Seeking the ultimate…trouser pattern: Episode 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of our trouser saga! We thought it might be helpful for you to get a feel for the process we went through in creating the best possible fitting for our trousers. Obviously everyone has a different shaped body – any two people with seemingly-similar body types and sizes will find that a pair of trousers can fit completely differently, such are the idiosyncracies of a decent fit. In this post we’re not trying to give you a full-on guide to fitting your trousers. There are lots of books, courses and online resources that do that far better than we could (see Episode 1 of this blog). The point is that we’re not experts in fitting – but that even so, achieving a good fit is possible with a bit of time and effort. We wanted to share the process we went through, simply to explain our frustration and to demonstrate that the effort was worth it.

The problem

Buying a pair of straight-forward classic black trousers is be something that most of us will have attempted at some point. However over the last couple of years it’s become apparent that even this most basic of wardrobe items is nowhere near as easy as it should be. To illustrate this, here are two pairs of classic black trousers currently in our wardrobe. Setting our dignity aside in the service of this trouser quest, we’ve photographed these to illustrate our dissatisfaction…

Trouser 1 – Wide-cut trousers

You’d think that a pair of wide-legged trousers, loose-fitting right down the length of the legs, would be an safe option. Not so. Here you can clearly see there’s an excess of fabric around  the front crotch, the trousers hang straight down from the widest bit of the tummy, and there seems to be a vacuum under a rather flat bottom where excess fabric has gathered.

Wide trouser front
Excess fabric at front crotch
Wide trouser excess
They’re meant to be loose fitting but….
Wide trouser side
Excess fabric and poor fit at rear affects the drape

Add to that a slightly tight and overly-high waist and hey presto – a badly-draping set of black curtains.

Trouser 2 – Narrow-leg trousers

Here we have a perennial attempt at finding a cigarette trouser to fit. Sad to say this is one of two pairs of trousers currently in the ClothSpot wardrobe, both of which share the same problems. Any trouser-shopping session usually commences with a face-off between relatively narrow hips compared to a relatively large waist. There’s usually some sort of compromise between a slightly snug waist and excess hip space. You can also see that excess fabric at the upper thigh as well as around the overly-long front crotch.

Narrow leg trouser front
Excess fabric at front crotch and upper thigh; tight over calf.

Here though we can also see that the trousers are too  tight around the lower thighs and positively strained over the calves. So much so, that the entire garment is being pulled down as the legs can’t be pulled up any further. Sit down and they get jammed around the calf. Stand up again and this is the result.

Narrow leg trouser after sitting
After sitting down and standing up again. Eeuw…

The wearer has to surreptitiously work the trouser hem back down again as the trousers are still stuck on the calves and gathered around the knees.

Narrow trouser adjustment
Yoga required to surreptitiously edge trouser back down.

This, readers, is what happens when you use your legs as the good lord intended. In our experience ‘serviceable’ calves are something that neither healthy eating nor plenty of exercise will help. As with all the issues we can see in these images, it is our trousers that need to adapt. Hence…

The toiles

These are the toiles we prepared. We used our Calico fabric which is a medium-weight fabric, well up to the task of repeated unpicking and re-stitching and which holds a shape well. Alternatively you could use old sheets (we know of someone who’s working through their spare bedlinen!)

Toile 1

This one was straight from the pattern (the BurdaStyle Basic Pant Sloper as described in Episode 1). We selected the size based on the hip measurement. This resulted in tight thighs, an overly-low crotch, a baggy lower back and excess fabric around the front of the crotch. Yet, oddly, a baggy waist. That’s a new one…

Trouser toile 1
Toile 1 has lots of excess fabric at the front. The ‘frown’ line is the giveaway sign of an overly-long crotch.
Trouser toile 1
That long crotch is obvious when taking a step.

