There are times when everything about a pattern says that it won’t work for your body shape. And yet. And yet. There are also styles that I would love to wear despite that received wisdom – and after my successful trousering exploit with Fibre Mood’s ‘Peaches’ Trousers last year, I’m back on the big trouser track.
Me and my big trousers
I’ve always been a sucker for the Annie Hall look since my friend and I would raid waistcoats and collarless ‘granddad’ shirts from the local charity shop back in 1978.
By the mid-eighties my interpretation of that look had moved on to a more tailored 1940s style. This image is from the Winter ’87 issue of ‘Folio’ magazine (a short-lived but inspiring publication that I adored – but that’s a whole other post…).
My version of this theme shamelessly ripped off the trousers in a brown tweed (not checked, for the record). I faithfully procured the shoes from Saxone and topped it all off with my fave silk shirt (see below) and my treasured brown vintage suede jacket. No Instagram to record my interpretation I’m afraid – but I do recall feeling very me in my autumnal get-up.
The intervening 25 years saw less time to sew; it also coincided with the rule of bootcuts, leggings, skinny jeans and stretch fabrics. All easy wears for me – less fitting required and the opportunity to work my longer legs and hide a shapeless midriff with something long and loose.
Last year however, the urge was strong to return to a more considered and tailored trouser style. After extended trouser-fitting exploits my ‘Peaches’ trousers felt as familiar as my bones, despite the discovery that my erstwhile favourite shirt probably required a rethink.
There’ll be another version of these in which I’ll need to tweak the fit for my flat bottom just a bit more – but these turned out to be the perfect late-summer wear. I’m still working out how best to style them (coming back to that later) but by this point I was firmly committed to my new trouser silhouette.
With my eye firmly set on alternative designs on this theme, I was excited to see this blog by Lisa at Tessuti. She had created these ‘K Pants’ using a Japanese pattern book; Big Clothes and Small Clothes by Asuka Hamada.
I’d never tried a Japanese pattern before and was keen to have a go with this one. Asuka Hamada’s book contains a range of garments, each one with a voluminous version and a more fitted interpretation – hence the ‘Big Clothes, Small Clothes’ title. The ‘K Pants’ contained all my favourite elements – wide legs, stitched-down pleats and slanted side pockets smoothing down and around the hip.
Thinking about fit
That said, there were elements that I knew would challenge me. The first was the fit around the lower hip and seat. I have a flat bottom, which means that there’s not a lot of rear to support a voluminous trouser leg. I also have a short, wide torso and upper hip – I’m generally less comfortable in a high, closely-fitted waist. And so it is that the trouser designs I love are seemingly designed to work best on quite a different shaped body. As a result over the years I’ve opted for, and have become used to, trousers that I can fit closely to my shape.
That said, the whole point of trousers like the K Pants is that they take on a sculptural shape of their own. I was very much up for working along with that and challenging my preconceptions about how to fit them. Obviously they would need not to be so small as to be pulled out of shape – or so big that they’d fall off. But beyond that I decided to take a light touch in terms of fitting.
I researched other people’s makes and it seemed many makers had fitted them fairly snugly to their bottoms – either because their shapes worked with the cut of the trousers or because they’d adjusted the fit accordingly. And they looked great! However I suspected that wouldn’t be an option with my flat behind – I’d just lose the intended volume of the trousers. And in fact looking at the sample in the book the trousers appeared not to have been conceived with that kind of close fit in mind.
In the sample image the K Pants have been made with a more structured fabric (as recommended by the book) than my selections; also the model seems to be standing with their back curved and bottom stuck out somewhat, which helps support the rear line of the trousers. Although the waistline of the trousers is cut high, I’d also say that they’re being worn here more on the hips – but at this point I decided to stop over-thinking it and just toile a pair up. Which I did.
Some pattern notes
First up – the tracing. The pattern sheets are as complex as you’d expect but no worse than my memories of Burda magazine back in the seventies. I traced onto pattern paper using chalk paper and a knitting needle to draw along the pattern lines. My pattern-tracing wheel is an old wood-and-metal one which is fabulous for marking onto fabric but which can shred pattern paper; also the knitting needle gave me more control over my line-marking.
The seam allowances are not included in the pattern and are only marked in the layout instructions. These are worth triple-checking as they do vary between pattern pieces! I chalked all mine on using a little cut-out measuring card.
Pattern assembly is spot-on. The careful tracing and measuring paid off; my two toiles and two final versions came together perfectly each time.
The construction diagrams are very accurate and helpful. That said, if you install the Google Translate app on your smartphone and enable the camera, you can (amazingly) point your phone at the instructions for a translation. Accuracy varies and some instructions can be hilarious! But if you know what you’re looking for then it can help confirm your understanding.
