DON'T YOU HATE PANTS?! *flings pants across the room*. Ok hate is a very strong word. But I think we can all agree what a challenge it is to find a good pair? I remember being so picky about this even as a wee tweenager. Apologies to my mumsy for what must have been some of the worst back to school shopping adventures that a mother could ask for. I've always been more of a skirt/dress girl myself but even I know that some days you just need pants. There are so many factors in how they look/fit, and everyone's body is very different from the next. One of my biggest complaints is often the waist, (I like it considerably high), the ease in the leg (the tighter the better for me), the butt (baggy butted jeans need not apply), and of course the colour/print! I often find when anyone finds a brand that fits....they stick with it because they know it works. But I'm crazy, I despise pant shopping, and I want to sew my own perfect pair of pants. It's been one of my design obsessions for quite some time now. I have made three pairs so far and am getting super close to perfecting the fit! I've nearly gotten it with my latest pair but I definitely had some big help on this one from another design company. No apologies for the butt close ups either. I like my tushy and I like clothing that compliments it.
Maybe the perfect pair of pants isn't so hard to find if you're into trends and the ethical status of your clothing doesn't come into question but I'm very picky about style and I'm very picky about where my clothes come from. At least, now I am. Years ago I was just picky about style but now I've added a whole sub layer to that pickiness by insisting that my clothes not be made through slave labour in a world that is run on slave labour.
What I want in a good pair of pants is a nod to the classic mid century style I love so much. I've had some luck in the past with the Deadly Dames cigarette pants from Pin Up Girl Clothing but after nearly wearing out my black pair I can now say that even those don't tick all my boxes. I also had the red pair at one point but I ruined those by working at a Mascot Factory (industrial sewing machine oil does not wash out well) and, frankly, the quality was disappointing because they started to fray like crazy after barely a year of light rotation. Oh and If you're not into sewing your own pair of ciggy pants then definitely give the Deadly Dames ones a try! If you're in the Edmonton area you can buy them in person at Rowena/Retro Glam clothing on Whyte Avenue or you can order them online through the PUG site linked above. PIn Up Girl Clothing is run by a powerhouse of awesome women and MADE IN THE USA. No slave labour!! They do focus heavily on that full on retro/pin up style but they definitely have great pieces that can be made to look more modern if you look at the pieces individually and not just in their theatrical styling. I highly recommend this brand if you're looking to add ethical pieces to your wardrobe.
Once again, I digress.....What I liked about the Deadly Dames pants though was that the fit was nearly perfect. Nearly. My butt and legs look great in them BUT (yes, yes that pun was intended) for me they didn't sit as high on the waist as I would have liked. The waistband always shimmied down on my torso exposing my belly button. I love wearing crop tops with high waisted anything and I'm not shy about my belly button mind you, but showing it off isn't always the look I'm going for. Sometimes I just want to show off a little midriff without fear of my belly button making an appearance too. I must be a little long in the torso because not everyone has this problem with them. The pant length also left something to be desired. They crop out just above the ankle which is definitely a classic 50s/60s look but it doesn't work for me all year round. Especially in a super frosty northern city where winter is literally 6 months long. I found them difficult to wear in winter because when paired with my sexy...err....rugged snow boots it looked like one of two things was happening; a) my boots aren't tall enough or b) my pants are too short. Now I'm handy with a needle and thread but making my boots taller doesn't really sound like a viable option. (Side bar; If you know where a gal can find fashionable boots that are good to -30 let me know. My snow shoe boots are the only thing that keep my feet warm in winter but are easily the most unattractive shoes I own.)
Naturally, the obvious answer is to sew my own. Naturally, this isn't any easier than trying on all the pairs at the mall. A good fit for pants is definitely one of the biggest challenges I've taken on in design. I always seem to have problems with the rise and butt. The rise is basically a delicate way of saying the crotchal (pretty sure I made that word up) region. This area is tricky because you don't want it too tight, for obvious reasons, and you don't want it too loose because then it just bags and looks unflattering. It also draws attention to a region where you don't necessarily want to draw attention to. This area should be comfortable but also sit relatively flat. As for the butt, I really just want it too look like a glove. This again means, not too tight, not too lose, and absolutely as little to no "bagging" under the cheeks as possible. I have now made three pair of pants and with each one I get a little bit closer to achieving the ideal fit.
