Blue Heavy Cotton Sarouel

I've just been to the dry cleaners, and thought I'd show off what I had cleaned. This is a sarouel made for me a few years ago in Morocco. As with my silver silk-velvet sarouel, I bought the material from A-One Fabrics in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush. This time, it was several metres of heavy blue cotton, intended for wear during the colder half of the year.

I then took it back to Oxford, and had it washed and thoroughly dried at a local laundry, one accustomed to cleaning large quantities of bedding and other heavy fabric. I wanted to make sure that if the cotton did shrink, it would do so before it was made into trousers. Washing that much material at home would have been impractical, and drying it, even more so. I then had it taken to Tangier and made into trousers. I don't have a photo of them stretched out, but the shape is like that in the above post.

Blue heavy cotton sarouel
Blue heavy cotton sarouel

Vaisto High-Waisted Sarouel

Moving back up the map from Greece to very northern Europe, here's a high-waisted sarouel from Paul Tieman, an artist from Maastricht now living in France. I've mentioned him before; in the preamble to his blog Saaibestrijding, he says:

Some first steps toward the re-introduction of colourful and creative men's clothing, after two centuries dominated by black, grey, boring mass clothing. That is what Saaibestrijding is about. Often in cooperation with creative designers, makers, photographers and other enthusiastic people I try to trace new paths in male clothing. I am not a fashion designer. Not at all. My mother considered it necessary for her son that he learned how to use a sewing machine, but it was the central theme of my artwork that made me curious about, for example, the question why millions of western men are wearing day after day a tie around their neck. An extremely weird habit if you think further about it.

The Saaibestrijding project wants to inspire, to encourage everybody to leave the rude dictatorship of the fashion industry and its commercial power behind.

The trousers shown today are from Paul's post "Zeven-en-veertig" (19 November 2009) Wayback. They were made specially for Paul by Vaisto Design of Finland. The waistband is unusual. A rough measurement suggests it's eight to nine inches high; in fact, it comes up as far as the bottom of the sleeves on Paul's short-sleeved shirt. It's laced on each side with two interlocking zigzags of cord, and bicoloured, decorated in front with broad chevrons.

I don't know whether it's the fault of my terminal, but Paul's photos look quite dark, and I find it hard to see the different regions of colour. There used to be another photo in Vaisto's catalogue, which I remember as showing the patterning more clearly, but I think that's gone. So below are copies of the photos which I've lightened and made the colours more distinct in.
Front view of Paul Tieman wearing this sarouel.
Side view of Paul Tieman wearing this sarouel.

Also in Paul's post is a rather elegant stylised drawing of the trousers seen from the front. This clearly shows the high waist and lacing, as well as what I now know — from the historical-costume book of my previous post — are called the canions. But again, I don't see the colours as very distinct, so I've tweaked that too. The version below now has very inaccurate colours, but does reveal the patterning.

Greek Costume at the Benaki

Nicholas Sperling, I said in "Vraka", was a painter who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum in Athens. The Benaki has several subsidiary museums, but the main one, very easily findable if you know Athens, is near the junction of Koumpari Street with Avenue Vas. Sofias, and is devoted to Greek culture. Including costume.

I found some lovely photos in a blog post by "Joy": "Costumes at the Benaki" in her blog Of Stranger Sensibilities (30 June 2012) Wayback. Joy writes:

One can definitely tell that a whole assortment of foreign influences that were introduced and worked into the costumes, such as some Turkish elements for example seen here and there.

However what really drew me in were the rich details and intricacy of the embroidery. The sumptuous fabric and jewel tones of the different pieces are absolutely beautiful. I can't imagine scarcely imagine just how much time and energy it would have taken to craft each individual article of clothing, and the incredible amount taken to don the many layers. Of course, I highly doubt ordinary folk were dress as such on an everyday basis; these were likely the clothing of the elite who could all the handmaiden and servants to assist them each morning. While this makes me appreciate all the conveniences of modern sportswear and the like, there is a part of me that wonders what would have it been like to actually see people dressed as such on the streets. I guess the modern answer to this would be couture.

Do take a look at Joy's post. Even in photographs, the costumes are stunning.

