Archive for June 2010

Pants styles and body shapes

June 27, 2010

The Eileen Fisher summer ‘system’ skirt and pant styles wouldn’t work well for me. ‘No’ to my body shape in short skirts, leggings, and fashion jeans ! I think styles like these only suit people who’re shapely enough below the waist to draw attention to themselves in that area. Which I’m not.

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about styles and shapes – nowhere near a complete analysis !

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Very brief points about fit

I confess to being more interested nowadays in comfort and freedom of movement than high fashion for my own clothes. And that means clothes with loose fit, more ease. There’s interesting information about the amount of ease in different pant styles, in Palmer and Alto ‘Pants for Real People’, page 12.

Palmer and Alto also say crotch shape changes from a tightly curved shape for fitted leggings or jeans to loosely curved for easeful trousers.

Relate the pants style you choose to the closeness of fit you like.

The Pants for Real People book contains a huge amount of information about pants fit. I’m not a fan of tissue fitting, not just because it’s so difficult to do on yourself. But the same ideas apply to fitting a muslin.

I made a few comments on pants fit in a post on pant pattern wedges.

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The same pant style for different body shapes

Pants patterns are such an individual matter. I do get agitated reading pant pattern reviews by people who rave about the good fit they’ve got straight out of the pattern envelope, without saying anything about what body shape they are.

It would be ideal if we had some patterns which have already done the pattern alterations needed for our own body shape. It takes time and effort if you want pants to fit. But it does help if you start with a pattern that’s somewhat like you!

There’s a difference between Vogue and Burda pant patterns. Vogue usually have a vertical centre back seam, while Burda usually have a centre back seam on the bias. You may find the angled seam works better for you if you’re more curved outwards at the back.

Some designers say they provide body-shape-specific patterns. I don’t know how successful they have been, but here anyway are some of the ones that make that claim.

Most of these patterns are the same basic style but altered for different body shapes.

(2017 : these Simplicity patterns are oop, but they still make good illustrations. There is now a new range of Simplicity Amazing Fit patterns.)

Simplicity 2475 is a straight skirt pattern for slim, average and curvy shapes.


Simplicity 2562 has wide legged pants for slim, average, and curvy shapes.


Simplicity 2700 is for boot legged pants for slim, average, and curvy shapes.


Simplicity 2342 is a pattern for slim pants for slim, average and curvy shapes.

Dana Marie’s Terrific Trousers are for apple or pear body shapes (largest measurement high or low on body). With a choice of straight wide, bootleg, and tapered leg shapes.


(The near-horizontal line of these pockets would not be flattering on my high hips. I look better in vertical slanted pockets like the Simplicity ones shown earlier.)

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Different pant styles for different body shapes

Darlene Miller takes a different approach. She says different styles of pants are most flattering for different body shapes. She has four separate pants patterns, for triangle, square, circle, and oval body shapes.

On her site, she recommends :

“Pants for the Triangle body shape fit best with
– angled pockets and darts, shaped waistbands, fitted yokes,
– tapered or flared legs.
Use fabrics with body such as linen, linen blends or gabardine.

Pants for the Square body shape fit best with
– tucks, inseam or patch pockets,
– slim or full cut straight legs any length.
Use casual fabrics such as corduroy, denim or silk noil.

Pant for the Circle body shape fit best with
– soft gathers at the waistline, hidden side seam pockets,
– tapered legs.
Use lighter weight softer fabrics such as crepe, Tencel or microfibers.

Pants for the Oval body shape fit best with
– simple, body slimming lines, darts, hidden side seam pockets,
– slightly tapered legs.
Use good quality classic fabrics such as gabardine, chinos and microfibers.”

”dmpants” from Darlene Miller’s site

As I understand it, Darlene Miller doesn’t have direct equivalents to hourglass and inverted triangle body shapes. Perhaps you’re supposed to use the pattern that goes with your lower body shape, rather than your body shape as a whole.

