The Curious Polonaise-Sacque Jacket

1780-81 jacket – Glasgow Museums Collection – 1932.51.o

January is Costume A-D-D time. A whole new year lies ahead and we are all brimming with project ideas. Some I’ve even started and have abandoned for the time being as the new shiny ideas and events crop up.

Latest on my *grabby-hands* list is this amazing 1780-1781 Scottish jacket. What I love about this piece is that it is a bit weird: it is made like a polonaise in the front with loose open edges and a false waistcoat…but it has a sacque back.

The jacket is made from hand-corded linen, lined in linen. It was worn by Mary McDowall, the wife of George Houston of Johnstone Castle in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and is currently held in the Glasgow Museums Collection.

The fronts of this jacket is made like a polonaise, with the front edges flying open and canted to the back by both a pleat in the front edges and a tuck taken close to the side back seam. 1780-81 Glasgow Museum Collection 1932.51.o

Luckily for me, Abby and Brooke Welborn studied this gown and took excellent photos. I can’t share these photos, unfortunately, but they’ve already helped immensely in understanding the quirks of this jacket.

My drawings and notes trying to work out how this jacket was made. I saw Brooke’s photos after these sketches so now know there is a tuck in the front piece near the side back seam that helps shape the front of the bodice, typical of polonaise construction.

For instance, the skirts are cut and pleated peculiarly from the side seam to back underneath the sacque pleats, rather more like an English gown than a sacque. The cuffs are put on very interestingly, and the bodice fronts are shaped entirely by tucks. Some things I expect and understand and others make me scratch my head a little. It’s the “wait, but why” that always intrigues me most, and the part I most enjoy, though.

The back of the jacket features narrow loose pleats. Curiously the side skirting is knife pleated back and under quite far and the whole waist edge is secured by a lining inside with no laces or ties at the center back, similar to an English gown. 1780-81 Glasgow Museums Collection 1932.51.o

I plan to make a version of this polo-sacque jacket in printed cotton lined in linen and will likely wear it with the green quilted satin petticoat. We do have an event to which I plan to wear this Scottish jacket, but I can’t announce it quite yet. 😉

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