Vernet Project: Have You Ever Head Of A Witzchoura?

I hadn’t!

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The text reads: “Toque de Velours. Witz-choura de Satin.” I’ve looked at enough fashion plates to guess the meaning of most of the text. After some quick reference to translation programs, I confirmed my suspicions and translated the text as: “Hat of velvet. ____ of satin.” The question is, what does “Witz-choura” mean?

First, let me tell you that I originally read the plate as “Toque de Velours. With-choura de Satin.” That z looks remarkably like an h, despite the fact that I don’t think “with” is a word in French (also, I don’t really associate the letter z with French words, so I was happy to interpret it as an h). I followed this path for awhile, though, despite the fact that it didn’t quite make sense. Assuming “With” meant what it does in English, I proceeded to try to figure out what “choura” meant. I looked at English dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, with no luck. And in French dictionaries the closest thing I found is that “choura” is conjugation of “chouraver” or “chourer,” a verb which seems to mean “to steal” or “to rob” in English. But that didn’t make any sort of sense! The only other reference to the word “choura” I found was that it has a connection to an Arabic word relating to the parliament of an Islamic state. Again, no connection. So then I thought, what’s the word for shoes in French? Maybe “choura” is an older form of that word? Turns out that “les chaussures” means shoes in French.

I was about to pursue this train of thought, when Mr. Q interrupted me. When I complained about my lack of useful results he suggested I try, amongst other ideas, a search of Google Scholar. My initial search turned up lots of science related publications with authors whose last names were Choura. But then, when I added the word “fashion” to my search, I was returned one result which was to the point and clarified the whole business (at least a little bit!). Mr. Q broke the mystery wide open!

The clarification comes from the book Empire Fashions by Dover Publishers. The relevant sentence can be found here and reads: “Around 1808, a high-waisted, fur-lined woman’s coat appeared, the witzchoura [wi choo ra].” Ohhhh, I thought, that’s not an h it’s a z!

Upon searching for it with the now-corrected spelling I finally found relevant information! All that will be in future posts, though. I thought I’d break it up to avoid having one really long post. So you can look forward to a post with descriptions of witzchouras and then also a post with images of them. At least I was on the right track!

(Click here for my original post about the 1814 Vernet Project, to which this post refers.)

8 thoughts on “Vernet Project: Have You Ever Head Of A Witzchoura?

  1. Glad you found the answer! They’re also sometimes called “Vitchouras” or other related spellings – I found the derivation at one point and have now totally lost it, but I’m pretty sure the name was a slight Francization of a river in either Poland or Russia.

    1. A spelling with a v makes sense. I haven’t come across any reference about a river with that name, but I haven’t gone looking for it either. Maybe an idea for the future!

  2. Dear Quinn,
    The hunt is on! The game is afoot!
    Witzchoura sounds Polish or Eastern European or Russian to me. What with so much happening in those regions during the Napoleonic period…
    Language games are such fun,

  3. Hello Quinn,
    You know what is really funny? About an hour before I saw your post, I googled Witzchoura mantles since I am making a Regency cloak for the HSM and ran into some fashion plates of period mantles and cloaks. One page described two of them as “Polish Witzchoura mantles”. But my searching experience was rather similar to yours…
    Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    1. Well, Nessa, I hope you stay tuned, because there is more detailed research coming in upcoming posts! Maybe it will be useful and presumably relevant? Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      1. That sounds good.and it will be very useful. My initial plan was to make a simple cloak but now that I know about the Witzchoura fashion that might change. Much looking forward to learning more about it. 🙂

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