Styling my big trousers

Here’s the second instalment of my two-part blog about making and wearing my two versions of the ‘K Pants’ from Asuka Hamada’s pattern book, ‘Big Clothes and Small Clothes’. My first post explained how they came to be; my personal history with wide-legged trousers and how the two pairs I made, were worn in a long-awaited, much-postponed break in Amsterdam last month. Bearing in mind my fabric colour choices and the destination my main concern was not to arrive looking like the classic ad of a Dutch Boy…

Ad graphic for Dutch Boy Paint

That aside however, I was genuinely at a bit of a loss as to how to wear my new trousers. I had already had cause to pause for thought with my ‘Peaches’ Trousers from last year and realised that the tops that work for narrow-legged jeans and trousers would probably not work for such an accentuated shape as the K-Pants. With voluminous cropped legs and deep front pleats, I’d need to think about my wardrobe in a completely different way.

In the event I packed a palette of navy blues, striped shirtings and my bright pink jean jacket and hoped for the best. These turned out to be good choices – particularly the jean jacket which brought some colour to my get-up, as well as a tidily-cropped upper half.

My styling worries

As I noted in my last post, my concerns with this trouser design were several, mostly to do with my short, wide torso, lack of a defined waist, larger upper hips and not much in the behind department to support those wide legs.

That said, in theory my proportionally longer legs might make it easier carry them off; also I’m 5’7″ tall, so edging more towards ‘tall’ than ‘small’.

The sizing and fitting of these trousers was a difficult call too – I didn’t want them to fit so closely that I lost that sense of volume – however I didn’t want too much volume.

Learning from wearing

My city break taught told me a few things – not least, the importance of taking a step back and looking at photographs rather than just the mirror. It helps to get some distance and perspective on an outfit where the proportions are so different from my usual choices.

Comments from my first post also highlighted the fact that colour on the top half works really well – my jacket had turned out to be a good call, but until I saw the pictures I hadn’t really understood how well it worked by comparison.

With all that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take my new trousers on a tour of my wardrobe to see what would happen. By taking pictures I thought I’d get a bit of perspective – and by ‘perspective’ I mean yours, and not just mine – please feel free to comment! And if by sharing them here it also helps anyone who’s considering a leap into big trousers then so much the better.

There turned out to be lots of potential contrasts and alternative stylings I could make; the images below were my main take-aways from the exercise but I’d be really interested in hearing yours too. Here goes!

Colour vs. continuity

These are the images that confirmed my suspicions from my Amsterdam photos. I’d assumed that having a single block of colour with such wide trousers might help add length and detract from my proportionally shorter torso. In fact it seems that especially with darker trousers and boots, having a bolt of colour up top helps bring some ‘zing’ to the outfit. Is it also the case that a polo neck adds more torso length than my scoop-neck tee shirt? I think so – opinions welcome!

Pulling it together

With my pink jacket open, the hemline sits on those pleats and the definition of the trouser shape seems lost. Buttoned up, it’s a different story – and I think the scarf pulls it all together. Or is it too much? Let me know what you think!

Colourful tops

Patterned or plain? Shirt, tee-shape or cami? I was surprised that more relaxed tops seemed to work quite well – I had assumed that lots of trouser fabric should be balanced by a more fitted top – but in fact a bit of volume and drape seems fine. But which works best – plain or patterned? Buttoned, strappy or round-necked? I think I’m OK with them all…?

Bring on the volume!

Look at the models of websites for certain Scandi shops and they’re full of generous trousers overlaid with voluminous shirts. Do I just need to adjust my wardrobe/world view – or is this just too much volume? As my daughter pointed out, “You’re not six feet tall and that might be why“. However I do have long legs which seem to be lost here, as is much of the actual style of my trousers. I can imagine layering an open shirt over them – but even then, there seems to be a lot of fabric around. Which you wouldn’t imagine being a problem for me but still… Should I get used to seeing myself in a different silhouette?

How to tuck?

I do love a shirt – and if I can’t wear one loose then there’s only one thing for it. Or three, apparently. Opinions are divided in the ClothSpot studio – I have votes for all three of these. Knotted, tucked without a belt and belted. Feel free to lob in your two-pennorth!

