This post is about my latest project, which is a folded jacket in the style of Walcheren, in Zeeland. The most fun part of this traditional jacket is that it’s cut in 1 piece, and sewn into shape using clever folds and darts. The only seam is the underarm one, connecting the front to back under the sleeves. It’s such an interesting style, so it deserves some background info as well!
This is an original one, similar to mine:
Zeeland is a province in the south-west of the Netherlands, with a number of large islands, and strong connections with traditional dress. Although current traditional dress in Zeeland knows many variations, they have all evolved from similar clothing between the 18th century and now.
I own two books specifically about this costume. While the first book describes costume in general, including the societal and social connotations, this second book is about making it, focusing on pattern drafting. It’s actually one of the first books on traditional costume aimed at recreation, which I think is great as so much knowledge like this is disappearing. Today we still often wear older originals when showing traditional Dutch dress, but at some point you want to stop wearing antique clothing. Yet it often takes a lot of skill to properly recreate garments, so a book full of information on this is great.
The book includes information on how to draft you own pattern blocks, and how to use those to draft patterns for the traditional garments. It includes patterns for late 18th century stuff up to today, covering the whole range of different costumes in Zeeland today.
The most interesting chapter to me was the one on folded jackets. During the 19th and 20th century, two types of jackets were worn in Zeeland. The type that was cut in 1 piece and folded into shape, and a version which has cut pattern pieces. From the outside, they can actually look very similar, but construction is quite different.
In the book they differentiates between the two by calling the folded jackets ‘jak’ (jacket), and the cut ones ‘mantel’, or ‘mankel’ (current day translation would be cape, but in those days it was used for jackets). I don’t know if historically, this terminology was as strict, or if the terms were used interchangeably. Today, most museums just call the ‘mankel’ a jacket too, probably also because that word isn’t in use anymore.
The folded jackets were worn in multiple areas of Zeeland during the 19th century, but over time they were replaced by ‘modern’ dress in some areas, by cut jackets in others, and today they only survive in Walcheren (the western half of the middle island on the map above). As in all places, the costume is dying out, and hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s.
The book describes extant jackets from ca. 1800 to today, and it’s interesting to see how many things have stayed the same during this period. The length of the peplum, height of the neckline, length of the sleeves and fabric choice all changed with fashion. Basic construction stayed much the same though! I don’t know how/when this folding originated, but I think it’s rather fascinating that such an old technique survived. It’s great for saving fabric, as you don’t cut away much, so if you change size you just unpick all the darts and fit it to the body again!
The jacket above is one of the earlier examples of a folded jacket (early 19th century). Compared to the black one above (I suspect a mid-20th century version), it has longer sleeves, a longer peplum, brightly colored fabric, a higher neckline and flaps to close center front. The folding pattern is pretty much the same though!
There are a couple of things you can directly trace back to 18th century fashion. The robings on this 18th century style have basically become ‘princess-seam’ like folds in the later styles that have a closed center front. The cuffs of the sleeves were cut separate originally because of the narrower fabric width, and some later styles kept this as a stylistic choice. And the little piece which finishes of the center back neckline still survives even after construction changed a bit and it’s functional use disappeared. On this little piece, seamstresses would sometimes leave a stitching pattern which was basically their signature, so you could see who made which jacket!
Of course, as the book offered instructions on how to make such a jacket, I wanted to make one! It gives instructions for both the earlier style with longer peplum and front-flap closure, and the shorter later style. I went for the second one, but made sure the neckline would be high enough to wear it without something underneath (the 1950’s version is the latest, and basically closes under the bust, so that was a no-go). The style of mine is now very similar to the style you see in the mid-19th century. I actually made up the pattern over 2 years ago when the book came out, but on a recent trip to Zeeland finally got inspired again to actually make the thing. And I picked up fabric there, which felt appropriate!
My jacket is made out of ‘Zeeuws Bont’, which is probably the only fabric which is typically found only in Zeeland. Jackets were made in printed cotton, silk, wool, and later velvet. Never in this Zeeuws bont though, which is cotton with a woven pattern. This fabric was used for aprons specifically (they also call it ‘schortebond’ for that reason). But because it’s so recognizable as being from Zeeland, and my jacket itself will probably not be recognizable to anyone but the real specialists from the cut alone, I figured it’d be a nice choice. I lined my jacket with thin black cotton from my stash.
This pattern shows the lining fabric cut out on the fold (on the left side). The chalk lines indicate the placement of all the folds!
Making this was actually quite quick (after I made 2 mock-ups…). The lining & outer fabric are treated as one, and the folds are folded and stitched in, and the side/underarm seam is sewn. By this point, it has it’s shape!
After that it’s mostly finishing edges. I hemmed the sleeves by just folding them over and whipping them down, but the neckline and bottom edge I bound with bias tape. The fabric frays quite a bit, and this gives a clean finish. Originals often had the edges folded in on each-other as well.
The final touch was the maker’s mark! I did this with a little piece of wool. I like the little touch of black contrast, and the wool doesn’t fray, which means the edges don’t need to be folded under (that part’s just laziness…)
And that was it! I’m quite pleased with how wearable this came out, as it was also mostly an experiment with this style. Pairing it with a belt really helps to make it fit with ‘modern’ clothes, and gives it an almost 1950’s style. That makes sense, as the shape is mostly Victorian (and the 1950’s were absolutely a revival of Victorian shapes), and didn’t change much over the centuries. A good piece for historybounding!