I may not be Justin Timberlake, but I am on my own mission to bring back pants. Real pants. Not stretchy leggings, or the leggings that masquerade as jeans. Bona fida slacks, like they wore in the good ole days of the 1950’s. Where women had waists they were proud of. Leg lines extended, everyone looked taller. And shaplier. Hips didn’t look wide and squat, but as part of an undulating figure that everyone aspired to have. Yet the cut still left something to the imagination.
The pattern I was most hopeful would achieve this silhouette was a Palmer/Pletsch pair of slacks from the McCalls pattern line. Pati Palmer was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the last ASDP conference I attended before I had kids, and she was so down to earth and fun, I had to try one of her patterns. They looked very similar in cut to some slacks I had recently purchased, just with a high waist I’ve been looking for. For tucking. Because I’m getting back into tucking in my shirts. For real.
McCalls pattern 6901
1 5/8 – 2 1/2 yards fabric
7″ zipper (although the pattern lists 9″)
skirt hook and eye
monofilament nylon waistband interfacing
optional interior 5/8″ button
optional book: Pants for Real People
About the instructions: The pattern is crazy long winded. Every section is written like a novel about fitting problems, how to test fit before you move on to the next step, where you may want to cut extra seam allowance if you want to adjust, etc. And I found it to be a pain. It was hard to sift through all the talking and just get to the instructions. I know they mean for it to be helpful, and some of it was. But mainly I just wanted to read through and get the jist of the order of sewing. The pattern was 8 pages long, which is crazy for a simple pair of pants. I will say, however, that the detail the pattern goes into might be just what you’re looking for if you haven’t made a ton of your own pants before.
I did also glance through Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s book Pants for Real People, which talked about a lot of the same fitting issues in much greater detail. The book was fantastic to look through for specific problems and how to fix them, and I would definitely look through it the next time I make a different pattern to help me adjust. I love how all different kinds of body types and fit issues are presented, and not just classic alterations that most people have encountered before. Not sure I’m sold on the “tissue fitting” method they propose, but I guess I’m just a girl who loves to muslin her patterns to test for drape in addition to fit.
About the fit: These are a great pair of slacks. Far closer to what I was shooting for in a pattern. I did some minor tweaking; I like a slimmer fit through the thigh, so made the pieces a curved taper instead of the straight lines to the ankle. And I took the legs down a size from the size I needed to cut for my waist and hips (which is just a personal fit issue currently, as my legs are mainly my normal size and my waist and hips still haven’t lost all my baby weight). I also adjusted the actual waistline not in size, but in slant. I noticed that in both these slacks and last week’s trousers, the pants seemed to be a bit low in the back and high in the front. I put a waist tape around myself and drew a new line where I wanted the waist to actually sit, and sure enough, my waistline is actually tipped forward on an axis. I shouldn’t have been surprised; I make this adjustment in the reverse of most dresses I make for myself. But having not made a ton of pants that actually sit right up on my waistline, I was unaware of this particular quirk. Worth pinning an elastic around your waist when you make pants to see where your waist sits as well.
In general, I wasn’t impressed with their fly set, and ended up using Claire Shaeffer’s instructions from the trousers I made. I did love their waistband order of operations though, which netted the flattest yet most supportive waistband I’ve tried. I’ve always used that (now vintage) iron on prepackaged waistband interfacing. If you’ve used it, you know what I’m talking about. The kind that had two strips with a perforated line keeping them together that let you easily fold in half. I was looking for that at the store and was laughed at by the JoAnns employee who didn’t know such a product existed. So I ordered the interfacing specified by the pattern and sold through their website, and waited a week for it to arrive.
Such a different order of operations. Baste along the lower edge of the waistband at 5/8″, or whatever seam allowance you’re using. Then baste the interfacing to the seam allowance of the wrong side of the waistband. Match up the baste line with the baste line around the top of the pants (if you’ve had to adjust like I did, I just ran a basting line around the top to serve as an ease stitch if necessary). Pin and stitch, on the original basting line of the waistband (right next to but not through the interfacing). Try it on at this point to make sure you like the fit of the waistband. I had been a bit overzealous about how tight I wanted my waistband, and had to admit I just needed more length. Took it off and sewed again, with less ease and adding in the 5/8″ I needed.
Fold and sew across the ends, trim, and turn right side out. You can finish by hand or by stitching in the ditch; I chose by hand since it looks cleaner and I was already hand stitching the underlap. This method puts the interfacing as the next layer to the outside fabric, with no seam allowance getting in the way and causing extra bulk. It just defines and smooths the outside fabric brilliantly. A new go-to method for me for sure.
And the finished pants? Superb. I’m really pleased with how well they fit, and how comfortable they are to wear. After a decade and a half of ignoring that we have waistlines, it feels positively grown up to wear a blouse tucked in to define my shape. I may need to make a pair with a side zip. And in more colors. Really, I think I’m getting on board with this. Grace and Audrey and Vera were all on to something. And they were fabulous.