shoes.[3]

Gabor-Roma from Transylvania, Romania in traditional dress
Gabor-Roma from Transylvania, Romania in traditional dress


In many areas to this day, the identification of someone as Roma can have negative consequences. Numerous attempts have been made to assimilate Romani people into European society by minimizing various cultural markers such as clothing. European states have had optional and forced attempts at assimilating or eradicating Romani culture. During the Porajmos and other events of extreme persecution where the identification of Roma could be dangerous, many Romani people had to abandon their cultural dress. However, Romani people continue to resist assimilation to this day despite current efforts by European states to demonize and outlaw Romani culture including Romani dress.[12]

Due to movements such as Bohemianism, many non-Roma people have begun to dress up as Romani people. Helen Graham describes the problematic nature of this trend:

The problem with the Instagram tags is that non-Romani people can "dress-up Gypsy" for a day with no serious repercussions, but when a Romani person dresses in traditional clothing, or even a semblance of it, the response can be brutal.[13]

See also


In art


  1. ^ Gypsy is considered by some Roma people to be pejorative and a slur due to its connotations of illegality and irregularity.[1]
  2. ^ Genetic findings suggest an Indian origin for Roma.[4][5] This is further supported by linguistic evidence.[6]


  1. ^ Randall, Kay. "What's in a Name? Professor take on roles of Romani activist and spokesperson to improve plight of their ethnic group". Archived from the original on 5 February 2005. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Yaron Matras (2015). "3-Customs and Traditions (Appearance and Dress)". The Romani Gypsies. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674744776. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Tesfay, Saba (2009). ""Wearing Gypsy identity in a Gábor Gypsy community in Tîrgu Mureş."". Romani Studies. Romani Studies-Liverpool University Press. 19 (1): 1–17. doi:10.3828/rs.2009.1. ISSN 1757-2274. S2CID 144932844.
  4. ^ Isabel Mendizabal; 21 others (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–2349. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723.
  5. ^ Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times.
  6. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (2002). "Origin of Roma". RomBase. Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  7. ^ Jeneen Hobby, Timothy L. Gall, ed. (2009). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life. Gale. p. 400. ISBN 9781414464305.
  8. ^ Judith Okely, S Ardener (2013). "Gypsy Women: Models in conflict". Introductory Readings in Anthropology. Berghahn books in association with the Royal Anthropological Institute. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-85745-995-4.
  9. ^ Arolda Elbasani; Jelena Tošić (2017). "Localized Islam(s): interpreting agents, competing narratives, and experiences of faith" (PDF). Nationalities Papers. Cambridge University Press. 45 (4): 499–510. doi:10.1080/00905992.2017.1300792. hdl:1814/46767. S2CID 59140329.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Carol Silverman (2012). "Education, Agency, and Power among Macedonian Muslim Romani Women in New York City". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. University of Chicago Press. 38 (1): 30–36. doi:10.1086/665803. S2CID 146723120.
  11. ^ Thomas Alan Acton, Gary Mundy, ed. (1997). Romani Culture and Gypsy Identity. University of Hertfordshire Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780900458767.
  12. ^ Nidhi Trehan and Angéla Kóczé (2009). "4". Racism Postcolonialism Europe. Liverpool University Press. pp. 50–73. ISBN 978-1-84631-219-9.
  13. ^ Helen Graham (2019). Heritage as Community Research: Legacies of Co-production. Policy Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781447345299.

Further reading