Summer Style

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: (ponte polyester–now that’s 70s!), Marc Jacobs Spring 2011 ad campaign, Alice & Olivia (, Adam (, 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}


The Silk Tank, or How to Stay Away from Plastic Flip-flops

It took me a long time to adjust, both physically and psychologically, to the intense heat and sun of the Texas summer. I’m a native midwesterner and before Austin we moved around northern Europe, so the perfect wardrobe in my imagination was a very constructed urban sophisticated look better suited to Londoners. I never had more than one pair of sandals, and snuffed plastic flip-flops, which are standard Austin uniform. I had to let my ideals go and embrace a looser and freer style.

Now Austin is infamously laid back. Sartorial for men here is an occasional button-down to go with one’s shorts. But I have to find a way to stay theatrical and even glamorous-feeling–that’s the challenge. It’s too easy to “dude it” here.

I’ve always loved silk but used to consider it somewhat of a luxury. A couple of summers ago, I bought a few silk pieces, like a sleeveless lightweight crepe dress (which I’m wearing here under the jacket), a flowy charmeuse wrap skirt, and a crepe jumpsuit–and ended up nearly wearing them out. Now I go out of my way to wear silk in the summer. Sure, cotton is great and rayon/viscose can be silk-like, but there’s something about silk… it’s feels so weightless and cool on the skin.

So I’m on a mission to make a few basic tops in silk–my red charmeuse tank is a good excuse not to reach for one of my raggedy Old Navy ones. I should really throw those away….

The fabric was left over from a recent lining and wanted something really simple and breezy, in a kind of a-line shape. Kwik Sew 3795 was a good place to start. I liked the a-line of the pattern but it was very low cut so I had to raise the armholes about 2 inches. You can’t see it here, but the original armhole falls below the bustline. I’m still not sure about the neckline–I think I like a narrower u-shape, and will fiddle with this line before I make another.

The pattern also calls for bias binding on the armholes and neckline but I wanted something dressier and wondered if there was a way to work out a simple facing and googled around. Of course, it seems like I keep finding my sewing solutions over at Sherry’s blog, which has the exact tutorial I needed: sewing an all-in-one facing for neckline and armhole.

Thank goodness for easy projects. Overall, from re-drawing the pattern to cutting and sewing, it took about 4-5 hours. That’s fast for me.

The truth is, most days I just feel like throwing on a tank and some kind of loose trousers. I just want weightlessness–not a lot of straps, no binding clothes or shoes. I can barely handle a neck scarf, no matter how light it is.

I got the idea to pair red and coral from a recent Lucky mag. I’m pretty obsessed with coral in all its shades–it’s turned out to me the perfect summer color for me and when I saw these silk crepe Sonia Rykiel trousers I leapt at them. I’m still trying to figure out if I can wear the carrot pant style; these are so high-waisted and billowy and have massive belt loops. Obviously one has not found the right belt yet because they are falling down!

I’m sure some of you find seasonal dressing pretty natural and would love to hear stories from others who’ve made major climate-moves. I’d wear knee-high lace-up suede boots year round if I could–I’m like a Celt in the desert.