Romani Gypsy web-journal
  On the Project   Our News   Our Friends   Contacts   На русском  

Kalderari men's costume


Gallery 1.


Kelderars (Kotlyars) are Romanian Gypsies. They made caldrons and baking trays on mobile anvils or mended leaking dishes. Initially they traveled through Danube principalities, but after 1856 headed to neighbor countries. Soon Kotlyar tabors arrived in Poland, Russia, France, Spain and England.


Janko Janos. A Gypsy family. 1862.


In ХХ century some of those restless Gypsies got to both Americas and even to Africa. Everywhere their exotic appearance evoked great interest. It was Kelderars who became creators of Gypsy national costume. Naturally women looked more outstanding with their necklaces made of gold coins and bright skirts. But men’s costume was not less perfect. It was both beautiful and comfortable — details which had to show their owner’s wealth didn’t ruin the whole impression of complete harmony.


A Kalderari Romani man. 1865. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”.


An attentive observer can see the sequence of borrowings. Ornaments of laces on the clothes are a result of Hungarian influence. Natives sometimes overdecorated their attire but Gypsies didn’t: patterns on their sleeves and quilted trousers looked trim but not gaudy.


A Kalderari Romani man. 1865. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”.


Boots made of printed leather also looked very sporty. Hungarians had them too, but for Gypsies boots of good currying were of special value – they were source of pride. In “shtromfo” dance Gypsy man claps on his bootleg triumphantly. Shoemakers knew that some buyers from tabor could give a horse for a piece of good work without bargaining.


A Kalderari Romani man. 1865. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”. 


One more way to show prosperity was decoration of jacket and waistcoat. Big silver buttons, “flower buds”, symbolized wealth — sometimes they were acorn-sized, sometimes as big as an egg. “Flower buds” were empty of course, but their shine in the sun fascinated and commanded people’s respect. They were also used as security. As stated above Kelderars were tinkers. Some people didn’t trust tabor craftsmen, who were as free as the air. To comfort a client Kotlyars simply tore a silver “acorn” off and thus guaranteed safety of clients’ property.


A Kalderari Romani boy in Great Britain. 1911.


Sometimes silver discs were used instead of “flower buds”. Being about three times bigger than the biggest coin they looked chic indeed! Men attached them to a jacket in several rows. It was an outstanding luxury!


Kalderash Roma's camp. 1892.


Gypsies tried to demonstrate as many singes of wealth as possible. Men usually wore wide leather belts (very wide ones with several clasps) like Hungarian, Carpathian and Ukrainian peasants did. Gypsies kept gold coins inside. Sometimes squiffy men piled their treasures in front of each other to boast.


Kalderari men near a tent. 1930s. A photo from Florin Petru Manole's archive.


Gypsy attire also included a scarf. It was attached to a jacked in bow-like manner and hanged in folds to hips. It was used both for decoration and to wipe hands.


Kalderash Roma's camp. 1892.


Kotlyars’ felt hats could be of different styles — they were also borrowed from peasants of Eastern Europe. But as tabor tinkers went far from their motherland French or Russian people took their hats for a special Gypsy piece of clothes.


Kalderash Roma. 1930s.


Kotlyars had enough taste not to overuse details. Nothing could ruin the first impression of their silhouette. Their clothes emphasized power, strength, men’s liability. Long staffs with silver knobs were extremely fashionable. Some men and women also had luxurious pipes. Gypsies liked smoking. Their pipes looked more like pieces of art than an ordinary item. Polished wood, ivory, metal became beautiful things in skillful hands.


Kalderash Roma. A photo from a book “Peoples of the World in Pictures”

(edited by Harold Wheeler, Lnd.), 1936.


But the most important is that if a family were poor and didn’t have expensive accessories it didn’t leap in the eye. Kotlyar clothes were so stylish, that they could do without gold. Neither fretted cloth no holes in women’s skirts spoilt the impression and even added special charm to Gypsies’ appearance. It’s like with ripped jeans — comfortable cowboy piece of clothes which conquered the world forty years ago and became a symbol of freedom for generation of sixties. 

Kalderash men. 1865. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”. 


A Kalderari man working. A photo from J-P.Clebert's book.


A Kalderari man. 1913. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”.


A Kalderari Romani man. 1865. A photo from J.Ficowsky's book “Gypsies in Poland”.


A nomadic family in their carriage. The beginning of the 20th century.


A Kalderari man. Erika Groth-Schmachtenberger's picture,

taken in Romanian Bukovina in 1935.





Back to folk Romani costumes