Sunday, February 5, 2012

Culottes, Then and Now: Two Muslins Equals Twice the Confusion

Is it possible to be more confused than ever, as I dissect the muslins for the modern (B5681) and vintage (M9805) versions of the culottes?

Let me start with the requisite provisos:
  • The photos you are about to see are not lovely, they're functional. I'm wearing fabric in a dicey colour. The lengths of fronts and backs of these franken-muslins are not equal (I approximated when I cut the leg openings). I'm rather impressed by my "sewing documentarian" drive. I could not feel more wretched about how I looked at the moment they were taken - no doubt, aided by a hideous hormonal situation.
  • I thought taking photos would clearly tell the story - and indicate which pattern works best on me. I'm not sure if the exercise has yielded that effect.
  • In this instance, crotch curve is almost meaningless, from what I can tell. The crotch, on each pair, hangs far enough away from my own body that it is - and need be - simply an approximation of the human crotch curve.
  • I used 5/8" seam allowances, as both patterns instruct. Neither muslin fits small. Remember, I probably could have stood to go down a size (based on the size of my sloper), esp. if I diminished seam allowances to 3/8" or 1/4".
  • At first, I actually wore the McCalls pattern backwards?! Something seemed off, but I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong. Um, it's weird when that can happen.
  • Remember, I closed the pleats so what you're going to see is not actually an accurate representation of the final fit in the leg - just in the crotch. This is particularly germane as pertains to the vintage McCalls, which extends the pleat to the waistband. That means, should I choose to make the vintage culottes, there will be a big ole pleat right at the thickest part of my body. Not so appealing, on reconsideration. Mind you, maybe it would be chic in its authenticity and in light of its overall curvier dimensions? Not surprisingly, the modern pattern curtails the pleat at the base of the crotch on each leg. Modern designers seem to recognize that women of this era don't tend to want to emphasize abdominal girth.

OK, get out your critical sewing faculties...

As you can see, the modern pattern, on the left, has 2 darts in the front and a much narrower profile. The McCalls, on the right, is so wide at the leg opening that I question whether I like it (at least when it's lying flat).

And here you can see the Butterick muslin on me. I think the hips and legs fit well. The waist could use a little narrowing.

Here's a close up of the crotch curve. Note: You think I'd have taken more care with the sewing given that y'all are going to be looking at the minutiae, but I was really just trying to get from point A to point B. Sloppy sewing is very evident in the next photo, the shot of the culottes derriere:

I realize that I look rather asymmetrical here. That's as much cuz the pants legs are totally uneven as because I pinned the back. I did press the seams but not until after I sewed everything up (so lazy!) so the wrinkly bit below the arrow is about bad ironing.

Having said that, I wonder if the drag lines on the left buttock may be an issue. What's that about?? You'd get a better sense of things if I had put in an actual zipper but that SO wasn't going to happen. For example, the V shaped drag lines centred within the back darts is a function of the lack of zipper, IMO.

Something tells me I should make the darts less wide but I could just be grasping at alteration straws.

Now, let's move on to the McCalls vintage culottes:

OMG, I do not like what they're doing to my stomach - or what they're not doing, as the case may be. Can you imagine how dire this might be if I add in a pleat that extends to the waistband? Do you see the excess of fabric (IMO, of course it might be design) below the darts? On the plus side, the waist fits alright. Note: That's the waist I straightened slightly to the hip on the back piece. I might remove that adjustment, or diminish it slightly.

Above is a photo of the drape at the crotch. It looks quite like that of the Buttericks, as far as I can tell. Of course, the pattern pieces are practically the same at the crotch so that shouldn't come as a surprise. Note that the vintage pattern has a higher rise. It actually covers my navel, even in the absence of a waistband. I estimate this is a 10.5 inch rise. (I should measure it.)

Now, gotta say, I don't know if it's cuz I pressed this garment better, or if it's because the darts are a different width (they are definitely longer) than the Butterick ones, but the back side here looks better than the Buttericks. It doesn't hurt that the back legs are practically the same length in this photo... Or that this pair has a side opening, not a back opening, so the integrity of the back piece isn't being impacted by the lack of a proper closure.

I find myself in this terrible dilemma: I much prefer the Butterick fronts and I think I prefer the McCalls from the back. Is there any way to solve this??

For starters, please do let me know:
  • Do you agree with my fit assessments?
  • Do you have any solutions for improving the fit on the Butterick backs?
  • Do you think that the McCalls are a lost cause, given the front pleat situation?
  • Which pair would you make? Which pair looks better-suited to my shape, in your opinion?
I have a sense of how I'm going to proceed, but it's by no means a done deal. I'm curious to know if you are thinking along the same lines?


  1. Unfortunately, I don't have any brilliant suggestions for you. Sorry!

  2. Hmm, can't you further Franken it and put one front on the other's back? Is that too crazy?

  3. CGC: No worries! I'm not exactly overflowing with them either :-)

    E: You know, that's exactly what I'm inclined to do at this point. I do hope we get a few more opinions on the matter. I'd love to know if anyone else has any advice to the contrary...

  4. I think you are over-obsessing about the minutia :) and that both fit just fine. You should choose based on which one YOU like the look of. The vintage one looks less modern, which is not at all surprising! You like the modern look of the modern pattern and the back shaping of the vintage pattern. The idea of mixing one front and the other back would work, as long as you don't do literally try to combine the pieces. They have a different rise, and may have a different amount of leg flare. They won't match. Instead, transfer the dart shaping and crotch curve you like from one pattern to the other. Hope this makes sense.

    1. Of course you are right :-) I do like the modern look. And I totally intend to mimic the back crotch curve of the vintage ones (along with the back darts) to improve the back fit of the modern ones slightly.

  5. those shorts are going to be SO CUTE!

    i am so envious of your sewing skills!

  6. I think the Butterick, modern is the way to go. I think the front issues are greater than the back. I would go with the Butterick and maybe modify the back slightly to move it towards the vintage. That said, either would be fine, really. I know you want them to be perfect, but I think either pattern will give you a good fit. Personally, the front pleat at the waist would nix the vintage for me.

    1. I am inclined to agree. That front pleat on the vintage is freaking me out! If I didn't have another version (modern) all good to go I'd work around it, but I don't have to in this case...

  7. I think both fit just fine. Make the one you like the most. For some reason I thought the modern ones were the vintage ones, maybe it's the double pleat thing?

    1. Thanks Janice! It's actually hard to keep them straight because they are so similar in so many ways. Sometimes I get them mixed up so I have to keep them on opposite sides of the room for clarity. :-)

  8. I agree witht the rest of the peanut gallery - both do in fact look good, but I think you should go with your gut (yuck, yuck) and avoid the pleat.

    1. Ha! I came home from work and altered the Butterick back crotch curve and darts to match the McCalls. Then I put the McCalls vintage pattern away. I'm gonna make the modern version.

  9. No helpful comments on the fit of the shorts myself, I'm pretty upfront in my ignorance of pants. It sounds like you've made up your mind for next steps anyhow. But oh that arrow comment made me laugh...

    1. OK, I thought that was pretty funny too! Thank you for corroborating :-)