Style Crisis backslide
New colleague Kerry has been encouraging me to collect images for her to share on our Instagram account. We have a well-established routine for photographing new fabrics; not so much for other subject matter. My blogs tend to be seasonal (yes I know – that’s a polite way of putting it) so it can be a case of feast or famine. Consequently, we’re busy learning to capture images of works in progress, sights that inspire us, luscious fabric combinations selected by customers, our day-to-day activities and any projects we happen to have on the go.
Last month was all about sustainable sewing and I was prompted to fish out my oldest ‘me-made’ garment; a coat I made back in the early 90s. Inspired by my mother’s 1950s evening coat (which she continues to guard jealously), I fitted a blinder of a lining in my version which obviously had to be displayed on the Instagram post which we were preparing.
I shrugged it on and took some snaps to see how it might look, opening it to display the lining. And oh, the shame. For despite my vows to make an effort in my daily dressing, I realised that along with the amazing lining, I was displaying a dishevelled collection of old black jersey and scabby trainers.
It hadn’t happened intentionally. It was just a day where I knew I’d be moving rolls of fabric around, dressing the mannequin for photography – lots of physical work. I just thought it would be practical – and practical was *all* I’d considered.
Just for the picture, I hurriedly changed into a t-shirt dress and crop top that didn’t look as messy – but still didn’t spot the sad trainers until after I’d sent the photos off to Kerry to schedule.
Style crisis? You could say so…
A lesson learned
Time to remind myself that the best way of finding a personal style is to practice – consciously and constantly. I was shocked at how easy it was to slide back into old habits. How had this happened?
In hindsight I should have re-worked my wardrobe a weekend or two before, unpacking my autumn-winter clothing to replace the summery selection on the rail. That would have prompted me to consider my options – but time is always at a premium and especially at the end of summer it always seems too soon to bite that particular bullet. That is, until it’s too late.
Had I done so, I’d have realised I had options for the changeable weather that morning. It’s been two-and-a-half years since I set off on my personal crusade to resolve my style crisis. A quick survey reveals that I have four pairs of trousers, and a handful of tops from which to choose my A/W workwear. However it’s a selection that still leans towards ‘capsule’ in terms of scope and which isn’t without some issues.
Putting things right.
For starters, look – I can do it. Here’s what I’m wearing at the time of starting this post.
The trousers are in our ‘Brogue’ checked wool fabric (due back in stock next week!) and based on Style Arc’s Leah Lounge Pant pattern. That’s just a Jigsaw t-shirt on top and a military-style jacket picked up for a song in the Toast archive sale over a decade ago – job done.
The Leah Lounge Pant pattern is one I re-use because the fitting’s all been done; it’s quick and easy to make. However elegant the simplicity of the design in our triple crepe though, it’s less arresting in wool suiting fabrics which don’t have the same drape.
I’m obviously comfortable wearing lightweight wool trousers for work – so I thought it time to tackle something with an appropriately-tailored style that would make the most of those fabrics.
Choosing a pattern
I was torn between a tailored ankle-length trouser and something with a longer, wider leg.
First up, I reviewed my existing pattern collection, including a revisit of the Maker’s Atelier ‘Wide-legged Trouser’. It’s a simple design which leans more towards a draping lounge pant rather than a tailored design. I’d found that the cut hung from my waist at the back, skimming over my relatively flat bottom rather than following what shape I have.
It was then that inspiration struck in the shape of an Instagram post in which a stylish trouserista had used one of our summer linens to create a version of Deer & Doe’s ‘Narcisse’ pants. I loved the fit, the cut and the detailing and wasted no time in downloading a copy of the pattern for a closer look.
Choosing my fabric
My fabric choice was primarily driven by colour – this winter’s new gloves are burnt orange, as is my new t-shirt (see above) as well as a short-sleeved knit I picked up in the sale at the end of last winter. I waved these around the ClothSpot fabrics and decided without a doubt that our ‘Beaufort’ soft purple wool was the one for this project.
It doesn’t have a single purple thread in it, amazingly – but it does have blues and rusts which add up to the overall purple shade. Which is why my rust accessories worked so well.
Taking the plunge
Previous experience has taught me never to embark on trousers without a toile. Based on my measurements I graded from a size 38 hip to a size 45 waist. This was the result:
Apart from a waist height which felt like being dropped into a potato sack, I obviously had a sizing issue. Some research let me to a blog post by ThriftyStitcher Here, Claire-Louise recommends referring to a finished garment that fits, then comparing that to the finished garment sizes of the pattern you’re working with. Using this direct point of comparison gets around the issue I suspect I share with many, in that I tend to be generous with my measurements in order to avoid cutting a garment too small.
