Saturday, March 31, 2012

Perfecting pants

During my recent sewing slump, an early cold snap made me realise that I desperately needed more pants in my work wardrobe. With no inclination to sew on the horizon, or so I thought, I headed to the shops. I would never guess that buying simple work pants would be such a challenge! To begin with, I am in-between sizes - they story of my life! Pants these days also don't seem to flatter my shape - they are high waisted, pleated, pegged or cropped - all of which = ugly on me! I also didn't realise how much a nice pair of trousers would cost. I reluctantly coughed up $130 to purchase these very basic black pants from Witchery.

I still can't believe I spent $130 on one item of clothing, that wasn't footwear! I know this isn't overly excessive, but ugg! I ain't made of money!
With this horribly expensive memory still fresh in my mind, I set aside some time to experiment with and construct a perfect pants pattern - fitted just for me.
This is where I'm at right now and I think I'm almost there. The front of these pants is based on OOP Simplicity 3850 which is a Built By Wendy pattern. I have used this pattern three times before, here, here and here. While I like the flat front and slash pockets, I have always struggled to fit the rear of the pants with quite a bit of excess fabric pooling there.

So in addition to addressing the rear fitting issues, I also wanted to:
  • Slightly increase the rise of the pants (by about an inch) as my new comfort level is a little higher since having kids.... and maybe getting older.
  • Reduce the width of the waistband, as belts aren't a thick as they used to be.
  • Slim the leg even further as the original pattern isn't terribly slim by today's standard.
To address the rear issue, the first thing I did was compare the Simplicity pattern (right) to my Burda slim pants (left), which fit well in this problem area.
As you can see, there is a major difference in the crotch curve and size.  Rather then simply reshape the curve of the Simplicity pants, and deal with the inevitable flow on effects to the back rise and overall the size of the pants, I completely re-drafted the back of the pattern based on the Burda pants curve, adding a dart to shape the pants and aligning the rise with the modified front pattern which I also re-drafted.
There is a definite improvement to the area, but still it isn't perfect.
I'd love to achieve the fall of these lovely pants from Zara.
But I think part of the problem with my pants is the fabric choice - a heavier, stretch cotton sateen. The fabric was cheap enough to experiment with and good quality, but not drapey at all. It is a dark navy colour, which I thought would go nicely with all the orange and autumn colour blouses I have planned in my head, but really, they just remind me of nurse pants.

Anyway, the $130 Witchery pants are fitted like this in the back, so at least mine look commercial in that regard.
I think a crease ironed into the pant leg might also help them fall straight. I might experiment with that...

These trousers are definitely wearable and well made, but there is scope to improve. My next pair will be made with a more drapey fabric. I also think I can slim the leg width just a little further and I also really need to learn how to sew a welt pocket. The faux button flaps are easy, but not schmick!

Do you have any other fitting or trouser making suggestions for me?

Self drafted pants based on OOP Simplicity 3850 and Burda slim pants 02/2010 No. 111.
Pattern: free - both used before.
Fabric: Stretch cotton sateen 2 meters = $14.80
Zipper = $2.80
Buttons = $2.40
Interfacing $2
Thread from stash
Total: $20.


  1. I really admire your ability to deconstruct and analyse patterns and make then work for your actual body shape/ size (As opposed to myself- I have quite a warped view of my shape that I can't get things to fit correctly), and your pants look great!

  2. They look fantastic.
    I've been reading up on altering patterns and the like at the moment... I think I'm almost ready to start altering commercial patterns and possibly drafting a pattern or two too.
    It is a continual and evolving process though isn't it? You've definitely had a win since these are wearable. Good stuff.

  3. These look good! Shopping hurts, doesn't it? Much more fun to spend that $130 on fabric and notions.

  4. I think your pants look really good. I am using Steph (3 hours past) to help with some of my pants fitting issues.

  5. These look great! You have done such a wonderful job. I am always so envious of people who can alter or re-draft a pattern. It totally scares me and I haven't attempted pants at all yet - just purchased Colette's Clover Pants pattern and very nervous regarding fit issues. I definitely think that with a drapier fabric you can get that straight leg Zara look a litle more - but I think wearing heels with trousers helps to elongate the leg too (as per the Zara shot). If you're like me though, heels hurt :)

  6. The Coletterie blog/website has some really amazing tips for fitting pants! I am in the process of making my first pair, and are actually a bit overwhelmed by all the ways to make pants fit perfectly, but am taking my time, and all instructions are really clear. Good luck!

  7. Those pants look fabulous! I really like that back flap pocket style. I was thinking lately that one big challenge for me might be to attempt a pair of pants, but now I'm not so sure I can do it, sounds more complex than I realised!

  8. I just found your blog and I think you are inspiring! I am sewing my first pair of pants right now, and my teacher was a book called "How to Make Sewing Patterns," by Donald McCunn. He teaches you how to draft a sloper, or closely fitting pattern, from your measurements and then how to change it into whatever from that point. It is very informative and I think it is easier to make your own pattern than try to change someone else's to fit you. You do kind of have to figure some things out (like the whole zipper thing), but he is really good about teaching how to fit clothes to the body. Thanks for sharing your clothes with us!

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