Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pants Fit - Part II

For me, by far the most perplexing garment to fit are pants.  They must fit up and down and around as all other garments but they must also have the correct crotch curve shape and length and fit around 3 "cylinders" (the torso and 2 legs).  The fit adjustments are oftentimes counterintuitive.

Over the years, I have taken online classes and attended every pant fitting class offered in the sewing expos I have attended.  Each class offered new insights as to why pants fit and don't fit.  The most beneficial class I have taken was a 3 day workshop offered by the NJ Chapter of the ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) taught by Karen Bengtson (member of the Colorado chapter).  You can read more about the process in my previous post.

The pants pattern was based on the methods and techniques developed by Joyce Murphy who also wrote an article in the December/January 2006 Issue 122 of Threads magazine entitled, "Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat."  It was a fascinating article where she explained the concept of body spaces and how they relate to the crotch length and more importantly, how there are an infinite number of shapes of body spaces.  She also explained why the commonly recommended adjustments often don't work.

I am very happy with the result but I want to understand why they fit.  Below is my analysis.

Here are the Joyce Murphy pants, front view:


And most importantly for me, the back view.  There is a little bit of a wrinkling below my derriere on the left side due to my left hip being lower but it doesn't bother me:


Below are photos of a muslin based on a standard Big 4 pant pattern:
Big 4 pant pattern muslin - Front
I don't like how the front crotch fits.  There is too much fabric there and the fabric seems to hang from the bottom of the zipper opening.  I do need to take in the sides but most of the bagginess you see on the sides is actually coming from the back:

Big 4 pant pattern muslin - Back
I have a flat derriere and thin thighs.  It looks like I need less fabric around the thighs so you would think what I need is to take in some fabric along the inseams.  One instructor suggested I take in the inseams and scoop out the crotch but that didn't work.  I still had bagginess.  Here's the counterintuitive part:  I needed more fabric there!

In the photo below, I placed the Big 4 pant pattern back (the tissue) on top of the Joyce Murphy pant pattern (white paper) and you can see how the Joyce Murphy pant pattern has a longer back crotch length!



In the photo below,  the Joyce Murphy front crotch is 3/4 inch shorter than the Big 4 pant pattern front.  This smaller measurement takes away the excess fabric at the front:


Another very important factor is the crotch curve.  At the risk of over sharing, here is mine.  I obtained it using a flexible ruler.  I placed a red rubber band where my  inseam is located.  Given that I have a flat derriere, I was absolutely astonished that my shape was so round, almost a perfect circle - ha!  I did this repeatedly to make sure I got the shape right, because I just couldn't believe it, but I kept coming up with this.  The space inside the flexible ruler is what Joyce Murphy calls "body space." Everyone has their own unique body space:


So when I took the above photo and drew in "legs", the flat derriere (as well as tummy - boohoo) becomes evident.  Funny how the eye can distort reality (or is it wishful thinking)!


When I abut the front and back Joyce Murphy pattern pieces together and place the flexible ruler along the crotch, the shape matches the flexible ruler quite nicely:


Another factor at play here is the angle of the center back seam.  The more angled the seam, the more it can accommodate a curvier derriere and the opposite is true for a flat derriere.  You don't need much of an angle for a flat derriere.  Why?

A DART!!!!
In the above photo, I traced the pattern so that I have both the left and right sides of the back pattern and had them meet at the back notch since this is what you would do when you sew.  And what do you see - A DART!  If you think about men's shirts, there are no bust darts because they are flat.  Women's fitted and semi-fitted blouses have darts, because they are needed for shaping over the bust. As those of us who must make full bust adjustments know, the bigger the bust, the larger the dart.  Those who are small in this area must make a small bust adjustment, a smaller dart.

Same goes for pants!  The curvier the derriere, the larger the "dart" needs to be so a greater angle would help.  Someone with a flat derriere, like myself, needs a smaller "dart" or an angle that is at less of an angle.  I first heard of this center back "dart" in a Lorraine Henry class at an expo.

So for me, in order to get pants that fit nicely, I needed to add to the back crotch length, reduce the front crotch length, make sure the crotch curve mirrored mine and reduce the angle of the center back seam.  Whew!

There is a wealth of information out there on fitting pants and many different methods.  Finding the method that works for you requires much experimentation but most of all perseverance and patience.

Now I want to use this pant block to create pants with different leg shapes and in different fabrics.  I am sure these changes will present their own challenges, especially different types of fabric.  Hmmmm...



Happy sewing!

26 comments:

  1. Fascinating post, Tomasa. VERY informative!

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  2. Interesting... I was eyeing one of those flexible rulers last month but let it pass again. I THINK I have my crotch/assorted pant fit problems under control now. I'm squirming with the perfect bodice right now. Amazing how that curved ruler can maintain your curves and come off the body. I think I do need one!

