I wanted trousers, I made trousers, I wore trousers. TROUSERS!
These might look like ordinary trousers, but they contain a veritable universe of pain, suffering, hard-won sewing experience--and eventual triumph! Also: polka-dot pockets:
And a hidden elastic waistband:
They're the first proper pants I've made (not counting pajama pants, pull-on pants and baby pants) and I'm not embarrassed to say that I started these over a month ago, because they are now the most comfortable, best-fitting pair of pants I own, and I will wear them INTO THE GROUND.
I took my time, made a muslin, read lots of reference materials, did lots of basting, and ripped out and redid anything that wasn't quite right. And as I wore them today at work I had this nagging sensation that they were too good to be true, and that my magic pants would somehow turn into a pumpkin (or rip up the rear)... but no. They're real, and they're mine! Phew!
Inspiration: I had three main inspirations:
- 1940s-style natural-waisted wide-legged trousers with creased legs...
- Maternity pants and toddler pants with hidden elastic. So comfortable!
- Burning hatred of all RTW pants. If they fit in my hips, they sag at my waist and rear. If they fit in the morning, somehow by the evening they are huge and sagging or super-tight. And they are always the first thing to stop fitting with even the slightest weight change. GRRRRR.
Why is photographing clothes so HARD? I tried this morning, back when they were perfectly snug and pressed, but even super-lightened these pictures are a bust:
So I ended up snapping some cold and windy self-timer portraits in a park at lunchtime to get proper color, but by then they were a bit wrinkly:
The pattern: Out-of-print Vogue Elements 9745 from the stash, a slightly below-the waist wide-legged trouser with contour waistband, fly front (no shield) and center back seam, with optional cuffs and carriers (which I skipped--I don't do belts on below-waist pants).
Pattern Sizing: The original envelope included sizes 6-22. I cut a 14, which should have been SLIGHTLY too small in the waist (I have a 28.5" waist, 38" hips)... but I ended up taking in 2 inches on the hips and 1 inch on the waist, plus adding elastic to the whole waistband to pull it in another inch or more.
This was partly due to my fashion fabric, partly to me randomly losing a few pounds (my toddler has been nursing a LOT lately--growth spurt and all that). And although my pants fit perfectly in the a.m., they did start to sag and bag a little by the end of the workday.
Were the instructions easy to follow? There was just one sheet of simple-looking illustrated instructions, but since I had never made real trousers before, they might as well have been in alien cryptoglyphs. So I relied heavily on step-by-step photo instructions from the Easy Guide to Sewing Pants and Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Overall I love it, but I realized after assembling the fly front that it's backwards--it faces the same way as the fly fronts on traditional men's pants, but most women's pants have it the other way.
- Trousers: Soft navy corduroy from the stash. I found it really tricky to cut in layers--it kept sticking to itself, so one leg came out longer than the other and I had to recut in single layers.
- Pockets and inner waistband: polka dot quilting scraps by Denyse Schmidt from the stash.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
- I lengthened the legs by an inch or so, to a 32" inseam.
- Took the hips in by 2 inches, and the waist by 1 inch. I did this after basting the fashion fabric pants together, standing in front of a mirror and pinning out the excess at the side seams:
- Replaced the standard interfaced waistband with a hidden elastic waistband, following instructions from Power Sewing. The elastic is zig-zagged to the seam allowance of the waistband so it doesn't turn inside the casing. I didn't want them to LOOK like elastic-waist pants, so I kept the back darts. The elastic only pulls in the waistband slightly--maybe an inch or two all around--much as a belt would.
- Used rayon seam binding for the lower edge of the inner waistband, creating a little "curtain" as I've seen in most of my RTW pants/skirts:
Every part of the process was painful--I swear 90 percent of my time on these was spent poring over instructional photos, second-guessing myself, trying on the muslin and fashion fabric version repeatedly, squinting at the mirror, pinching the fabric here in there, sobbing, what have you... as opposed to actually sewing. It reminded me of the time I took a road trip around Southwest France, got lost every five minutes due to all the roundabouts, had to ask for directions in my rusty French--and eventually got there.
Because it all worked out and I have a feeling that my next pair of these will be smooth(er) sailing! Please don't tell me otherwise.
- Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing
- The Easy Guide to Sewing Pants
- Pants for Real People
- David Page Coffin's Making Trousers for Men and Women
Successes:I MADE TROUSERS AND THEY ARE THE BEST MOST COMFORTABLE TROUSERS I OWN.
Room for improvement:
- Next time I may try a version in a lighter color with elastic only in the back (and petersham in the front), and some fun top-stitching.
- They should probably be a little snugger around the belly in the front.
- Maybe I'll try a wider contour waistband that goes all the way up to my natural waist.
- I'll use a better zipper, this one is a bit flimsy.
- But the main area I need to improve in is SPEED.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes and yes. After all this work, I'm hoping these will become a TNT pattern!
Wear to:Work. Weekend. Playground with my daughter. EVERYWHERE!
Conclusion: I made trousers and I am happy. And here they are at the end of the workday, a bit looser and saggier and wrinklier, but still AWESOME:
Good night all! May all your sewing projects go smoother than this one, but with just as happy results!