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Ladies and gentlemen,

As many of you are aware, I am a major proponent of exploring the wide range of cultural options available to steampunk enthusiasts (as I discussed several months ago in my Tor.com article on the subject). Today, I would like to return to the topic of the Zouaves, who I discussed some time ago in an earlier historical reference post.

The Zouaves were initially a force of North African soldiers raised by the French in Algeria the 1830s (their name is derived from the Zouaoua, a Berber tribe in the region), whose uniforms were of a very distinct Algerian style. By the 1840s, the Zouaves had ceased to be a native Algerian force and had become French, but the new Zouaves retained the distinctive uniform of their Algerian predecessors. The Zouaves were as distinctive on the battlefield as they were on the parade ground, and they continued to serve France throughout the 19th century and even through the First World War.

But the incredible story of the Zouave fashion phenomenon did not stop there. A force of Zouaves was raised to serve the Papacy, and by the late 1860s it included soldiers from all across Europe. Polish Zouaves fought against the Russians during the January Uprising of 1863. And perhaps most incredibly, American Zouaves fought on both sides in the American Civil War, which was geographically, politically and culturally about as far removed from Algeria as possible. They represent a remarkable instance of a particular 19th century fashion aesthetic being adopted by foreign cultures, which is very fitting for steampunk.

Regards, etc.,
-G. D. Falksen


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
that first picture is so awesome i have a hard time believing that it's not all artistic license.

and apparently zouave pants are what falls between sweat pants and slops in the "how much effort am i willing to put in" scale of SCA fighter clothing. i finally have a name to give them!
Feb. 22nd, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Years ago, when I thought that I would be attending a Civil War reenactment, I made a ladies Zouave styled jacket (part of a complete - I believe Butterick patterned ensemble which, due to the fact that I didn't end up attending said Civil War reenactment, is still not done)

It was the very first piece I thought of when invited to a Steampunk event. I made a lovely little broach out of parts from a local hardware store and got so many comments that it caused me to fall in love with the aesthetic.

It's still my favorite and most useful item of costuming. I need to find the pattern so I can tinker with it (a Zouave shrug is eventually in my creative works)
Feb. 22nd, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
Not entirely related - except for widening the worldview - what do you know about Hutsuls or Kozaks?
Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
Re: lovely!
The Hutsuls are a culture residing in the Carpathians. They have a remarkable fashion aesthetic which is extremely colorful, if memory serves me. Here's a 19th century picture (in monochrome, I'm afraid): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Huculi1872.jpg

When you say "Kozak" I'm assuming you're referencing the term commonly spelled "Cossack" in English (both are acceptable spellings, of course). While Cossack communities had spent several centuries as a buffer zone between West Asia and European states like Ukraine and Russia, by the 19th century they had been annexed by the Russian Empire and served as cavalry troops for the Tsar. They retained a distinctive uniform style in addition to modern weaponry, and were remarkably loyal (which did them in after the Empire was overthrown in the Russian Revolution).
Re: lovely! - wildhunter - Feb. 23rd, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
quizzle - tracyandrook - Feb. 23rd, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
I told my husband that if he wants to do Civil War replica dressing sometime he MUST be a Zouave.

Look at these lovely reenactment uniforms:


Click on the photo to see it REALLY large, the detail is so nice.
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
Well done man!! I am currently putting together my French 3rd Regiment Zouave uniform for reenactment and Steampunk Conventions.
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
As an additional note, the French Army Zouaves retained their uniforms up into the beginning of WWI. During mid 1914 to 1915 a transition of the French Army from their Blue/Red uniforms to the Sky Blue/Grayish and the North African Units (Zouaves)changed their uniforms to Brown/Khaki color.
(no subject) - squirrelmadness - Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
First off, I love history, so thank you so much for adding this new bit of information to my mental archives!

So, now, this has me wondering. There were Polish Zouaves and American Zouaves, etc. So, are these original native Algerian Zouaves who migrated to and/or joined up with these other countries or are these natives of these other countries who adopted the Zouave dress?

If they are the latter, why did they choose to adopt this dress? Did the Zouaves represent a certain ethics, morale, lifestyle or even religion, did they have a certain fighting style that was so different and/or admirable enough to make other people want to adopt it?

These are questions you have aroused in this inquiring mind.....
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
zouaves were brought to america in 1859 by elmer ellsworth, primarily as a drill team. he was influenced by the tactics and dress of the zouaves he saw in algeria. ellsworth's zouave drill team toured the us; almost every community that his drill team appeared in raised a zouave company for its militia. these communities are mainly centered on the erie canal, as well as major cities between nyc and chicago.
(no subject) - veniceparrish - Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - professorotto - Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - squirrelmadness - Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
my whole-bunch-of-"greats" grandfather was a Union Zouave during the Civil War, and my aunt and uncle are reenactors. i've always found Civil War military dress inspiring. these photos are wonderful!
Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
is your icon a photo or a painting? i like the composition and the colors.
(no subject) - ixtli_awakening - Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shadowsong - Feb. 22nd, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 22nd, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
shadowedrabbit beat me to the punch in talking about the Zouaves jackets. I just bought a vintage jacket that I thought I would have to alter to fit an exotic Steampunk look. The seller called it "Balmain style", but the braiding and design are almost exactly like styles in the last three pictures up there. So, I suppose I'll leave well-enough alone. :)
Feb. 23rd, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Oooh, this is quite a nice lesson in style. My first memory of "zouave" was while reading Gone With the Wind; one of the belles had a beau who was a zouave. I seem to recall Scarlett sniffing at his trousers.

As a woman of ample proportions, I can't help but think that the pantaloons would be oh-so-flattering, in comparison to regular slacks.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
I can happily vouch for the capacity of Zouave-style trousers to accommodate a Fan Gut and a Queen Latifahesque rear bumper simultaneously; they also lend themselves nicely to the global motley look favored by many nomads and pirates.
(no subject) - ornithoptercat - Feb. 23rd, 2010 08:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)
It is so nice to have a resident historian. Thank you as always.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
It is my pleasure. I'm pleased to be of service.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
G.D., yet again I tip my hat to you.
I've been working on a Zouave outfit that will hopefully be ready for the World Steam Expo.
Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
I look forward to seeing it.
(no subject) - wildhunter - Feb. 23rd, 2010 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - macaodghain - Feb. 23rd, 2010 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wildhunter - Feb. 23rd, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sixgun45lc - Feb. 25th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2010 06:48 am (UTC)
This is interesting as I'd no idea about this in relation to the Civil War, with which I am generally fairly familiar with (of course, I grew up in states that don't all necessarily consider the war -over-).
Feb. 23rd, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC)
The Spahis, who had similar origins to the Zouaves, also had some pretty snappy uniforms. They're still in existence today, and got a mention in Victor Hugo's haunting orientalist poem, "La Captive."

Si je n'étais captive,
J'aimerais ce pays,
Et cette mer plaintive,
Et ces champs de maïs,
Et ces astres sans nombre,
Si le long du mur sombre
N'étincelait dans l'ombre
Le sabre des spahis.

Mar. 3rd, 2010 09:44 am (UTC)
Squeee!!! I was so excited! I was watching a relatively lame movie tonight from 1994 with Jimmy Smits called, "The Cisco Kid" about the Mexican Revolutionary War with the French, and in one fight scene, the French troops had Zouaves! Because of this post, I knew who they were! Thanks!
Sep. 12th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
If I'm not mistaken, Carl Kohler's A History of Costume has a beautiful women's "Zouave" jacket. I've always thought about making one... now I finally have a good excuse!
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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