Zouave Suit Garments

Figure 1.-- Here we have a commercial French post card mailed in 1906. The boy wears a Zouave suit with a fez. Zouave suits had gone out of style in America, I'm less sure about France. Interstingly the French were having a major problem with the Germans over Morocco at the time.

The Zouave suit generally consisted of a small, heavily enbroidered jacket and variety of pants. Boomer knickers seem the most common.--usually cut in a baggy style. Many outfits also included fancy headwear. The jacket and pants were the key elements of the suits. There were other items. Most were otional. The most importsant of these accessory items was the headwear. Fezes were especally popular.


HBC has only limited information on headwear associated with Zouave suits. Note the cap on the table in figure 1 on the main Zouave page. While unfortunately a poor image, it provides some clues. There appears to be a fancy pom on the cap. HBC has noted sailor hats with narrow brims and rounded hats that were worn with Zouave suits. Fezes were especally popular, but not for boys in America. American Cival War Zouaves often wores fezes, but we rarely see American boys wearing them.


Boys generally wore white blouses with small collars. Some fancy outfits might have blouses with embroidery or detailing matching that of the jacket. Often the sdmall jacket had shortened sleeves, exposing the cuffs or lower part of the blouse sleeves. An observer writes, "Boys generally wore a white blouse (shirt) with a small collar under their jackets. Some of the fancier outfits had detailing to match that of the jacket. It was common for the jacket to have a shorter sleeve, so that the cuff and lower edge of the blouse showed out beneath." Some jackets were full cut, covering the blouse.


Small bows were sometimes worn with Zouave suits. Bows were not a requirement, but were often worn. As the Zouave suit was most commonly worn from 1840-70, the bows worn were mostly small. Bows were most common in America.


The Zouave jackets tended to be small, exposing much of the boy's blouse. Often they were worn open or closed only by a collar button. The lower part of the jascket was cut away, thus even when the collar button was buttoned, most of the blouse was visible. HBC notes that many jackets worn by younger boys from the 1840s through the 1880s were generally small and lapeless with the cut away stylem, closed by one button near the collar, but the edges of the jacket being cut away at the bottom hem. HBC is unsure as to whether the Zouave jacket just followed this style or rather it infact helped to set this style for younger boys' jackets. An observer writes, "Originally these jackets were styled with the characteristics of the Algerian uniform; colorful and heavily embroidered. They were small, with the front cut-a-way exposing much of the blouse underneath. They were fastened at the neck, with a hook and eye or a button closure. During the 1860ís, the jacket was adapted to civilian wear. As the style progressed the cut-a-way front was reduced until some of the later Zouave jackets had almost square styling. The amount of ornamentation on the jacket also decreased. With simple black accents replacing much of the original fancy braiding." [Harriman]


Most boys suits had no destinctive pants associated with them. Maby styles were worn with different types of pants, including long pants, knee pants, knickers, and short pants. Zouave suits on the other hand had very destinctive pants. They were generally worn at calf length. This was one of the first styles of shortened pants to be worn by boy. It may have been influentiasl in helping to establish the kneepants style that was to be dominate in the second half of the 19th century. Zouave pants were often, but not always made in the same color as the jacket. Even if the color was not the same, the ermbroidery or other detailing on the jsacket was repeated on the pants.


Zouave suits were worn with both socks and long stockings. The socks appear to have been most popular in France while long stockings appear more common in America. White or light colored stockings appear to have been commonly worn with these suits.


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Created: 5:40 AM 5/14/2006
Last updated: 5:40 AM 5/14/2006