When I made the cigarette trousers I decided to document the extensive fitting process to the best of my abilities. Of course these are methods that works for me, and your mileage might vary as we all have unique bodies. But hopefully you can take something useful from my process and incorporate it for your own pants fitting.
My starting point
I used the Burdastyle 04-2016-117 slim fitting trouser pattern. The Burda size 38 is quite close to my own body lower body measurements (apart from me being much shorter) so I didn’t have to do tons of stuff with the sizing, which made my work easier. That said, I still made a lot of alterations
So let’s take a look at my pant fitting process!
Making the trousers petite
I shorten my trouser patterns at two spots: mid thigh and mid calf. On each spot I draft two lines, with a 2 cm (4/5 inches) distance between.
I then fold the patterns so that the lines meet. My legs are 4 cm shorter than Burda’s legs, but I don’t have to shorten the crotch depth, since mine is the same length as the regular size. So that is a great tip when sewing petite or doing any other alteration, that just because you are taller or shorter doesn’t mean that everything is shorter or taller compared to the pattern sizing.
Byt the way don’t ever shorten the trousers at the hem if you are petite. This will throw off the balance and might make the hem wider as well. You want the trouser to taper off at the same spots as the pattern is intended. Trust me on this one! (but feel free to disagree :-)) And as I said earlier, it is important to figure out exactly where you are shorter in the lower body and adjust accordingly.
I assume the same principles applies if you are tall, that simply lengthening the trousers at the hem won’t yield the same result as a proper alteration.
Once I folded and taped the pattern, I even out the curves/true the seams so that they look similar to the original pattern.
Fixing the crotch
This is key to successful trouser fitting in my humble opinion. My main issue is that I get a lot of excess fabric underneath the bum and that I have a sway back so the waist band always gape in the back.
Goal 1: Changing and extending the crotch curve
I did this in three steps
- Changed the crotch shape from C to more L-shaped. This shape sits so much better on me and I’ve heard many others report the same thing, so if you are struggling with the fit around the bum this might be a option to explore.
- Extended the crotch inseam a little bit. I need do that so that the trousers won’t ride down when I sit.
- Lengthened the upper crotch seam a little. Again to make sure the trousers won’t ride down.
Luckily I already had a block pattern for a pair of well fitting jeans that I made back in 2009. I always use the crotch from that pattern as my starting template when adjusting trouser patterns.
Goal 2: No gaping back waist
This achieved by doing a sway back adjustment, i.e removing fabrics in the upper back crotch seam. I draw a slanted line from where the crotch curve ends up to the edge of the trousers, I usually take in around 2 cm. Of course I also had to remove 2 cm from the back waistband to make them match. By the way I only use contour waistbands with a back seam these day as they are so much easier to fit compared to a straight waistband.
Sway back/small back adjustment.
You can remove the excess fabric either from the back seam or from the darts if there are some. Or perhaps you’ll get the best result doing both? Have not tried this myself. Also note that you might need to add more width to the side seam so the trousers won’t be too tight on the hips (see below)
Adding width to the side seams
(yes my patterns always looks really shoddy during the alteration process, but I don’t care!)
I added more width to the sides in order to compensate for the width I had removed during my crotch and sway back adjustment. The reshaping of the back seam meant I lost some valuable width so the trousers would sit too tight in the waist and bum.
I also added a little extra width in the front as my tummy on some days is bigger (damn you PMS!) than the Burda measurements for size 38.
Goal 3: Remove excess fabric underneath the bum
This is the thing I’ve struggled with the most when it comes to pants fitting. I’ve tried many techniques to eliminate the excess fabric, but so far only one has yielded good enough results: The fish eye dart technique described Ann Rowley.
Baggy fabric in full force underneath the bum. These are a RTW pair that I bought because they fit me relatively well. Relatively being the key word here! In the right image, you can see how I pinned the excess fabric. We will now remove that baggy fabric thingie using the fish eye dart on the pattern.
To transfer the fold to the pattern you create a corresponding fold on the pattern underneath the crotch and to make this possible you also need the slice up the crotch.
Again, shoddy execution, but Ann Rowley’s tutorial will explain this much better. Again check out: The fish eye dart by Ann Rowley .
But hey, what about making a muslin before you start altering the pattern?
Yes, normally the process would be to make a muslin first and then make the alterations. But I’ve been making my own trousers for a very long time and have learned some fundamentals about what alterations I need, so I don’t feel the need to start from scratch each time. But if you are just starting out doing pant fittings, making a test garment would be a good idea. But be mindful that it won’t look and behave the same way as the pair you make in the chosen fabric, unless you are actually using the same fabric.
Okay, now lets take a look at my muslin
Pattern pieces are now retraced and looks less shoddy!
Yes I did do a muslin, but only after I had done all the alterations I mentioned above. I was pretty shocked when I tried the muslin on – I hadn’t expected it to fit this well! This made me feel very excited about the finished product. After the muslin I removed some more excess fabric in the back waist and added some more width in the front to give proper room for my tummy.
Finally ready for the real thing
And here is the finished product
Compared to all the other trousers I’ve made (and I have made dozens) this is by far the best fitting pair. Granted the muslin fit me even better, but as I said every fabric has it own quirks and is a living thing that will grow and sag and wrinkle. Yes there might still be little bit excess fabric, but if I had removed more the trousers would have ended up being too tight, which is not a good idea obviously. Also the finishing could be better, but this fabric is very stretchy and is not really made for dressier trouser.
Phew, this was a meaty post! Hope you found this useful! It also made me realize that I have never really talked about making petite alterations and picking suitable patterns. I might do a separate post about this in the future, as there are quite a few things that one needs to consider, stuff that I wish had known when I began making my own clothes. And I’m sure I’m not the only short sewist out there!