Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trouser Triumph!

Trouser Triumph

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:

Pocket interior

And a hidden elastic waistband:

Hidden elastic waistband shows when at rest

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:

  1. 1940s-style natural-waisted wide-legged trousers with creased legs...
  2. Maternity pants and toddler pants with hidden elastic. So comfortable!
  3. 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.

The sketch:

Stripes + Wales trouser outfit sketch


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:

Trouser Triumph

Trouser Triumph

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:

Trouser Triumph

Trouser Triumph

Trouser Triumph

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).

Vogue 9745 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.
Notions: A 7" Coats & Clark zipper from Jo-Ann's (probably should have gone for something classier in retrospect), rayon seam binding, 1 1/2" wide elastic.

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:

    Pinning out excess fabric at the hips
  • 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:

    Trouser interior

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.

References Used:

  • 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


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:

Trousers at Work...

Good night all! May all your sewing projects go smoother than this one, but with just as happy results!


  1. These are wonderful! And the fit is great too. I love the elastic in waistband, so inspiring!

  2. Congrats on finishing your trousers! I, too, just finished a pair of pants. But, I've been lazy about taking pictures, so they're not posted yet. I love your sneaky hidden elastic. Something to think about so that the back of the waistband stays snug sans belt. Thanks for the tip! And, keep wearing those pants. They look great!

  3. Well done, and thank you for comments on the pattern. I may yet tackle pants, thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Triumph! Fabulous job and a great pay off to your endurance.

  5. You know, I am currently working on a pair of trousers and I was just thinking how nice buttonhole elastic is in kid's pants....

    So, woo hoo! They are fantastic!! You prevailed!!! Good on you for seeing it through. Now you have a pattern that works and you can make many, many pairs of trousers. I'm just going to pretend that I'm not totally jealous... ;)

  6. Awesome trousers. Your patience and diligence really paid off. This is just the start down the road for many more pairs of enviably flattering trousers!

  7. Yay for polka dotted pockets! They look great. I can understand the tortured, when-are-these-silly-pants-ever-going-to-be-done feeling, but your perseverance paid off. They drape really well on you and show off your figure! They will get faster. My first pair of elastic pants for my son took an embarrassing amount of time. Now I can crank out 6 pair in a naptime.

    I'm impressed too that you can get self-timer pictures done in public!

  8. Woohoo!! These look fantastic on you! Well done! :D

  9. Thank you all for your kind comments! (and to those of you who gave advice, too!)

  10. Mikhaela, these are wonderful! You should absolutely be proud of yourself - all that hard work paid off in the best possible way!! And now that you've perfected your pattern, I promise the next pair will just fly together :)

    I had to lol about your backwards fly - mine are always sewn on backwards too. Oops! Oh, and a word of advice (that you probably already know) - if you use fabric that has a little bit of spandex in it, the stretch recovery will keep the pants from sagging too much at the end of the day. I love the elastic waistband - that's such a great idea for keeping the pants snug & fitted without having the waistband dig into you all day.

    Ooh I'm totally jealous now. Need to make myself another pair of pants asap!

  11. They look fantastic, congratulations! Don't worry about the speed. This version you had a lot of problem solving to do. The next one will go faster.

  12. Congrats, they look awesome!

    Don't worry about how long it took, it definitely is worth it for you to have a TNT.

    If it makes you feel any better, my Clover pants took 3 months to make, 5 muslins, many books on pants fitting and pattern drafting, and matching it up with a pair of RTW pants that I own.

  13. How utterly gorgeous! They make your ass look fantastic :-) So happy for you to have found a pants pattern you can enjoy again and again.

  14. you.look.amazing

    I would actually kill for your waist

    x GS

  15. Your trousers look nice! It is always rewarding when all your hard work pays off, and it really did in this situation!

  16. Yay trousers! They really do look fantastic! I'm sure future pairs will be quicker and easier.

  17. What an awesome WIN!!! Congrats on your lovely trousers. I know what you mean about the reading and second guessing. I realized I was avoiding fitting my own pair (jeans) because I was afraid of failing - when you read a lot, sometimes the advice starts to get a little contradictory

  18. Well done!! They look amazing on you!! I have full-on trouser envy!

  19. Oh, TRIUMPH! Congratulations! They were totally worth the pain---you look absolutely fabulous! (You may need to slenderize your croquis a bit, though ;) )

    I will cross my fingers that you will be able to replicate them, as needed, without the angst their involved in their construction. They look great---exactly what you wanted! :D

  20. Wow! you did a really good job!

    Actually, I'm jealous because my kids are 24 and 29, and your belly is smaller than mine ... (oh well, I am working on it).

  21. Oooh, fabulous! Especially those polka-dot pockets!

  22. This looks fantastic! I've admired the stripes and wales inspiration picture for a long long time- yours looks so great!

  23. These are wonderful!! The fit is beautiful and the style is just perfect. They look amazing on you. Fine work.

  24. Hooray for pants that fit! They looks great, I'm glad you're so happy.

  25. Congratulations, you have made an awesome pair of pants! I think that pattern is the best for beginners in pants making, because it has you do the majority of sewing before you sew the side seams, so that when fitting at that stage you can really see what the pants will eventually look like. You have inspired me. I have lots of pants projects on the horizon but all are new ones to me, which means lots of fitting. So, I am actually going to make a pair of these (with no changes) since I've done them before. I caved and bought some bengaline w/ spandex and they will be my very next project. Hope mine works out as well as yours. ;)

  26. i keep coming back to these--i think you were so clever to sneak an elastic into the waistband, and your work on the pattern fitting was completely worth it. definitely an approach i haven't seen before and totally worth stealing :-)


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