(Disclaimer: No make-up was harmed or consumed in these images. I have an overdue haircut booked for later this week, I promise.)

In conclusion…

…what I think I’ve learned includes the following:

Bring on the colour! This is due as much to what looks best on me with this particular colour of trouser – but it seems that a bit of colour lifts the whole outfit without compromising the trouser shape.

Balance that volume! The width of the trousers seems to be balanced with a more relaxed fit up top.

Create some length up top! My proportions are helped by dressing my top half to add a little length either by way of buttons, a polo neck or accessories

Keep it cropped! As a short-torso’d person I’ve avoided cropped and boxy tops like the plague for years. But with these high-waisted trousers, having a tucked-in or cropped top half helps give me some definition (even if the jury is out on the belt.

How much of this relates to my personal proportions or style – and what’s a good rule of thumb more generally I’m not quite sure. Likewise I’m still not certain where I am with dramatic volume, pattern or some of the details of how best to dress a shirt for instancve. I’d be very grateful for any insights you might have (and at least they might settle some arguments around here.) Thank you for dropping by!

PS…

As I mentioned last week, I’m aware that the sizing of the K-Pants is unfortunately restricted so I did a spot of research to find other patterns that carry the spirit of my trousers in some way – combining wide or barrel legs with pleats and high waists in a variety of ways.

High-Waisted Trousers by The Assembly Line

Arthur Pants by Sew Liberated

Peaches Trousers by Fibre Mood

Miyu Trousers by Fibre Mood

Hollywood Pants by The Sewing Workshop

Bob Woven Pant by Style Arc

Cass Pant byThe Fabric Store

The size ranges for all of these are good and the links are to the product posts where you can purchase (mostly) PDFs and some paper versions too. Have fun!

16 thoughts on “Styling my big trousers

  1. Gillian says:

    I think you wear those trousers very well, the only look I don’t think worked as well as the others was the buttoned striped long shirt. The proportions weren’t quite right – your legs disappeared. Particular favourite is the round necked top – one of my favourites anyway and goes really well with your trousers

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Gillian – thank you for the opinions! I’m getting used to the trousers but yes I must say the big shirts made me laugh out loud when tried them on over the top! I did wonder if I just needed to change the way I looked at them but the consensus seems to be that my first reaction was probably spot-on 😆 So pleased you like that top with the trousers – I do like the way it picks the colours up. Have a lovely Easter!

  2. Susan says:

    Hello Alice,
    I’m so enjoying your styling blog entry.
    Here are my thoughts!
    1. Proportion-wise, I prefer the tops/jacket that show your waistline, either those tucked-in or sitting at waist.
    Re the Big Shirt trend – one option would be to alter a shirt hemline, so that it was at waist level at the front and swooped down long at the back.
    And the Big Shirt tuck options: I prefer the knotted, which combines a soft feminine upper look with the more masculine trews.
    I love the hot-pink jacket on you, done-up and with the scarf.
    And proportion again: I think that the 3/4 sleeve (hemmed or rolled up) works best on you with these trousers.

    2. As with the French makeup preference for either – minimal eyeshadow plus outrageous red lipstick, or black mascara/eyeliner with nude lipstick, for myself, I like a similar idea with tops and bottoms.
    i.e. fitted, simple-shaped top with voluminous, detailed/pleated trews or vice versa.
    (Also, patterned fabric either top or bottom, not both. )
    My Colourful Top preference is you georgette shirt, because it has a little indigo in it, which unites it with the trousers enough to allow for the brighter colours in the fabric.

