Hi friends! Samina here with yet another pocket-intensive post. This here is a sherwani.
A sherwani is just a long knee length or longer tailored jacket, a traditional wardrobe item for South Asian men. I also want you to know that this particular sherwani belonged to my husband who wore it to our wedding back in the early seventies (does that make it a vintage piece?). My husband died in 2008.
A sherwani has two side seam pockets in a style different than other side seam pockets, and it seems to be unique to Pakistani and Indian menswear back in the day. I’m not sure it’s in use in today’s sherwanis. It is a different beast than what we women learned to install in our own clothes. Its easy to make, but a head scratcher in the way of form and function.
About the sherwani: it was custom made for my husband by menswear tailors who specialized in sherwanis; it has been hanging in the closet for decades but only now have I looked at the construction closely. The sewing, including the handwork, is so amazing that I refused to open up the lining to look at the pocket. I would have had to open up the gorgeous, evenly spaced hand stitching. But, feeling it through the lining and holding it up against the light revealed its secrets.
This tailored pocket is long and deep (what did the men stash in there?). Also, it is functional both on the front and back, by which I mean the large pocket bag is centered behind the pocket opening, which makes it functional on either side of the opening. Too much functionality?
I decided to make a sample for this post, before actually using the sherwani pocket in a garment for myself ; my feminist instincts are kicking in right about now and I desperately (eye roll) want to add this menswear feature to my own clothing. Here’s what I did to get the hang of it:
- We need 4 pieces for the pocket sample, every piece has a 1/2″ seam allowance: See my attempt at an info graphic above.
- Two pieces of cotton fabric to emulate a front/back side seam; the sherwani pocket is a side seam pocket.
- We need two pocket facings, cut in a long shape which is pointed at the top, goes almost to the hem and is rounded off at the outside corner (the opposite side attaches to the side seam). Maybe the graphic will explain it better.
- We need the pocket piece with the same shape as the facing, except its cut on the fold, and therefore has a full pointy shape at the top and is double the width of a facing.
- Last, we need a 2 inch strip of fashion fabric the length of the pocket pieces.
- Mark the pocket opening on the “front” and “back” pieces according to preference; it should be approximately 9-10 inches.
- Place each facing on the front and back “pretenders”, starting with placing the pointy end at the top mark and right sides together; to attach the facing piece, sew in a ¼ inch seam (yes, quarter inch) down the facing piece. Do the same with the other facing and garment piece, so they are mirror images of each other. Press the seams toward facings.
facings sewn to a front and a back in a 1/4′ seam.
- Sew the side seam using a ½ inch seam allowance, ending 1 inch below the beginning of the pocket opening. Sew the lower portion of the side seam, beginning 1 inch above the lower end of pocket opening. Press everything open; you’ll see that the two facing pieces now lie against the main fabric, and note the ¼ inch of the main fabric visible on the wrong side. This assures that the pocket facing won’t peek out.
- Prepare remaining pocket piece and the 2 inch strip thusly: fold ¼ inch on each lengthwise edge of the long fashion fabric strip to the wrong side and sew that edge; this will prevent raw edges of the strip peeking out. Mark center of the pocket piece and sew the strip down on right side of the pocket. What purpose does the strip serve? It hides the cotton (red in this sample) from peeking out at the pocket openings – all we’ll see is the fashion fabric.
- Turn over the pocket/strip assembly and lay over the main piece with edges aligning with the facings; they will not align exactly, so refrain from pulling to align the edges. Here’s where we need to do some careful sewing. Sew one side of the pocket and pocket-facing edges leaving the fashion fabric free, starting from the top pocket/sideseam point and ending at the bottom side seam. Include the seam allowance of the main piece but keep the rest of it free. Sew the other side in the same way.
- Turn to right side and press well.
- One last thing: Make small tight “eyes” (as in hook and eye, although I’m sure there’s another word for it) at the top and bottom of the pocket opening to stabilize the opening.
And….. you’re done. Finish the inside pocket seams any way you wish – maybe use pinking shears if you have them? Press the whole thing well. When using in a lined garment, this pocket will be hidden.
Now, to add this pocket to my own lady like jacket. Any suggestions?
Bonus note: a smaller and easier version of this pocket is still commonly used in a traditional South Asian men’s kurta. Its simpler to make since it’s just a patch attached behind the pocket opening which serves as the pocket; no facings.
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