The only one of these shape-specific patterns I’ve tried is Darlene Miller’s Triangle pants. The crotch curve fits my pear shape (no big back curves) with little alteration, so I use them as my reference when looking at other pant patterns. (It’s amazing how comfortable it is to wear a crotch curve that fits properly.) And Darlene Miller’s fitting instructions focus on the points I have most difficulty with (high hips and crotch extensions). I’m pleased with this pattern. But I haven’t seen any of her other patterns, so I don’t know if the fitting advice is general or shape specific. I can’t guarantee they will be good for other people ! And I think you need some experience to use her instructions.

If you’d like more ideas on what would be best for the special features of your own lower body, look at the “The Body Shape Bible’. Trinny & Susannah suggest best pant styles for each of their 12 body shapes.

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The details of what flatters, my example

Personally, I only wear a very limited range of pant styles. There are a lot of specific details of my lower body which affect what looks good on me.

– I have an indented waist, so elastic waists and pants with no side seams are not the best shapes for me. I need a shaped side seam.
– there’s a short gap between my rib cage and hip bones, so there is not much room for a waistband or elastic. Faced waist styles are better.
– low waist styles are not good. I’m short waisted, which many people recommend low waist pants for. But I also have very high hips, so the line of a low waist comes across a rather wide part of me.
– my hips spread 4 inches when I sit down, so I need at least that much hip ease. I’m not comfortable in close fitting styles.
– jeans, which are tight on the thighs to enhance the shapeliness of the butt, are not good on me. I have saddlebags, and have never had the sort of butt to celebrate.
– I have a deep torso front to back. So most RTW pants, let alone fashion jeans, are too tight for me front to back. I need long crotch extensions.
– I’m not sure I would have worn leggings even when I tried to be in fashion (though I’m sorry to say I did wear miniskirts sometimes in the 70s, as in those days they were essential, however awful they looked – perhaps I should be more sympathetic to all the people who wear black these days but shouldn’t). I think the area of leggings that can be seen needs to be a part of the body that is a good shape. And I wouldn’t say that about any part of me below the waist these days. But if you have got good legs, let people know, whatever your age !
– my knees are lumpy, so I avoid shorts.
– I used to have pretty ankles, but no more. So low low calf is the shortest I wear. This applies to skirts too. Skirts don’t fit well into my practical lifestyle anyway, but that’s another reason why I don’t wear them often.
– pockets : inseam pockets tend to gape on my curved hip silhouette. The curved shape of jeans pockets signals ‘look here’ to somewhere I’m trying to distract the onlooker from. . . Vertically angled pockets are best at slimming my curvy high hip lumps. (see pear shape post).
– wide legged pants look laughable on me. The proportions are all wrong, they drag me down visually. I also don’t wear cuffed pants.
– straight legged pants (22 inch/ 55 cm hem) give me ‘elephant legs’.
– slim pants (12 inch/ 30 cm hem) have the ‘carrot’ effect (what words we choose :D) Though slim pants do look good under a thigh length top.

So – hurrah for faced waist tapered leg pants (max.17 inch/ 42 cm hem).
(hems for pattern size 18)

It’s not surprising that all my pants are very similar in style. I use pants as a background ‘uniform’, rather than part of my wardrobe that I have a lot of variety in.

When there are so many factors which can affect what looks good, no wonder many of us have difficulty with pants. Though if your body is closer to the average usually designed for, you’re more likely to be able to wear a wider range of styles with success.

I remember trying on a pair of full legged pants in a public changing room. I looked ridiculous. Then an inverted triangle shaped woman tried on the same pants and looked marvellous. So Good Luck with finding the shapes that are right for you 😀

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Patterns and links available June 2010, revised July 2017

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Sew a Wardrobe in a Weekend : layers and capsules

June 19, 2010

At last, the super quick layers needed to complete a speedy wardrobe.

I’ve already posted about time-limited patterns for wardrobes, dresses, tops, and bottoms. Here’s the next step, some time-limited patterns for vests, jackets, and coats. A good range of styles from casual to classic. There are also some jackets in the speedy wardrobe patterns posted earlier.