One costume, less elaborate than the others, stuck in my mind because I've been writing about vraka. It has vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat. Here's a thumbnail to entice you to look at one of the original photos linked from my post.
Mannequin wearing vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat.
[ Image: thumbnailed from the post below, "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ]

I realised that I've seen these vraka and that jacket before. It was in another blog post: "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ("Greek costume in Aeolis") by Athanasia Stavropoulou in Ο Ελληνισμός στη Μικρασία – Küçük Asya'da Helenizm (Hellenism in Asia Minor) Wayback. It's in Greek, but Google does a surprisingly good job of translating: click here to read it in English. It's a short account of men's and women's costume in Asia Minor, mainly on Lesbos and Ayvalık on the Turkish coast, east from the northern end of Lesbos. As I said, it includes the photo from which I made the thumbnail.

Box Pleats for Warmth

In my post about vraka, I showed pairs from various parts of Greece. Some are highly pleated, the most so being this very smart pair from Crete:
Costume from Crete, showing vraka. [ Image: via Wikimedia, uploaded by user Pycckhcoz, attributed to E. A. Cavaliero ]

This interests me because most of my sarouels — baggy trousers or harem pants — are in light fabrics, so not ideal for British winters. I caught a glimpse of the Daily Star this morning, screaming about Icebox Britain; and though this may not be entirely reliable (the paper also claims that a "Secret space programme base" has been spotted in a crater on the moon), the Beast From The East could yet revisit.

This brings me back to a remark I made in "Citizen of Nowhere on a Brexit Farewell Tour". The Wikipedia article on the fustanella or Greek kilt cites the paper "Akritan Ikonography on Byzantine Pottery" by J. A. Notopoulos, which says that the fustanella evolved from the Roman toga, and that in cold climates, pleats were added for extra warmth. I was puzzled about how this works, but it makes perfect sense when you look at the diagrams in "'Military' Box Pleats" in the blog Matthew A. C. Newsome KiltmakerWayback.

These are the diagrams, which show how the pleats bend and overlap as the kilt is made wider:
Box pleat in a four-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a five-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a seven-yard kilt. [ Images: by Matthew A. C. Newsome, in his blog post "'Military' Box Pleats" ]

To see photos of the effect in kilts, visit Matthew Newsome's blog post. I've never seen harem pants designed this way: if they have pleats at all, these are for decoration and to allow the fabric to gather. But it seems an excellent idea, and makes me think I should commission a kiltmaker to design my next pair.

Vraka

Here are some more pictures of vraka, the baggy Greek trousers that I mentioned in passing on Friday. I obtained them by an image search for images of "vraka" labelled for reuse. They all turn out to be from Wikimedia, which isn't surprising because that must be one of the main public-domain sources. Below, I've captioned each with its title or region, linking this back to the original, and with attribution to its author and the user who uploaded it to Wikimedia.

The first two don't have a region given. One of them is of a soldier, Ιωαυ. Πολυξιγκης. Presumably, his first name is Ioannis. I like to think that, whatever he may have achieved militarily, he's now just famous for his trousers. The other is labelled merely as Greek costume.

Greek costume, showing vraka.
Greek costume
Unknown , Ketsocruz

Then there are a lot of pictures from Crete:

Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Perakis, Fortzakis & Cie, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Unknown, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero. La Canée, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Behaeddin, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E.Athanasiades, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Sperling, Nepuzedin

And then there are costumes from other parts of Greece. These are all, like the final two above, attributed to Nicholas Sperling. According to The American College of Greece, Sperling was a miniaturist who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum. Some of his watercolours are visible on the American College of Greece's Sperling page. By the way, this page shows the picture of the Cypriot as being of a woman from the Dodecanese. I'm not convinced: "he" doesn't look female, and his costume is very different from that of the women shown.

Greek costume from Corfu, showing vraka.
Corfu
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Cyprus, showing vraka.
Cyprus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Epirus, showing vraka.
Epirus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Northern Epirus, showing vraka.
Northern Epirus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Lefkas, showing vraka.
Lefkas
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Skyros, showing vraka.
Skyros
Sperling, Nepuzedin

In everyday use, "βράκα" in Greece appears to refer to harem pants: an image search turns up mainly pictures of trousers for sale that may be baggy, but certainly don't look as well tailored as the traditional variety above. When I'm next in Greece, I'll have to visit some vintage shops.

