Fashion · Vintage

Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 1

B5859 Company Photo
Inspiration photo

This year, I’m facing the change of seasons head-on. While we are still able to dip our toes in the ocean, I’m pulling together plans for fall looks. First up will be a vintage inspired high-waisted trouser.

I am making view E from Butterick 5859 – one of their Lifestyle Wardrobe patterns. The high waist is right on trend. This year, wide legs are coming back as well. Finally, trends are starting to converge with my taste!

The pattern is not that old, but unfortunately is already out of print. For those of you looking to sew your own version, you might want to try Decades of Style’s 1940’s Empire Waist Trousers, or Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers.

B5859LineArt
Line drawings from B5859 Envelope

Although the pants are described as semi-fitted, they still warrant editing to follow the wearer’s curves. The pattern has front, back, and side seams as well as darts in the front and rear; so there are 8 places to make alterations. Knowing that I would probably need to make some changes, I decided to make a quick muslin first.

One of the nice things about making a muslin is that you only have to work with the essential parts of the pattern. There is no need to bother with facings or interfacings, pockets, zippers, etc. So, I only needed to cut the front and back pattern pieces.

Last month, Craftsy.com had an all-you-can-watch for free day. I took advantage of it and watched all of the lessons in Linda Lee’s Serger & Coverstitch: Fashion Details class. My favorite take-away: use your machine’s chain stitch for temporary seams. When you are ready to take the seam out, you don’t need a seam ripper.  You just start pulling one end! I tried this with my muslin and it worked like a charm. It’s way easier than using a seam ripper and leaves no little thread “crumbs.”

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Chain stitch used to baste muslin together. French curve used to smooth revised seam line (teal marker).

I’ve actually picked up a lot of tips from Craftsy classes. Sandra Betzina’s Pant Fitting Techniques class got me in the habit of cutting side seams with a 1 inch seam allowance (at least the first time you are trying a pattern). That way, you have lots of room to make changes, if necessary.

I chose a pattern size based on my largest measurement (hip). I marked the new 1-inch side seams on the onion skin, then cut out my muslin pieces. Then, I chain-stitched my pants together and checked the fit.

Fitting Round One: Torso Too Loose

I put the pants on inside-out to make pinning simple. Being careful to do both sides evenly, I pinched and pinned slight changes in the side seams of the waist and above-waist area. There was still a little gap in the small of the back, so I pinned that as well. After taking the pants off, I used the pins to draw new seam lines for the sides and center back. Just to make it more visible, I changed the color of the chainstitch thread. Then I stitched the new seam lines.

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After the second fitting: green thread on changed seamlines; horizontal decrease pinned.

Fitting Round Two: Torso Good, Crotch too Low

Using a ruler, a mirror, and a little bit of guesswork, I saw that I needed to raise the crotch curve by about an inch. I started with the upper “shorten or lengthen here” line on the paper pattern pieces. I found the corresponding points on my muslin, then used them to draw a horizontal line (perpendicular to the grainline). I made two more lines, 1/2 inch above and 1/2 inch below. I pinned the top and bottom lines together to make a 1 inch reduction. I was thrilled that they looked perfect when I put them back on. Just to make sure I didn’t over-fit, I twisted, sat down, and walked around. Still good… I was done after only two rounds – that’s a record for me!

Transferring the modifications to the paper pattern was pretty easy. While I was working on it, I also removed the extra seam allowance from the sides. The last change was to modify the pattern pieces for the facings to match the new waistline.

Next time, putting it all together!

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