Interesting, these jackets suit a wide range of body shapes. Not just for rectangles, there are shaped waists for people who have them, and flared styles for the pear shaped.

Pick a jacket, top, and bottom from these super quick patterns to make a ‘capsule’. For most of us that would be a considerable achievement in one weekend. Can we leave aside for the moment the aim of making a whole wardrobe in a weekend 😀

– – –


McCall’s 2260 has several unlined classic vests which take 1 hour of sewing time.


Butterick 5888 is for similar vests in 2 hours. In the extra hour you can make a faced notched collar or an edge-to-edge lining.


What about my favourite layer – tunics ? I haven’t found any timed patterns specifically for tunics. But several of the super quick dress patterns include a tunic length version, or could easily be cut to that length. Check if you need to make a larger size so it will layer comfortably over tops (see ease post).

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Soft Jackets

Butterick 5394 is for 2 hour knit cardigans.


Butterick 5224 has more 2 hour knit styles.


McCall’s 5241 1 hour knit cascade style jacket has 3 front lengths all with the same back (the only 1-hour jacket pattern I found).


Butterick 4989 has an interesting choice of 2 hour cascade/ waterfall jackets – this time for wovens.


– – –


The pattern companies also think it’s possible for us to make more formal styles in a short time.

Butterick 4138 even has a classic unlined blazer pattern they say can be made in 2 hours ! There’s a choice of pocket styles and long or short sleeves.


You could also round the corners of collar and hem. Or leave off the collar and use your favourite neckline (see neckline post).

At the ultimate, on their website Palmer-Pletsch claim their tailored lined blazer McCall’s 4598 takes only 8 hours to make. (This will be replaced by McCall’s 6172, available July 1.)


These two patterns show you can add some shaping even if you’re sewing quickly.

– – –


oop Butterick 5089 is a 2 hour pattern for an unlined cropped jacket with cut-on sleeves. Lengthen it for a bit more warmth, and to be more flattering for some of us. Waist length jackets (or just above it) are ‘in’ for the coming winter season.


McCall’s 9576 is a ‘relaxed classic’ 2 hour reversible shawl collar jacket.


McCall’s 5988 is a 2 hour reversible coat in 2 lengths.


McCall’s 3448, the easiest, is for 1 hour ponchos.


– – –

Some Speedy Capsules

Evidently you can include making your winter coat in your speed sewing weekend 😀

And you could make a blazer along with your winter coat, right. . .

If you prefer more formal styles, make the Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 4598 8-hour blazer, one of their 3-hour shirts (McCall’s 4079), and a pair of their oop McCall’s 4459 3-hour pants. All in one weekend of course 😀


I think Sue Neall, the expert whose wardrobe-in-a-weekend inspired these posts, could manage to sew those in a weekend, if it was her style. She chose a softer pattern which would not be quick and easy for many of us (Adri oop Vogue 2910). She was making a wardrobe for a week when she needed to look competent but friendly rather than authoritative and powerful.

We slower sewers might pick three 1-hour patterns so we could cut and sew a capsule in a day. . . er. . .

A ‘classic’ capsule from the super quick patterns could include the Butterick 4138 2 hour blazer, one of the Butterick 5948 2 hour tops, and a pair of Butterick 5044 1 hour straight legged pants. Oh dear, that gets it up to 5 hours of sewing time 😀


There’s a good choice of jackets for a softer look. Perhaps a Butterick 4989 2 hour jacket, a camisole from the same pattern, and a pair of McCall’s 5889 1 hour pants.


Or the timed wardrobe patterns are supposed to take less than 6 hours to sew a basic capsule.

It would certainly be pressurised to sew one of these capsules in a day. Me, I prefer to stay calm. . . but it’s interesting and fun to think about the possibilities !