    You’ve inspired me – I’m off to my wardrobe, to try out combinations. (Not the ones with elastic at the waist and knees!)
    Best wishes,
    Susan

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Susan – thank you for your comments and I’m so pleased that it’s provided some food for thought! I surprised myself by preferring the tucked-in versions and I take your point about trying a dropped-hem shirt – that’s a great idea. I hadn’t considered sleeve length at all except that I generally push or roll them up – it’s interesting that you spotted that and looking again I can see that the 3/4 versions help lengthen my torso and improve the proportions – brilliant spot, thank you!
      I love your observation based on French makeup advice – my received version of that was always that you could risk revealing some decolletage with a longer skirt or trousers but with a shorter skirt you should cover yourself more up top.
      Mr. ClothSpot is being just a little smug that you like the chiffon shirt since he found it for me on a business trip many years ago and it still regularly makes an appearance. I think you’re right about the colour – it picks up the blue but has some good contrasting colours in there too. Lots to digest and thank you again!

  3. Pam says:

    Brilliant. Totally agree that photos different to mirror.. In the mirror I am me with my weird body. In photos I am Mrs Instagram, a stranger who actually has really nice clothes! Plus pictures easy to put side by side. I read the blog last night but too tired to reply then, and reading comments this morning totally agree with Susan and Gillian. Love the pink jacket, either way. Long shirt is a bit too much, tho I like it worn open as a duster coat. With a tucked in or cropped top, it’s less about drawing attention to a short torso than emphasising leg length. Gives you the waist you say you haven’t got. I especially like the knotted shirt for that reason, it draws the eye to a good place.
    With the patterned tops, I like them, but it’s interesting to see the effects of how much skin you show throws off the silhouette. Neck skin and arm skin. I think the darker blouses nicer than the yellow cami, the colour of the cami recedes and you almost look like there’s nothing on top. How does your pink samba top look like with them? I love layers so always looking how I can add a waist and a low hip layer, which is probably why I like the long open shirt with this so much. Thank you for a great blog Alice. Lots to think about.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Oh, thanks Pam! Really interesting that you found that photos are different to the mirror – I just couldn’t get my head around why it should be so, but you’re absolutely right – it’s just that bit more objective. I really did not like the idea of taking my picture for ClothSpot when we started – and it’s not something I exactly look forward to even now – but I’m much more sanguine about it these days. And it really does make a difference when I’m taking a long hard look at something.
      Delighted you like the pink jacket – I bought that with some birthday money years ago now. It seemed like a totally frivolous purchase at the time, but it’s an object lesson in how a bit of boldness goes a long way – and my, it has given such good service. Cost per wear-wise, it’s been a total steal.
      I think you’re right about the ‘skin thing’ – the cami contrasts wonderfully with the trousers – but not with my skin and as you say, it throws things off rather. I think the Samba top will probably sit too low but it might tuck in the front. Thank you very much indeed for the prompt there – I will fish it out of the ironing basket and give it a go!

  4. Wendy of Woodley says:

    These photos are really interesting. I often find it useful to look at photos of me wearing clothes, especially as I am always seated. I’d love you to include a seated photo when you do your blog.
    I don’t find the pleats flattering if I’m sat in a wheelchair, and too much volume around the ankles can interfere with wheels, or be a trip hazard with crutches. This year’s ultra sleeves are a no-no with push rims, permanently muddy cuffs, and the bulk in some jackets and tops also interfere with the wheels.
    I wonder, from the point of view of your height you could consider a top with shoulder pads. Might accent your waist if you widen the shoulder which would balance the width of the trousers.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Wendy – thank you very much indeed for those suggestions! I will try one of my tops with shoulder pads – it’s a really interesting suggestion. I have wide ‘swimmer’s’ shoulders so it hadn’t occurred to me – but they might give a bit of definition as well as torso height 🤔 This is what I absolutely love about doing the blog – people come up with ideas I would never have considered – wonderful!
      Your suggestion about a seated picture is a really good idea. I’m sorry I hadn’t thought about it before – and the next time I photograph a ‘make’ I will definitely include one as part of my ‘roster’ of shots. Thank you for the nudge – and have a lovely long weekend!

