After finishing my 1902 skirt and realising that I had an imminent Steampunk event to attend, I decided to make a jacket to match the skirt using the left over material.
Zouave and bolero jackets had become very popular through the 1850s and 60s and continued to be popular through the last half of the 19th century. They seemed to be consistently used as a fashion accessory rather than a warm jacket to protect against the cold, judging by the contemporary fashion plates. There was a tremendous variation in the styles and decoration of these types of jackets, and even different names to confuse you some more! The Eton jacket for women, for instance, was similar but tended to be always buttoned up at the front.
The zouave and bolero were generally short jackets, going only to the waistline. They could be decorated with any manner of trims, some imitating a military look, others more feminine with embroidery, or even decorated with ribbon and braid. They could have long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves, and – whilst they were often left open – some did have front fastenings.
The pattern I used was found – again – in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen. It is not a pattern that she had drawn up herself in her pattern sheets, but a pattern that had been reproduced in a picture as a “Pattern for a Zouave jacket.” This jacket is very similar to many fashion plates of the period.
There were a total of four pattern pieces included: front panel, back panel, collar, and cuff. I drafted these up onto 1 inch grid paper.
In order to enlarge these types of old-style patterns up to full-size, first find the starting point of the pattern piece – often indicated with a circle or the letter A. Then use the horizontal numbers (indicating width measures) and the vertical numbers (indicating height measures) to measure out the pattern piece onto grid paper.
The part of the pattern that was the most tricky was the right side of the front panel, as the sudden use of large quantities of letters (instead of numbers) was hard to interpret. I eventually made the presumption that the jacket picture was drawn to scale and sketched it as closely as I could.
This jacket was made from a cotton with a woven stripe, lined with a black broadcloth and trimmed with black polyester braid. Interfacing was used in the front lapel facing. As usual, I did a mock up in calico before I started. The size of this pattern seemed to be pretty perfect for me and needed hardly any adjustment.
Step One: First I added facing to front lining piece, trimming off any excess material. The seam allowance was pressed to the front and top-stitched down.
Then add interfacing to the wrong side of the front lapel area.
Step Two: The front and back pieces were then all sewn together; first the centre back seam, then the side seams, and then the shoulder seams. This was done for the lining pieces and then the outer pieces, resulting in “two” jackets.
Step Three: At this point the front darts of the jacket can be taken in. This is also a great time for a fitting!
Step Four: The two layers of the jacket are sewn, right sides together, along the bottom edge – matching all seams and darts. Continue to sew up the centre front and around the lapels until you reach the neckline. Leave the collar area open. (You may need to pin your collar on at this point to check where it will sit.)
Clip any seam allowances and turn the jacket right sides out. Press well. You could top stitch the edges at this point, however I intended to add braid which would hold the edges in place.
Step Five: The collar pattern is a fold-down collar, and has a centre back seam. This means that the pattern piece needs to be cut out four times in the outer material, and four times in the lining/interfacing (I have used the black cotton broadcloth as a stiffener).
At first I was a little baffled about how to sew it. First, I flatlined the collar with the lining material, which meant it did not require interfacing. (You could always use interfacing instead though.) Both layers were then treated as one.
The centre back seam of the collar was sewn next. This has to be done a second time with the other collar pieces. (This second collar will form the collar facing.)
Then the top edge of the collar was sewn according to the pattern line, to form a “curved dart”. This needs to be done to each side of the collar and for the collar facing pieces as well.
I could have cut the top and bottom halves of the collar separately but then I would have had a thick seam on this top edge, so instead I have sewn it as a dart. Press the centre back seams open at this point.
Then the collar is opened out and sewn, right-sides together, to the collar facing around the sides and top of the collar. The bottom edge of the collar is left open, with the seam allowance of the facing folded up.
The seam allowances of the collar should be clipped and then turned the right way and ironed well.
The collar is then sewn to the jacket, matching the centre back seams. The seam allowance of the neck/collar can then be turned inside the collar and hand-sewn down.
Step Six: The sleeves were flatlined first and then the sleeve seam was sewn.
The head of the sleeve was then gathered to fit the armhole, and sewn in – right sides together. The raw edges of the sleeve were trimmed and bound with black bias binding. The bottom edge of the sleeve was gathered to fit the cuff.
Step Seven: The cuffs – like the collar – were also in two pieces, so had to be cut four times for each sleeve. I did not use interfacing for these either, but instead used one layer of broadcloth as a stiffener (which meant there were two cut from the lining material for each sleeve).
The cuffs were then sewn, right sides together, around the lower edge of the cuff (with the seam allowance of the cuff facing turned over in the same way as the collar). Seam allowances were clipped and then the cuffs were turned right side out and pressed well.
The cuffs were then sewn to the bottom of the sleeve, with the cuff facing being turned under and handsewn down to hide the raw edges.
Step Eight: The last step involved the hand sewing of the braid and the addition of two buttons and buttonholes.
I am really pleased with the finished result!
The collar does not sit quite like it should (from in the picture, anyway), so I think I will use a few tacking stitches to keep it in place.
It does look a tiny bit short at the back, but I am planning on making myself an Edwardian belt to go with this ensemble which should disguise that.
But there it is, my new dancing and (quite historical) steampunk outfit! It is lovely to dance in, too!
Sources and Relevant Links
Image source: Walking Outfits, published in “De Gracieuse: Geïllustreerde Aglaja” (1901) from The Netherlands.
Bolero and Zouave jackets of the mid-19th century – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen
Bolero jackets of the 20th century: 1900-1909 – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen
Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon
McCalls Dressmaking 1901 – by Dressmaking Research