I first drafted a pair of pants in the summer of 2014 and I must admit they turned out dandy for a first try. I used a pink gingham twill I've had for ages. It was a gift from one of my school mates who was actually going to use it as muslin because the fabric was not her style otherwise. *GASP* pink gingham twill is far too nice to use as muslin so I'm grateful she gave it to me instead. I've also made a pair of shorts with it! The fit of these pants is actually pretty decent but of course they wrinkle like crazy after just a few hours of wear. They definitely need a press each time I wear them out and are definitely a summer only pant. I kept them at a crop length for this reason. I'm super picky though and I find they still kinda bag in some of the wrong places so though I knew I was close.....I wasn't quite there yet. The shorts on the other hand are all win and I've also made a few pairs of those!! Not bad considering I drafted both of these from scratch!
After a few minor adjustments I made another pair using the same pattern. This time out of a yellow houndstooth I picked up from the tailor and dress shop I used to work at. This fabric was intended to be a coat, and I have lots of it so it still might become that, BUT it pills like crazy. I really don't love the quality of the fabric which is why I've shied away from using the rest of it. Trust me....the photos make it look so much nicer than it is. I have about 4 meters of it but I know whatever it becomes will pill and fuzz. These pants fit great right out of the wash but after a few wears the weave starts to relax and the butt gets all baggy. No good! I definitely love the colour and the pattern but I wish the weave and texture were different.
For a non woven material this pants pattern is pretty darn decent but I've learned enough now to know that cigarette pants are best suited to stretchy materials. I finally decided that I would literally take a page out of Deadly Dames book and copy a pattern right from the source.
I've never copied a commercial pattern before but I had a pretty good idea of how to take it on. I did a bit of research online and in my textbooks and set to it. The short version is, is that you carefully flatten the pattern pieces as much as possible and trace away! I also made sure to take measurements wherever possible to make sure I wasn't being too generous or too chintzy with my tracing. You can learn more about this process here.
From this draft I made a few design changes. I raised the waist because I felt the existing one was too low, I lengthened the pants to my feet instead of above the ankle, and I made the waistband quite a bit thicker than the standard 1".
I wanted to make just a basic black pair because black goes with so many things and because I work part time at a coffee shop that requires black attire. This would allow me to inject a bit of my personal style into an otherwise boring uniform mandate. Plus for the price of the fabric....it basically acted as a muslin anyway!
The material I found was perfect!! It's super stretchy and a great price at $9.99/m. I have tons of trims at home that I got for a bargain so including the zipper and button I'm confident the total cost of materials for these pants is $20 or less. I love the little white button at the back to! It's just the tiniest bit mod.
When I draft patterns I typically add 1/2" of seam allowance for straighter seams and 3/8" for curvy seams. This is a method I was taught in design school and it just stuck. BUT I strayed away from my usual routine for this project because I wasn't sure how my copying of the pattern would work out. I wanted to give myself some room to play and I also wanted to sew a lapped zipper so I added 5/8" seam allowance. Which I then had to take in a LOT. The fabric was soooo stretchy!! I ended up taking in about 3/4" at each side seam and at least a quarter at the back and inseams. I'm not complaining though. Better to over estimate than under.
All in all these pants fit great and I've corrected the things I didn't like about the initial Deadly Dames pants. Higher waist and longer legs are a total win for me. I think they could even be a touch longer for next time too. Are they perfect though? Not quite. In this case I feel like the rise could have been raised a bit and the waist could have been raised just a hitch more too. There does still appear to be a bit of pulling in the rise area which I would like to eliminate in my next pair. But I can't add fabric back so for now they'll serve their purpose. I think the butt and legs look great and I know that after my third pair of pants I'm so much closer to getting that ideal fit. I'll make corrections to this pattern and try, try, try again.
What are your sewing/design obsessions? Is there a look, pattern, or technique you're trying to perfect? Leave me a comment if you fancy and share some of your projects too. I'd love to see what you're up to!
Thanks for reading!!
Nicole A Go Go
*Photos are all taken by my lovely love of www.dbphotographics.ca on location at my pal Chantel's super retro household. I'm seriously spoiled. *