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    1. Yes, that flexible ruler comes in handy when fitting pants.

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  3. Thank you for this very informative bog post. I am working on pants right now and will use this info! Could you explain how you took the ruler off with out distorting it?

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    1. You are welcome! Flip it to the side of your body and let it drop as if you were taking off a pair of pants.

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  4. Replies
    1. You are welcome! Yes, pants fitting is a world onto itself.

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  5. Totally, totally fascinating!

    Pants fitting is such an emotional vortex. I'm glad you conquered it! Bravo! For now, I'm personally settling for "good enough" pants fit, but someday I hope to go for the gold and get a perfect fit like you to satisfy my perfectionist side.

    I have looked at my best fitting Loft pants (Julie fit), which also have a super short front crotch and a longer back crotch. They also have some stretch to them, and are just about equal to my hip measurement.

    I agree that each fabric will present its own challenges. Every fabric is its own universe. Even that book Pants for Real People says that after perfecting a pattern, you'll still need to tweak because fabric will behave differently.

    Enjoy your perfectly fitting pants! As my mother would have said, "Make one in every color!"

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    1. Thank you so much Kyle! I don't consider myself as having conquered pants until I can successfully use this pant block to change the leg shapes and use different fabrics since as you have aptly said, every fabric is its own universe. But I feel like I am close so that makes me happy.

      I really like the fit of your Mimi G pants and those red Jalie jeans you made for the Pattern Review weekend look like they fit really good so I think you are there or just about there!

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  6. Excellent article on pants fitting, Tomasa! I also find these same discrepancies when comparing BurdaStyle pants patterns with Big4 patterns. Pants are a challenge indeed. I find that as I age and my body changes, the bigger challenge it gets.
    Hugs from Portugal!

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    1. Thank you Tany! Good to know you have discovered these same discrepancies. It lets me know I am on the right track. I agree about aging - mother nature will keep it interesting for us sewists.

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  7. Thank you for the informative post! This method is very interesting. I sometimes draw a pattern myself, these tips are useful for me:)))

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    1. Thank you Eli cat! I am glad the information will be useful to you.

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  8. This makes for a fascinating read and so informative. I am also so pleased that finally after all your research, trial and error you have such satisfying and successful results!

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    1. Thank you Dawn! Yes, my search for nicely fitting pants has taken quite a few years!

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  9. I am so glad I found your blog and especially this post! You are soooo right when you say that the commonly recommended adjustments often don't work... so true, everybody is different. I wear mostly pants and pants fitting is a small obsession of mine. Almost ten years experience as a 3d modeller taught me to think in terms of big volumes, that's why I always draw my main lines (hip, grainlines etc ) on my pants in the making and yeah the adjustments are often counterintuitive :). What strikes me is that although you and me have very different shapes muslins of most commercial patterns look on me just like that muslin looks on you!

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    1. Thank you Sasha and welcome! I recently discovered your blog as well and have loved everything you have made and your posts about them. Impeccable workmanship! Pants are certainly a fit puzzle. Many people have had difficulty fitting pants from the commercial patterns but others do well with them. I am surprised to hear you have had the same experience since you have such a slim figure...it must be the pant block the commercial patterns are using. Like you said, everybody is different! I just wish the commercial patterns would have fitted me...oh well! Finally got to a decent fitting pair of pants anyway - it just took a (long) while!

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  10. Excellent important lesson for us. Thank you!

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  11. Great tutorials on pants fitting. It can be challenging to get the right fit. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you Cennetta. Agreed - pants are quite a challenge!

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  12. I concur with all the above,great post! I am always on the lookout for fitting techniques for pants and your suggestions were very helpful. Just when you think you've solved the mystery of wrinkles,baggies and gaps a new fabric is introduced and you're back to square one again, well almost, at least there is some understanding of how to find your way back to a good fit. Thanks for all your input and experimentation.

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    1. You are welcome JeriLynn. I am glad you found the information useful. Yes, a new fabric will most certainly change the equation!

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  13. Very nice fitting pants. I recall some years ago that I made my daughter a pair of pants from Butterick and compared the crotch lengths to a pair of RTW she loved. The RTW front crotch was so much shorter than the sewing pattern. I have also seen that Burda uses this type of crotch, a shorter front crotch curve and a longer back crotch curve, putting the meeting point of the inseams farther forward. I think this helps to pull the fabric of the back tighter and reduces the bagginess below the seat.

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    1. Thank you! Fitting pants is like putting together a puzzle, isn't it! I am glad you have discovered this type of front/back crotch lengths by examining RTW and using Burda patterns. It seems to work better for many women.

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