my crazy life

The Zouave ensemble.

So I mentioned before Christmas that I was working on an 1863 Zouave ensemble for my little sister. It’s been finished for almost a month now. And by finished, I mean that I still have buttons and buttonholes to do.

In any case, this was the inspiration for the dress. After spending almost a week of free time scouring the interwebs for a dress that would work with the limited amount of fabric i had, this is what I found.

1863 wool Zouave ensemble

It looked easy enough, and I knew for certain that I would at least have enough fabric for the skirt if not the jacket. The fabric for the skirt was taken from my mother’s old 80’s prom dress of some mysterious polyester material. It was blue at some point in time, but now it’s a super light, almost white lavender.

The original dress, and me at age 13.

As you can see it’s kind of a pseudo-civil war style dress anyway. (We’ll ignore the fact that it was about 6-7 inches too long for me). I wore it at age 13 to a father-daughter Halloween party where the theme was famous couples. Since we just had a short notice to figure something out we went as …. you guessed it, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. But don’t ask me where the Princess Leia hair came from because I honestly can’t tell you.

Long story short, I ripped off all the lace. There was lots of it, at least 7-8 yards of lace just tacked on the the hems and sleeves and well, everywhere! I pulled the skirts apart, and yanked off those ridiculous bows. The cream underskirt was turned into a petticoat, leaving me with just enough fabric to make the skirt.

Skirt, Jacket and Shirt.

As you can see, the skirt is hard to photograph and the dress form is too big for the outfit. My little sister who turns fifteen in the spring is about the size of a sixth grader on a day like Thanksgiving or Christmas where she eats half of the food on the table. She’s super tiny and I don’t have a child’s dress form to fit it on. So we’ll ignore the fact that the skirt doesn’t close all the way in the back.  The jacket has two rows of black trim, with directions going opposite because I wasn’t thinking when I started hand stitching them on, but the more I look at it the more I like it.


The skirt has the same trim as the bottom row, but in white. I had originally planned on adding a row or two around the hem  of the skirt, but it looked rather busy with the print, so I just trimmed around the top of the skirt and called it good.

Same trim

Without the jacket, the shirt looks kind of plain, but I did put in a bit of lace around the collar and the sleeve cuffs. It was the lace that originally came with the dress, I rather like it and kept the rest to use on other various projects. Ignore the blue pin, I forgot to take it out before taking a picture.

Lace at the collar.

The skirt fastens in the back with five pearlized buttons, which also came with the original dress.


And to top it all of, there’s a corded petticoat and another petticoat underneath that. I know corded petticoats weren’t in vogue during the 1860’s but I just couldn’t justify putting time and energy into making a hoopskirt when hopefully my sister will grow some more.

As much as I love accuracy in terms of historical clothing and reproductions, it wasn’t exactly possible in this venture. I did my best and it turned out very well, but it is first and foremost a costume and that’s okay with me.



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One thought on “The Zouave ensemble.

  1. Pingback: Progress and some back-tracking. | sewinginshambles

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