There’s no beating about the bush – the sizing on this pattern is not what I expected; nor is it ideal in terms of size inclusion. There are just two sizes for these trousers – and although I suspect they’d grade without too much trouble, it’s undoubtedly an issue. The size chart suggested that my 29.5″ (74cm) waist would be at the upper end of Size 2 for the K Pants – and since at 5’7″ I’m fairly tall, I assumed I would definitely need that size. (I’d also picked up from the Tessuti blog that I’d need to add length; I didn’t add this for the toile but added 20cm for my final versions since I wasn’t sure whether I’d crop, roll or wear the trousers at full length and wanted to keep my options open.)
Reader, my Toile 1, Size 2 K Pants fell right off me. Seriously. They just dropped to the floor. I thought I might have made a mistake; pulled them up and tried again. Nope – down they went. No hovering around the hips for a slacker look; didn’t even graze my bottom. There was nothing for it but to head straight to Toile 2, Size 1, intended for a 26.5′ waist which I can assure you I’ve not had since about 1976. And they fitted almost perfectly around my waist. That said, the bottom was very baggy. I toiled using a fairly draping fabric but although it was obviously in need of a tweak I wanted to avoid diving down the rabbit hole of over-fitting that would lose the shape of the trousers. Fortunately I had digital fit buddy on hand! I consulted with Kerry over Facetime and (once we’d stopped laughing) we agreed a light touch was the order of the day.
You can see in this image how my lack of rear is causing the trouser to ‘droop’ at the back – that long diagonal line from the bottom of the pocket is the give-away.
To remedy these, I shaved about 1cm off the lower hip down the side seams, lengthened the rear darts and scooped the rear crotch out using my personalised cardboard crotch template. This removed just enough excess fabric to allow the trousers to hold their own against volume and gravity.
Ideally I would probably have reduced the crotch length at the back since there’s a horizontal slope from back to front but I really wanted to keep things as simple as possible. Also at this point, with my first holiday in some years looming within the fortnight, I took the plunge, selecting two of our fabrics for my ‘real life’ versions…
First up was ‘Dunlin’, our non-stretch lighter weight denim fabric. I was aiming for a relaxed denim trouser and although this seemed a little less structured than the fabrics suggested by the pattern, I thought it would be a useful benchmark and a good cross-over from my regular jeans.
My second fabric was ‘Quayside’, an deep indigo linen that I realised would produce a much more ‘floppier’ trouser but hopefully a breezy summer classic.
Both my fabrics were very well-behaved to work with which was a relief. However my big breakthrough was Kerry’s suggestion to ‘batch-sew’ both pairs together, process by process. I’ve never done this before but I can report (smacks forehead in disbelief) that it was an absolute revelation. By duplicating each process across each garment as I went, I produced two pairs of trousers for barely any more time than I’d have needed for just the one. Having already produced two toiles, it made the whole process feel very familiar and efficient.
With my denim trousers I decided to use some scraps of printed poplin from my personal stash for the interior waistband, pocket bags and zip fly elements. This was the perfect choice to remove bulk whilst retaining just the right amount of structure.
I tried each pair on unhemmed and decided that the volume of the trousers down to the ground meant that they lost that dramatic shape. Pinning to a cropped length meant that they hung freely and moved better. I also decided that rolling rather than stitching the hems accentuated that distinctive ‘barrel’ shape further and retained the option to adjust the length in future (opinions are welcome!)
With my Eurostar departure in its final countdown I popped the waistband hooks into my travel tin with tiny scissors, needle, thread and thimble and proceeded to pack.
The results are in!
I’m relieved to report that I caught the train on time – and my trousers survived being rolled up in a suitcase. I was headed for a long weekend with my very special chum Gina – we’d planned this for the best part of three years. Two cancellations and a couple of destination changes later, we finally made it to a secluded houseboat in south Amsterdam. We had four unforgettable days of bright blue skies, hair-raising cycling and visual inspiration that we drank in like two thirsty deserts in a rainstorm. Fuelled by excellent coffee, Dutch apple cake (along with the occasional beer and plate of fries) we managed forget the trials of the last couple of years. Here are my K Pants on the roof of our houseboat…
…and here they are a little closer to home.
That ‘light touch’ with the fitting seems to have done the trick – the excess fabric is gone but the trousers still have their distinctive shape.
Finally, here are my ‘Quayside’ trousers on a canalside.
I absolutely loved wearing my K Pants – they only came off for my train rides (in favour of leggings and layering) and our evening out at a posh restaurant for which I dug out my big skirt. They were the perfect cycling garment too.
However…I’m not 100% convinced I have completely got to grips with how to style trousers that go in ‘> <‘ where my body goes out ‘< >‘ and vice-versa. I’m in a bit of a dilemma about how to wear them in a way that works for me – and I’m also aware that trousers like these are going to be a bit like Marmite in terms of how people feel about them.
For that reason, having explained how they came to be – I thought that next week I’d dive into some wearing options. So please, sharpen your opinions – I’ll be bracing myself for some frank feedback! Meanwhile, thank you for dropping by, have a lovely weekend – and Proost!