Saturday, February 25, 2012

Culottes, Then and Now: Pictures Say it All (And Then I Add to It with Words)

The rather observable difference in pattern size here:

B5681 Front (above) and back (below): the white tracing paper (on the right) shows the pattern I made. The one on the left shows the original pattern tissue modified to suit length, size, crotch depth, crotch shape and dart length. We'll refer to it as version 2. Note that in both instances the darts are shut.

is the reason that these were such a bitch to fit:

Some things to note:
  • Don't think a muslin will save you when it comes to pants. Sometimes it's 2 or 3 muslins that will save you. Though you'll want to kill yourself by then.
  • The pleat is so heavy on this first version (the one pictured, and the one after the muslins), that it drops below the outside hem of the legs. Mind you, I think it's designed to do that - even though I don't like it. It is not observable when you wear it, but it's quite observable in photos.
  • The pleat was so heavy on the inside of the garment that I stabilized it by adding a short horizontal row of stitches right at the front where it meets the crotch. Way ugly, but the only recourse, as I could see it.
  • I used the actual pattern to make the next round of alterations: additional shortening of crotch length by another half inch (on top of the inch removed in the first version).
  • I cut the 14, not the 16. This may still be too large, but I can work with it when sewing.
  • I closed the darts permanently on the new version.
  • I made sure the crotch arches in version 2 match the first version's. That worked well.
  • I lengthened and narrowed the back darts, as per the first version.
  • I cut three inches off of the bottom. (On version 1 I had to cut about 5 inches off the bottom and I still had a inch of hem allowance.)
  • Version 1 is still too big, just less too big.
  • I used the original tissue pattern to make version 2 cuz, if it doesn't work, I am definitely NOT using this pattern again. Low risk, I say.
I did intend to show you a photos of me wearing this today, but as you may have seen on Twitter, my family is outrageously sick with an awful stomach flu. Totally scary bug. I'm still well and desperately hoping to stay that way so please give me any positive stomach vibes you have to spare. Point is, I have no photographer right now so these shots will have to do...

Here's a shot of the inside pockets. They're a dog's breakfast as is everything interior on these - I was basically slashing and burning as I went. In truth, given what I had to do to make them fit, the inside is in remarkably good shape:

The hem and a shot of that pleat which will never be sewn by me again. Getting that fabric to hold a pleat was an insanity.

And here's the zipper. Note the totally bizarre situation where the 2 pleats meet at the inner crotch but the extra fabric bulks at the front and back crotch.

Here you can see that unsightly horizontal stabilizing line just above the pleats at the front crotch:

I had to manipulate a lot of these photos to make detail visible, but the colour of the fabric is most like that in the first shot of the culottes lying on the bed.

So, experiment complete. But I will make them once again, probably sooner rather than later, because I did spend more than an hour altering a paper pattern to reflect what I think will be a well-proportioned garment next time around.

Please do give my your feedback. Are you surprised I've had to make so many changes to the next version, given that I did make 2 muslins? Do you like these, in theory, at least? Aren't the pleats bizarre? Let's talk!


  1. The pleats are very bizarre! Kudos to you for your patience. These would have ended up mangled in my UFO pile with the first muslin. Do most culottes have pleats in them like this? The only culottes I've seen are those awful knit ones that give the wearer horrible camel toe and panty line. Yours make me want to sew some up as well (except for all the muslins haha).

    1. Aren't they? If someone wants to tell me I've done them wrong, I'm happy to listen :-) But I tried these things 8 different ways (and according to the technical drawing, that's how it goes, as far as I can tell.)

      Oh, ain't no camel toe on these. The crotch hangs a full inch away from, um, my own :-)

  2. I do like these in theory, and am not surprised about the muslins and then making changes. That's what frustrates me so much about muslins in general because unless you are making them out of the exact same fabric, somehow changes have to be made. The pleats are a little bizarre, and at least look bizarre in the photos, but I would love to see them on.

    Stay healthy!

    1. Ha! Me too. It is very frustrating to make a muslin and then have the fashion fabric throw you a total loop which, btw, happens more often than not. Which is why I recommend to everyone else trying to get to TNT phase to buy enough of the same fabric for 3 tries. But I can't bring myself to do it. And I do think that my muslin fabric was as similar as the final fabric as it could have been. The problem, on balance, is that I couldn't account for the weirdness that the pleat would throw into the mix (as I didn't make it in the muslin). I knew that might fuck me up, and it did. On the plus side, I don't much like the pleat so I'm happy to do the same pattern next time, pleat free. Easier and cleaner.

  3. I'm very interested to see how these look on the body. Curious if they're more skirt-like, or more gaucho-like.

    1. More gaucho like. Except from some angles. Photo taken this am. will post soon.

  4. I know you're tired of those pleats however, I may have some insight about those. Seeing you pattern and the issues with the pleats, there is a clear difference with the way I made the pleats in my culottes. In your pattern, the pleats only start at the crotch curve which makes it very hard to prevent them from pulling down and twisting out. On my culottes, the pleats are there from the waistline down (and the zipper is at the side seam). Yes, this adds some bulk in the stomach area (which doesn't matter on mine because they're very flared. it may not look good on this more fitted style) but it also stabilizes the pleats. I've had no issues with dropping and twisting...

    Other than that, I am curious to see how your culottes look when worn.

    1. Haha! I guess, then, my vintage pattern with the pleats that go up to the waist band were the better way to go! Nonetheless, I really couldn't abide the bulk. I'm going to try these again with no pleat. But, if ever I get with pleats again, I will know to make sure my pattern extends the pleats. thanks so much for your feedback.

  5. I love how this turned out, but I'm sad to think how much finagling you had to go through to get to this point. I'm glad to know you think it's worth doing again, even if it is sans pleat. The pleat is an interesting detail, but expendable.

    What fabric will you choose?

    1. Oh, I was hateful! I really don't know what I'll choose next time. I have so many other projects I'm putting together, I'm going to need a bit of distance, I think. :-)