Wide-leg Linen Trousers: Finished

Quick, before I find something else to delay my wearing these, I must take a picture.

{Pattern: Wearing History “Smooth Sailing Trousers”}

Okay, phew, that’s over. Once they were on I just wanted to slouch in them all day.

I confess they’ve been done for over a week but I couldn’t figure out which type of closure to use. I sewed three small hooks and eyes, ripped those out, then three snaps, ripping those out. There was no trouser hook in the stash, so I finally ordered one yesterday.

Okay, I figured, better put the belt loops on and use a belt to keep them up. I got pretty darn close to perseverating on the belt loops, making them twice before deciding to cut them wider than the pattern. My Juki wouldn’t sew over the belt loops no matter how I fiddled with the feed. So I had to pull out my dusty but trusty old Bernina.

(Convenient showing of non-zippered side. You do not want to see the debaucled zipper. Is debaucled a word?)

Then I got to the belt and suddenly realized I didn’t have a buckle. So I ordered one of those make-your-own-fabric-buckle thingies. All the while, I was wondering what type of obstacle was really at play here, other than poor planning. It was like the trousers were done, you know? Do you ever come to this kind of impasse in a creative project, where it seems you are working out some issue other than the one at hand?

I tried turning out all the lights, except for the machine light, to calm me down and try to sew with focus. Yes, it made things hard to see. I left the studio for three days, came back, left for another day.

It finally rained in Austin and I feel better now, back to my senses. I like wearing these, and hook or no hook am taking them on my trip this week up to the cooler Midwest.

Anyone know where to get nice belt buckles?

This pattern is a great style for wide-leg linen trousers if that’s your thing. If you are used to flat-front trousers, the billowy front will take some getting used to. Since I made these in a heavier linen, the extra fabric in the front feels a little bulky, and if I were to make them again, I’d use a lighter weight which would drape more nicely.

And don’t even think about making them a size down. I tried this in a muslin, thinking that I was slimming them down a bit, but the muslin was far too tight: these are designed to fit quite close in the waist to upper hip.

One note for the pattern geeks, however: the outseams of these trousers do not match, by about a half inch. I discovered this in my muslin and then walked the original pattern along the seam lines a couple times to be sure I didn’t fudge something. I get all tweaked out when I sew to the end of a seam and there is a half inch (or more) hanging off the end and I’m supposed to just “cut if off” and hem. I like when pattern pieces are engineered to fit exactly, or if one piece is longer than another, let you know there is supposed to be ease.

That complaint aside, I’m already wondering what else I could do with these: how about silk crepe for some really liquid pants? Or adding pockets? I don’t use trouser pockets much but I kept finding myself reaching for them.

(And I promise, the next you see me again I won’t be mostly headless.)

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The Wide-leg Linen Trousers: Inspiration

Let’s talk about high-waisted trousers. I know they aren’t for everyone, but somehow everyone managed to convince themselves of 7-inch rises, whether it flashed the world or not, right?

High waists are one of the few resurrected styles that seemed to take forever to trickle down to the mortals, in an era when fashion and manufacturing cycles seem to be on speed. Fashion-trickle-down (or trickle-up) is such a dinosaur of the pre-internet past. But it took Urban Outfitters like 5 years to knock this off:


When this Chloe collection first appeared in spring 2005, I was in love and went on a mission to find a more affordable pair. This might look pretty normal now, but I’m telling you people were whacked out when they saw this. There was a lot of NO WAY.

At that point, their polar opposite, low-rise skinnies, were just starting to take over the world, but boy, did I hunt. And I managed to find a pair of very form-fitting, squish-me-in-70s, high-waisted jeans–I mean crawling-way-above the navel-high-rise.

I’m beside myself now, since high-rises are everywhere.

{credit: asos.com (ponte polyester–now that’s 70s!), Marc Jacobs Spring 2011 ad campaign, Alice & Olivia (shopbop.com), Adam (shopbop.com), and Tucker high-waisted flares.}

Back down on Planet Sewing, it will probably be another year (or 5) before there’s a comparable pattern from which to work. Since most of these are clearly 70s-inspired, I could always go with a 70s pattern but lack the confidence or pattern-making skills to fit something so, um, fitted. I will stick to buying them for now. Plus, I am dreaming of linen and stretch linen is hard to find–I think something that slim needs to stretch–how did they ever breathe back then?

Of course the 70s don’t have the high waist cornered, I just happen to be partial to them. We’ve got high-waisted 80s, which exaggerate the opposite shapes, like the “carrot” pants which I’m still not sure about on me. Jeans from the 80s were really high-waisted but so freaking sackish. Except for Brooke Shields and her Calvins. Things went tent-like after that.

{Via 39th & Broadway. A resurrected 80s rocker look from French Vogue 2009.}

Then we’ve got the looser Katherine Hepburn trousers of the 30s/40s. The mannish trousers, if you will, that seem to fall so eloquently from waist to floor. I could probably live in these, no doubt, and will have a much easier time fitting them than my 70s inspirations.

Soooo. I have a gorgeous length of cobalt blue linen that I washed over a year ago and is just waiting to be cut. I wanted the perfect pair of linen wide-leg trousers that I could live in all summer. I went through a couple of patterns trying to figure out which would be best.

Like many sewers, I’ve never been completely happy with the fit of pants patterns so at some point I gave up. Last summer I thought of using the linen for the semi wide-legged HotPatterns Marrakesh pants, but after making a muslin I wasn’t so sure. I wanted something a bit more fitted and higher up on the waist. It’s a great everyday trouser pattern, just not exactly what I envisioned.

After seeing some beautiful versions of Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing pattern, I decided these would be a better idea. These recent Elizabeth and James trousers (right) are almost identical in styling, down to the sewn-down pleats in front. And I can have my very own.

{Top photo credit: Grey Ant jeans, Terry Richardson for Vogue Nippon, 2007}


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