Toile 2

We attempted to correct the crotch length and the excess front-crotch fabric by following the steps set out in this video. This explained how to deepen the curve of the front crotch as well as how to remove a horizontal segment to remove excess fabric. We also slightly widened the lower thigh and both deepened and lengthened the back darts to accommodate the back curve. The result was a relatively well-fitted rear but still too much fabric in the front crotch area and still too low a crotch – partly because we’d deepened the crotch curve without reducing the overall length. We also realised that there was excess fabric at the top of the inner thigh.

Trouser toile 2
That long crotch ‘frown line’ still in evidence, as well as excess fabric at the upper thigh.

Toile 3

We tried to correct the front crotch issues by repeating the previous steps; also reducing the overall crotch length. We then found that by altering the angle of the hip seam, we’d lost too much fabric just below the waist and across the tummy, so we’d need to compensate for that. Plus there was still too much fabric at the inner thigh and that crotch was still too long…

Trouser toile 3
Not enough fabric over the tummy, but still too much at the upper thigh.

This toile had its other leg used as the basis for the subsequent attempt. Since these were a closely-fitted trouser they were all made up with two legs (contrary to the advice given in some quarters) in order that the fit could be properly assessed.

Toile 4

And bingo – almost there. We can’t show you this one as in our excitement we’d dismantled it for pattern-tracing before remembering to take a picture. However we can tell you that tweaked by deepening the front crotch curve just a fraction more to remove yet more fabric from the front – but also reducing the overall crotch length as we did so. We also added a little bit of ease at the sides, on and above the hips to compensate.

From that point on we were able to create a pattern for our trousers. We did this by carefully unpicking and pressing a front and back section of the toile…

Calico trouser block
Toile pieces unpicked, pressed and marked up

…then carefully tracing these patterns and markings to a paper pattern. It’s now very obvious that the pattern is a different shape than before – narrowing to the hip and with a much shorter front crotch.

Paper trouser pattern
Final trouser pattern pieces with tissue added to widen legs for this project.

The result

To make up our final trousers we added width to the leg from the thigh downwards to create a ‘fit and flare’ style trouser. To do this we just added some additional tissue paper to our pattern as you can see in the last image. The aim was to have a good close fit around the hips and upper thigh, but to add some draping movement to the rest of the trouser leg. We thought this would make best use of the Drapingly-deep bronze crepe fabric which we desperately wanted to have the opportunity to make up. This is our final result.

Final crepe trouser front
Front view of our finished trousers – no ‘frown lines’ here!
Final crepe trouser rear
Rear view of our finished trousers – look – no baggy bits!
Final crepe trouser side
Side view – comfortable to wear and hang well.

We can report that these are beautifully comfortable and inspire a huge amount of confidence in the wearing. Being picky, we’d say that the back waistline is a little high and the front a tad low – also we think we might want to pull the side seams round to the back a little. So much excess was taken from the front crotch area that there’s just a little too much fabric on the back sections compared to the front. However that’s for our next make – for now we’re very happy! These trousers have been worn in real life – retaining their fit and comfort despite the consumption of an indulgent meal out (which we felt was much deserved after all that…)

Cost

We know how much this matters! We used 4m of our Calico fabric @ £3.95pm, plus 1.3m of our Drapingly-deep bronze wool crepe fabric @ £17.50pm. Add two 22cm zips @ 95p each (it’s perfectly possible to re-use the zip between each toile – we did) and the cost of the pattern (about £4) – and the total for our project was £44.45. Less than a decent pair of trousers from the shops – plus they fit – and are fabulous quality (if we say so ourselves). The real prize is that we have a pattern to re-use, meaning we can crack out a pair of simple stretch cotton drill trousers for not much more than a tenner in future.

And finally…

Our fitting process is obviously based on one specific body type; nonetheless we hope it will convince you of the value of making a toile for the best possible fit – especially for trousers. Now we’ve got our basic pattern to fit, we’re planning to use and re-use it. We’re currently eyeing up the different colourways of our Linen-textured stretch cotton drill fabric for one or two pairs of sturdier cigarette pants and we’ll post these as soon as we’ve had a moment to run them up.

Do let us have any suggestions as to how you have dealt with fitting your trousers – and the sources of help and advice you’ve used.

 

 

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