The Pants That Fit

originally published December 20 2009

I’ve been on a quest for a good fitting pair of trousers for months.   I’ve been through at least 8 patterns and I don’t know how much fabric.  The pattern that fianlly worked?  JSM  I’ve made 2 muslins.  The first was made with a cotton twill.  I was looking for a light colored, firm fabric that I wouldn’t mind discarding.  This twill was a bad choice.  It was too firm.  The pants stood away from my body adding at least 20 pounds, to my right side; ditto for the left.  But I could see from the pattern that the X wrinkles had disappeared, there was no butt vortex however the front crotch was too long and waistband too large.  Both of those are typical for me.  My waist is tilted.  I have to adjust every pattern that has a waistline seam or the garment looks funny.  On this pattern, I removed 1″ from the waistband and deepened the darts about 1/8″ at the waistline.  I didn’t make the darts any longer even after removing nearly 2″ from the front. Oh wait, I did make the darts longer by 1″ in the back when I increased the back crotch length.

The waistband is another continuing story.  My waistline expands and contracts during the day.  What is comfortable in the morning won’t be right at noon or night.  And it may not be too small at those times, it may be too large!  I have this project kind of “on the back burner”.  I  don’t really want to put elastic in every pair of pants I make.   Methods to accomodate a waistline in constant flux are few.  Anyway, I’m not concerning myself with this today.

Today I’m thinking about the 2nd muslin.  It was made with a polyester crepe.  During the fittiing process it keeps telling me it wants to be palazzo pants.  However, I was determined to fit trousers.  (I may convert this muslin to palazzo pants at another time.).  And trousers I made.  Beautiful trousers.  They hang smoothly from the waistline across the back and butt, drape down the leg with only the slightest hint of a fold suggesting extra fabric in the lower leg, acceptable in a Marlene trouser. They skim across my stomach without hugging and pulling underneath it.  There are no smile lines.   Funny thing too, the closer I got to correctly fitting these trousers the more comfortable they were.  Now onto specifics for fitting.

I added a good inch to the crotch extensions.  Even as generous as this pattern was, I needed more under there.  I would say too, if you don’t have a lot of depth, this pattern would probably not be suitable for you.  But for me it was terrific. 

I also removed 1″ from the front side and put 1-5/8″ to the back side.  In every pant pattern I’ve worked with, the side seam lines bend towards the front and I need to add more to the back and take away from the front if I want my side seams to be vertical and not curved.  I think this is odd, because my RTW pants don’t have this problem only my sewing patterns.  I had read that some designers delibertly move an inch from the side-back and add to the side-front because the designer thinks that gives you a slimmer appearing behind.  But if that is so effective, why doesn’t RTW use it?  I don’t like it either.  I’m not happy until my side seam is perpendicular to my waist and bisecting by leg.    I’m happy with this trouser pattern it does exactly that for me, now that I have made the change.

Along the way, someone at Stitcher’s Guild suggested Cynthia Guffey’s method (sorry no link) of using the flexible ruler to copy a crotch shape.  I had a few seconds and the ruler.  So I thought, why not?  When I compared my crotch to the pattern it was nearly the same except for about a 3/8″ scoup out of the back.  I decided to try this alteration and I’m so glad I did.  Not only did this solve my final fitting challenge in this area, but the pant feels so very very comfortable.

I lowered the front crotch at the waistline by almost 2 inches and extended the back crotch by 1″ at the waistline.  It took a little tweaking to elminiate the last wrinkles. I had developed diagonal lines on the back that ran underneath the darts to about 2″ away from the hip.   It would seem that I needed to remove fabric there, but smoothing that up and lowering the waistband only create more and deeper lines.  I was preplexed until my camera caught a telling shot.  It was an accident really.  You see, I have to set the camera up on the tripod, program it for 10 sec delay (the most I can get), press the “take” button; then run to the designated spot (now marked with masking tape so I can find the same spot everytime) .  Then in the few seconds remaining, I smooth the pants, pull them into place, pull my T-shirt up out of the way and spread my legs.  In the accidental shot, I had pulled up one side of the pants but the camera flashed before I could pull up the other side.  Wozer, when I looked at the photos.  The pulled up side has the diagonal wrinkles, the other was smooth.  Smooth as a baby’s b…. well you get the idea.  I did have to think about this over night.  I raised the waist band 1/2 inch at the side seam.  All wrinkles gone.  Not only from here, but suddenly all wrinkles gone all the way down the leg.  It seems that my ideal waist line is a scallop.

Because I’m 5’3″ and patterns are usually designed for the 5’6″ frame, I always have to shorten the legs.  When the adjustments that I made to the crotch and waist, I only need to shorten my pants by 1″.  If I had shortened first, I would have removed 3″. 5’6″ – 5’3″ = 3″ too much. Right?  Apparently not.  When the changes are done and only the hemming remains, 1″ is sufficient to bring my hem up to my heel.  I wear 1/2″ to 1″ heels.  If I were taller, I would probably have needed to add leg length instead of removing it. 

Whew all this to get back to the backside fitting as well as it did with that first twill muslin.  It is proof that when you make one change to pattern it affects someplace else.  A single change is seldom made without affecting something else.

Pictures.  No, no no pictures.  I’m so happy with these I’m not posting pictures for anyone to criticize.  I don’t want to hear it.  Sorry. I just don’t.  I just want to be happy with what I have and where I am.