  5. Suzannemarie says:

    Hehe Alice, your best look – with the jacket – is totally in style with the male Volendam costume.
    https://www.zuiderzeecollectie.nl/object/collect/Zuiderzee_museum-18159

    Even the clogs are a reminder that a contrasting colour for the shoes is best. Can’t go wrong with tradition! Sorry! (not really hehe)

    A few years ago, an original costume was auctioned at Catawiki. Do take a look at the details – buttons on the blouse and jacket and no belt but two silver coins as buttons and for decoration on the trousers.
    https://www.catawiki.com/nl/l/8680041-volendam-klederdracht-man-compleet-kostuum-begin-20e-eeuw

    Next time you are in Amsterdam, up North you go!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Suzanne – ever the comedienne😂 I had no idea I was encroaching on quite such traditional ground – and with finesse I can only aspire to! That shirt fabric is fabulous and those hand-finished buttonholes… *sigh. My chum Gina may possibly have snapped a picture of me in a pair of bright orange clogs 😳 but I can assure you that picture’s not being circulated widely! But seriously – fabulous costumes and just evidence that there’s not much new in this world. The zeitgeist must have come ricocheting down the years and lodged in my head when I was doing my planning 😘 Hope you’re well – and thank you for the recommendation for my next visit!

  6. Jan says:

    I have read this blog several times over the last week Alice and found it to be interesting and illuminating – the comments posted have also supported a path I have started to stumble down with my makes. Over the last 18 months my makes have been very disappointing despite choosing a type of fabric, a colour and a pattern which would normally guarantee a positive result. A toile of the top half of a dress proved to be illuminating. I had used a pink single bed duvet cover bought in a charity shop for my muslin. Oh my goodness the base colour made my skin tone sing. I was shocked, gobsmacked and seriously considered adding the muslin to my wardrobe. At a push I could have got away with the hearts and the clouds. The unicorns? Perhaps not. I saw your post, completely ignored your trousers and drooled over the pink jacket. It also fell in line with my personal style experiments and conclusions of the last year. A shorter more fitted top, or at least at the front (quite often I work a dipped back for butt coverage) with an element of colour, but not too much of a bold pattern. Moving to the waist and below – I don’t have a waist and my hips aren’t much wider!!!!! I’ve started wearing longer line slightly flared or wrap skirts or dresses with a longer skirt length, which don’t gather at the waist. I’ve put the disappointing makes down to changes in my hair and skin tone as I’ve aged. I don’t want to dye my hair and its colour is disappearing with each wash, or so it seems, and with it my skin tone has lost some of its vibrancy. Last week in Closet Core’s newsletter they provided a link to discover your colours. Soft autumn is my category but what was surprising was the example picture of the facial tones of a soft autumn lady. It mirrored my tones of a few decades ago. With apologies I know this reply doesn’t centre on your trousers but your blog and the comments posted in response has provided a couple more answers to my personal clothes conundrums. For info I preferred the Fibre Mood linen trousers you made last year. I feel the change of colour where the hems are turned up on the denim trouser appears to shorten the leg length giving them an even wider appearance but without the length to balance the width. The comments and appraisals of your readers have really helped me. Looking forward to the shirt.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Jan – apologies for taking so long to reply to your comments which were so interesting. It’s been a busy couple of weeks but the dust is settling…and I was so intrigued to hear what you had to say about your usual colour choices. I thought that a restrained ‘classic’ blue and white palette would be the perfect choice to take away with me – but as it turned out I was so relieved that I’d taken that pink jacket. Like you, I would have drawn the line at unicorns (just!) but isn’t it a revelation when you try something new simply for convenience and it blows you away?

      Among my go-to colours used to be chocolate brown and cream. In my mid-30s my hair was (obviously) much darker than it is now; I had a rich brown suit in my work wardrobe that always made me feel pulled-together. However I wore it for a formal family gathering 10 years later and my jaw dropped when I saw a photo from that event. I looked as if I’d faded to beige from top-to-toe. Never wore that suit again and had a major wardrobe re-evaluation as a result. It does happen with age of course – but it took that moment for me to realise that my hair, teeth, skin – everything had just blurred.