You could use 2 days of a holiday weekend to make two capsules. And spend the third day making a coat, dress, and skirt. In 3 speedy days, you’d have a proper ‘wardrobe’ of 9 items to cover most eventualities 😀

Kate Mathews in ‘Sewing a Travel Wardrobe’ suggests you make jacket, pants, dress and skirt from the same fabric, for easy co-ordination. She calls this a ‘Six yard wardrobe”. That would speed up cutting and sewing a bit more.

Goodness, you might even have enough time to make one of the oop Butterick 5055 2 hour bags. . .

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Patterns and links available June 2010

Dress in 5 minutes : co-ordinating skirt and pants

June 12, 2010

Co-ordination is the key to dressing without having to spend time thinking about what goes together.

Using Eileen Fisher’s summer 2010 ‘system’ as a guide to a small wardrobe of current co-ordinates : this post is about the ‘bottoms’.

I made some more general comments about co-ordination in my previous post on the ‘system’ tops.

– – –

Eileen Fisher’s ‘System’ and co-ordination

Eileen Fisher

The ‘system’ includes :
– short straight skirt in stretch crepe, with elastic waist, front and back darts.
– cropped leggings in stretch jersey.
– slim ankle jean in stretch denim, with contoured waist, back yoke, rivets, contrast stitching.

These styles are all going to be around for a while. Simple skirts, leggings, jeans : they might be called ‘current classics’.

And these three will obviously make different looks. The three fabrics also have different textures. Anna Johnson in ‘3 Black Skirts’ says you need :
– 1 to succeed.
– 1 to seduce.
– 1 to slob out.
How would you assign these three ?!

The tops in the Eileen Fisher ‘system’ are all very similar (see post).

These ‘bottoms’ aren’t very similar, so what is the key to being able to use them interchangeably ? What are the common features which make for easy co-ordination with a variety of tops and layers ?
– they’re all in the same colour, your best darker neutral.
– they all have fitted waists, which are all at the same level (low).
– they’re all neatly fitted over the hips and thighs, so will be okay under whatever length and ease of top or layer you wear them with.
– they all have the same silhouette, in this case slim rather than big or flared.

– – –


McCall’s 3830 is an obvious candidate for a straight skirt TNT pattern.


Some people look better in a slightly tapered skirt.

Elsewhere on the Eileen Fisher site, most of the skirts are just below knee length, all very classic shapes, either straight or slightly a-line. So use any favourite basic skirt pattern.

McCall’s 3341 is a pattern for a multi-length a-line skirt with faced waistband.


Eileen Fisher’s ‘system’ includes a short skirt. I’ve never had the legs for short skirts (though I regret to say I did wear them in the late 60s / early 70s, as everyone did. There really is no way to disguise the bulginess of my knees.) Personally I think the tops and layers in the ‘system’ would also go with a longer skirt. Some people predict full length skirts are going to be fashionable this winter.

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Waist shaping

This skirt has an elastic waist. Elastic waists gather up fabric, they’re bulky. So how does this skirt get a fairly smooth fit over the hips ?

If you make a garment that you’re going to step into, it will be pulled up over your hips. So it all needs to be at least as large as your hips. This is usually achieved by :
– waist measure plus twice length of opening such as a zip. So long as that is bigger than your hips, you’re alright.
– or, have as much fabric at the waist as needed to go over the hips, and gather that up to hold it in round the waist.

Problem with gathered waist : if your hips are a lot larger than your waist, there’s a lot of spare fabric scrunched up round your waist, which is actually only needed while you’re getting the garment on and off.

Solutions :
1. Put a skirt on over your head. For everyone except inverted triangle shapes, who are larger above than below the waist, this means the waist only needs to be large enough to go over your upper body, not your hips (see ease post).
2. My hips spread 4 inches/ 10 cm when I sit down. So I need at least that much ease at the hips. But I don’t need that ease at the waist for pulling the garment on. Get rid of the excess with darts.
3. Use a low waist style – so the measurement at the top edge of the garment is closer to your hip measurement.
4. Use very stretchy fabric. So it will stretch while you’re pulling the garment on, but relax to closer fitted when you’re wearing it.
5. Use very soft fabric, so the gathers lay flat rather than bulging.

