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Real Gypsy Looks
By Jessica Reidy
Editor's Note: Previously Jessica Reidy wrote this essay on Romani fashion for Quail Bell Magazine. Please read it for insight and context if you haven't already!
These outfits are selected from a place of love of tradition and with the modesty and purity rules of Romanipen in mind, namely, covered legs, arms, and décolletage. I allow room for interpretation and flexibility however, in the spirit of the contemporary Romani-fusion style that so many Romani women embrace and create on the streets, in the workplace, and in the home. For instance, instead of strictly skirts, I allow for long dresses too. Some of the hemlines are not quite floor-length, but none are above the knee (or even the calf, really).
All five photos in this post were taken by Leonard M. Reidy.
Dress: Navy, floral Gunne Sax dress with lace detail. Vintage circa 1970’s from The Odd Showroom in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Shoes: Maroon combat boots, Kickers, circa 1990’s.
In Romani fashion, practicality is essential. These combat boots, which I’ve had since I was 11, stand the test of time and add an edge to the long, feminine dresses emblematic of Romani style. Also, when the dress is shorter than ankle-length, like the Gunne Sax dress, tall boots preserve modesty.
Dress: Turquoise, cotton Mexican wedding dress with lace detail, vintage circa 1970’s from The Odd Showroom in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Dikhlo: Turquoise and green plaid silk, family heirloom.
Shoes: Maroon combat boots, Kickers, circa 1990s.
While this fantastic wedding dress finds its roots outside of Romani culture, it reminds me of a glorious mash-up of Flamenco dress (originally a Romani dance) and the traditional full-skirts of Romani fashion. The neckline is a little daring, so if you would feel uncomfortable, a jewel-toned, heavy-lace camisole would be lovely underneath.
Dress: Black evening dress with sheer skirt overlay and green ribbon detail, vintage circa early 2000’s from Second Time Around in Porstmouth, New Hampshire.
Shawl: Red silk, vintage, from a charity shop in Ireland.
Shoes: Knee-length leather Ecco boots.
Romanipen discourages bare arms and low-necklines, so a shawl is a perfect accessory to keep covered and add a shock of color. The layered skirt of the evening dress hearkens to the tradition of wearing long, many-layered skirts to preserve purity—the lower-half of the body is marime, polluted. This is why Romanipen requires that clothes for the lower-half of the body are washed separately from clothes for the upper-half, as well as inner and outer clothes (shirts versus jackets), and men and women’s clothes.
Dress: Black, velvet evening dress, vintage gift from a friend.
Cardigan: Charter School Cardigan in Magenta from Modcloth.
Dikhlo: Silk, vintage Pucci scarf circa 1990’s, gift.
Shoes: Knee-length leather Ecco boots.
Cardigans are very popular for everyday wear and are often paired with long skirts or dresses—they make almost any neckline acceptable and add a layer of color to an ensemble. Romani style embraces bright color palates so this is a particularly good option because the Modcloth Charter School Cardigan comes in a variety of lovely colors and patterns.
Skirt: Indian, floral silk wrap skirt from Quarter Moon Imports in Tallahassee, Florida.
Top: One and Only Bodysuit in Navy polka-dots from Modcloth.
Sunglasses: Vintage Yves Saint-Laurent, circa 1970s, from The Odd Showroom in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Shoes: Dance Instead of Walking heel in blue from Modcloth.
Mixing patterns is a hot trend right now but Romani women have been doing it for centuries. Polka-dots and florals is my favorite combination—it’s upbeat and celebratory, and at the heart of Romani culture there is a celebration of music, stories, and the natural world. My grandmother always taught me to love the small things in the present moment because even during the darkest of times, there are glimpses of love and beauty.
Jewelry worn for each outfit
Coco Rosie earrings in Mint from Modcloth.
Gold rings, family heirlooms. Historically, the tradition of wearing heaps of gold originally comes from banks’ discriminatory policies against Roma. If you can’t get a bank account, the next safest option is to keep your valuables on your person, of course.
A note on Romanipen and laundry: I wash bodysuits and dresses separately since they are a kind of liminal clothing—neither top nor bottom, but both.
A note on vintage items and Romanipen: Traditionally, it’s discouraged to pass items down to others, especially if the person is deceased. For many families, this tradition has loosened in order to preserve family artifacts and for thriftiness’ sake. I wash all previously-loved items that I purchase or inherit, but that’s just good practice for everyone, regardless of culture.
#Romani #Gypsy #Fashion #Vintage #Thrifted