I should also confess that part of my style crisis arises from wearing clothes that hang far too loosely. Time to stop this habit in its tracks.
Comparing the finished measurements of the Narcisse trousers to my favourite fitted pair showed that I should be sizing from a 35 hip to a 44 waist size. I remade my toile accordingly and attached the waistband. This fitted! However I have a very short torso for my height and the design really did look laughably wrong on me (as evidenced by the laughter of youngest daughter). I cut the waist down to sit at the height of my favourite trousers and this was the result.
Success! By this time it was late on a Saturday and I was keen to have my trousers cut out for the next day. In the gathering gloom I thought I quite liked the reverse side of the fabric and proceeded to snip notches and sew tailor’s tacks accordingly. The next morning I continued with the trousers without giving my decision any further thought. Only when pressing my welt pockets did I begin to wonder what I’d done. For although I do like the weave on the reverse, it doesn’t have the finish of the ‘right’ side of the fabric and I wouldn’t recommend you follow my lead. I’ll be thinking twice before I rebel another time.
Other (minor) tweaks I made were more successful. The front pockets are meant to be cut in the trouser fabric but I replaced part of the pockets with lining, leaving strips of the trouser fabric at the opening edge.
I also used a trouser hook rather than a button as I didn’t have a fabulous button to hand.
Based on the instructions, the trousers came together really very well, although I suspect that previous experience in the welt pocket and fly zipper insertion will have helped.
The trying on
It’s always nerve-wracking when detailed processes like welt pockets have to be completed before a garment is assembled for a final fitting.
After the problems with my initial measurements, would the fit of my second toile and its adjustments be reflected in the final garment? Or would the care taken with those welt pockets be wasted in the event that the trousers didn’t fit? Those additional side seams might provide some latitude for fitting around the hips and waist, but the crotch curve seemed deeper and more square than I was used to.
I was almost shaking with anticipation once I’d put the main garment pieces together. I couldn’t wait until the waistband was cut and fitted to find out whether they fit. I did at least force myself to stay-stitch around the waistline before stepping into them gingerly and pinning up the front fly. And – oh! They fitted as beautifully as any pair of trousers I’d had. A deep sign and a little ‘whoop’ of relief. Judy poked her head up over her computer and raised her eyebrows, hardly daring to ask whether the yelp from the cloakroom was a good yelp or a bad yelp – and was as relieved as me to see the results.
One celebratory cuppa later and I was set to crack on down the home stretch.
The final garment
Here are my completed Narcisse pants.
There are some clever touches to this pattern. I think it’s a very well-cut and considered design with more than a touch of class.
One effect of the side stripe is to enhance the cut of the trousers at hip level. Since the seams are placed in front of and behind the side of the trousers, there are two seams to embrace the hip curve, helping the trousers to hug the body neatly.
The effect of placing the in-seam side pockets in the front seam of that side-stripe is to draw the pockets forward. That’s not only flattering in terms of their positioning, but the vertical pocket openings also serve to lengthen an area where I’m very short.
Placing this type of pocket on a single side seam of a fitted trouser would have been much less clean and elegant.
Another cunning touch is the shaping of the waistband. It’s a six-piece waistband with separate pieces inside and out for the back, left front and right front. This means that the individual pattern pieces can be curved slightly to fit the curve of the body over the hips. In addition, the depth of the band is reduced at the sides. helping create a flatter silhouette at the front and back of the trousers but accommodating the angle of the hips at the side of the body.
It’s a subtle effect but one which helps with comfort as well as appearance.
Most of all, I like the overall cut of these trousers. The leg is decidedly a ‘wide’ rather than a ‘straight’ leg – but only just – and not so much so that they flap around when walking. The fit around the waist and hips though, is the winner for me though. The cut hugs my lower lumbar region and follows my buttocks out and round just enough to acknowledge their existence before dropping down to the floor. Here’s the back view.
In short, they make my non-bottom look like a bottom. Which will amaze my swim-buddy Hannah – except I’m certainly not going to be flinging these around the changing rooms!
My next mission? To make one or two shirts that will work for winter. My outdoor photo shoot taught me many things, including the fact that little twinset-style tops are not a look for me.
Love the colour, not so much the way that top sits on my hips and cuts off at my neck.
So – does anyone know a good shirt pattern that skims the waist without fitting too closely? Also – I’m still on the hunt for the perfect ankle-length tailored trouser design. Perhaps with pleats? Thoughts and comments on my progress gratefully received as ever!