This Eileen Fisher skirt uses most of these options.

– – –


If you fancy the idea of designer leggings, there’s Issey Miyake’s Vogue 1114 pattern. (hips up to 46 inch/ 117 cm)

Most leggings patterns come from companies which specialise in patterns for knits or activewear.

Jalie 2920 leggings are highly recommended at Pattern Review. (hips from 22 inch/ 58 cm to 53 inch/ 135 cm)


Christine Jonson’s leggings in her BaseWearOne pattern are also recommended by Pattern Reviewers. (hips up to 44 inch/ 112 cm)

Kwik Sew have 6 patterns for leggings for adults. They aren’t all reviewed at PR. These add to the size range : Kwik Sew 2835 is for Women’s sizes up to 60 inch/ 150 cm hip (and includes a big shirt.)

I personally haven’t tried leggings yet – I haven’t found any in a flattering colour.
When I do, then I’ll start worrying whether they enhance my thickish legs.

Many people do look good in them, and they’re very fashionable. So give them a try 😀

But make sure the bottom hem hits your leg at a flattering point. As leggings are close fitting, this is even more important than with skirts and pants.

Though they’re made of very stretchy fabric, it’s still good to fit leggings. Any strain lines mean they’re uncomfortable to wear and will wear out quickly. Check if you need crotch extensions, so you don’t feel they’re cutting you in half.

YouLookFab says leggings will be important for the coming winter too.

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Fashion jeans are tighter than pants. They have zero crotch depth ease, and are close fitting on the thigh. The effect is to enhance the view from the back.

Jalie 2908 stretch jeans have high and low rise versions, and are very popular with Pattern Reviewers. (hips 22 inch/ 58 cm to 53 inch/ 135 cm)


Pattern Reviewers also say Jennifer Stern’s jeans have excellent instructions for first time jeans sewers. (Misses pattern size 6 to 16. Women’s pattern up to size 24 W – mixed reviews on this one, not for all body types.)

Jeans aren’t quick and easy to sew. They use special techniques. There’s a lot of useful jeans advice at Pattern Review in a jeans sewalong.

I confess I have never had a back view to enhance, so I wear ‘trouser jeans’. Use a pants style amount of ease, made in denim and with jeans styling elements (back yoke, double top stitching, rivets). I don’t personally think classic jeans pockets are very slimming, see pear shape post.

In the main section of the Eileen Fisher site, there are leggings, jeans, slim pants, straight legged and wide pants, knee length, calf length, ankle length, floor length. So pick what suits you best. Just make sure the hem of shorter pants is not at the widest part of your calf.

– – –

These three styles, short skirts, cropped leggings, and fashion jeans, aren’t the most flattering possibilities for me. Though it’s interesting and useful to work out how they co-ordinate well and are interchangeable. Personally, if I was choosing a similar minimum wardrobe for myself, I would sustitute a longer skirt, and cropped and full length pants.

But this disagreement set me off on a whole train of thought. So I’m writing another post about pant style and body shape – just some thoughts, not complete answers !!!

And my final post in this group on the ‘system’ is about the layering pieces.

– – –

Patterns and links available June 2010.
I suspect on the Eileen Fisher site what these links lead to changes each season.

Wow, 201 hits yesterday !

June 8, 2010

😀 😀 😀 Many many thanks for all your interest 😀 😀 😀

Lots of possible topics in preparation : super quick jacket patterns; Eileen Fisher skirts and pants; Eileen Fisher layering pieces; pant styles for body shapes; eventually hopefully something on combining collars; trendy pant styles – probably now deferred until the new season’s styles are picked out by the local fashion magazines; hopefully I’ll find that little book of wardrobing advice written in the nineteenth century (“How to dress like a lady on £15 a year ” – what a lovely book title). . .

Clothes are such a rich source of topics and fun 😀

Just don’t expect a regular schedule !!