      Like you I don’t want to dye my hair either. I worry that a dark colour will look too harsh against my skin now – and anyway, I am quite fond of my streaks of grey at the front. I’d rather play with colours that work for me now – and this process has been every bit as revelatory as that photo from over a decade ago now. All change! (Well – not quite all – but lots…)

      I think I do prefer the slightly more fitted Fibre Mood trousers, although these ‘K’ Pants will keep a place in my summer wardrobe. My next pair is another of the Fibre Moods, but with amped-up colour. Watch this space!

  7. Di says:

    Hello Alice. A bit late to the party with my thoughts about which tops look best with your big trousers. As mentioned in answer to your previous blog, I like the pink jacket which lifts your skin tone and is IMHO the right length, with /without the scarf. The voluminous shirts worn outside don’t do anything for you. Drowned in fabric!! You’d never guess what shape your body was under all that . However a more slightly fitted top with a short front and longer back might just cut it. The Sewing Revival patterns leapt into my mind. Can’t recall the name of the shirt in question, but I bet you might know which one I mean. A better look is the tied front shirt and, to a lesser extent the tucked in shirts, though the belt is a bit boring colour wise. If I haven’t got the right colour belt I often use a bright scarf, of the long variety instead, or length of fabric would do. Tied nicely , like the tied shirt, it leads the eyes upward. Think , in the past, I’ve mentioned my liking for belts of varying types/colour which can draw the eye to a better bit of body/give some shape. Experimentation is the key. There are some ideas of how to wear belts/obi’s on Kettlewell. Make sure you have sunglasses ready, though personally I love looking at all the colour choices..Of the colourful tops the far right picture , green/blue short sleeve, is very flattering both in shape and colour. Not sure about the cami with the big trousers in denim. Think it would work if the trouser fabric was lighter in texture/colour–say on a hot summers day. Likewise the printed shirt –nice shirt but don’t think it looks as good as it could with that trouser fabric. The polo neck works—lengthens the body and the colour mix is good. The cap sleeved top might work with a lighter textured trouser fabric. I agree what others have said about sleeve length, 3/4’s are good on you. Too much flesh not so good.
    You’re lucky that you have long legs and can wear big trousers without looking unbalanced. Plus you can wear polo necks, which look awful on me. I must have a short neck.
    You can spend (waste) a whole load of time (been there, done that, got the T-shirt!), putting different outfits together. You’ve come to the right conclusions without our comments, although it’s always interesting to hear what others say. Rabbie Burns was right about seeing ourselves as others see us- –though I think he was referring to more than just clothes.
    As a friend said, “It’s that quick, unexpected, glance of yourself in a reflective shop window that either raises moral, or says OMG!”

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Di – lovely to hear from you and worry not – the party is still well under way! It was your comment on the pink jacket that really made me *look* and convinced me. I think the drop-back shirt you’re referring to is the ‘Fantail’ which is what Pam suggested too. I haven’t had a moment to try that combination yet but I definitely will and will post an update. You’re not the only one to prefer the tied-front shirt since it draws in on the waist. The belt wasn’t ideal you’re right – it was the only one in the house that was anywhere near (courtesy of Mr. ClothSpot) and served to demonstrate the potential even if it was the wrong one. I think you’ve mentioned Kettlewell before – perhaps now I will actually follow your advice! (especially since I’ve now actually looked at their site and oh, glory!! 😍)

      Thank you so much for taking a spin through the pictures. It’s really interesting to hear you chime with others and clarify not only my view of myself, but my understanding of why one thing works and another doesn’t. Rabbie was quite right on this, as with many other things. I recall a couple of horrendous shop window glances that made me want to slink home with a bag on my head but once, on Oxford Street in the spring of ’83, I was bowled over and have been chasing that moment ever since…

  8. Hilary says:

    I think those trousers are fab! I agree that defining the waist, lots of colour to compliment – printed shirt works really well in your example, a smaller or fitted silhouette on the top (i’m really not sure on the untucked shirts) to fully love the leg width. If you’re going to go, go big! Embrace it!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Hilary – and thank you for the vote of confidence! I was surprisingly OK with the colour and as you say – if you’re going to go, go BIG! These definitely aren’t the last of my Big Trousers this year and I think I’m much more comfortable with a bit of colour rather than restraint 😆

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