Orange Satin Sarouel

On Monday, I showed pictures of a full-length silver silk-velvet sarouel, made for me in Tangier with material from A-One Fabrics in Shepherd's Bush. But I've had trousers of the same design made with Moroccan fabrics too. I once commissioned two on spec, with colours to be chosen by the tailor.

For one pair, he'd chosen a wonderful vivid orange satin. Here are some photos, including two which show the fly, belt loops, and elasticated ankles:
Orange satin sarouel

Orange satin sarouel, showing flies and belt loops

Orange satin sarouel, showing elasticated ankles

Orange satin sarouel

Though rather thin for winter, the material is OK for autumn and spring. Because it's so bright and cheerful, I wear this pair a lot. The orange makes a stunning contrast with this ice-blue top and this turquoise top. In a different way, it goes very nicely with this green, this black and scarlet, and this Chinese red. And with some others that I don't yet have photos of.

Silver Silk-Velvet Sarouel

The silver silk-velvet jacket pictured in Friday's post was made with the same material as the sarouel trousers I'm going to write about now. In a sarouel, the lowest the crotch can be is at the ankles; when, really, it isn't a crotch any more, but just an edge with holes in for the feet. As in this design from Balenciaga:
Sarouel with crotch at ankles

I've seen sarouels this shape in shops. At least one "Oriental" gift shop in Oxford sold them, made out of silk; Fusion Clothing in Portobello Road, London had a more robust version in a rather rubbery synthetic; and FantaZia in France had a very sturdy kind made from denim, their Sarouel Jean Mixte Zayu. Sturdy that is apart from its colour, because I bought one once, and when I got caught in a June rainstorm, the dye ran and stained my jacket.

But none of these have flies; they all use drawstrings rather than belts; the material tends to be thin and droopy; pockets are non-existent or so floppy as to be unsafe; and the designs available tend to be "hippie". (Admittedly, the last three don't apply to the Jean Zayu.) I wanted a properly tailored sarouel, nicely pleated and made with as much detailing as a conventional pair of trousers.

Moreover, I'd seen photographs of flowy grey-velvet trousers — in a Tom Ford collection, I think — and thought it would be nice to get a full-length sarouel made with a similar fabric. Full-length because I have a lot of three-quarter-length Moroccan trousers, but in Britain we have winter; and velvet because a full-length sarouel has a lot of relatively flat surface interspersed with pleats and folds, which gives loads of room for velvet's shine and shimmer.

So when I was in London one day, I took a side trip to Shepherd's Bush to get some fabric to have sent to Tangier. As Sew Over It's "Fabric Shops in London" explains:

If it's fabric bargains you're after, there is no better place to go than Goldhawk Road in Shepherd's Bush. Head out of Goldhawk Road tube station (Hammersmith & City line), or walk five minutes from Shepherd's Bush (Central line), and you'll find yourself in fabric shop heaven. There are over ten fabric shops on Goldhawk Road, and whilst they can be a bit higgledy-piggledy, it's worth the rummage. My favourites are Classic Textiles and A-One Fabrics.

I went into several shops. A-One had the nicest selection of velvets, including a variety of greyish and blueish silk velvets. So after taking samples outside to see how they looked in the sun, I chose seven metres of silver-grey. I had it taken to Tangier, together with my Jean Zayu to show the tailor the shape I wanted. And the photos below show what I got back.

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

The sarouel, by the way, cost me about £30 for labour, plus the cost of the velvet. Or half the velvet — about 3½ metres — because the rest went on my jacket. And this was cheap. When walking around London on another visit, I happened to pass a boutique named Digitaria run by Eleftheria Arapoglou and Stavros Karelis at 60 Berwick Street. I don't believe it's there any more, despite that link; but they had one sarouel, not quite full-length, on sale. For £450. It was cashmere, but even so.

Footnotes

From "How Low Can You Go?" by Sameer Reddy, The New York Times Style Magazine, 9th March, 2010.
https://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/how-low-can-you-go/

A Strange Moroccan Fabric

This is a very unusual pair of qandrissi. They're a kind of turquoise, but the weave contains some orange cross-threads. It's also very open. Although the trousers initially were very good against the wind, some threads tended to fibrate apart in the way that worn shoelaces do. This happened particularly on the pockets, which is why they've been bound with ribbon. My thanks to Carole Duma for doing this.

Blue qandrissi shot with orange

Blue qandrissi shot with orange (detail of weave)

Blue qandrissi shot with orange