Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pants Are Weird

{Not my butt; photo courtesy of Colette Patterns}
Have you ever sat around and thought about the way pants are sewn? I spent some time doing just that yesterday and it really messes with one's head. Isn't it kind of mind-blowing the way the pieces sew together to form the shape that they do? Personally, I think that's why they're so hard to fit. It's impossible to look at those flat pieces and understand where all the points are going to end up. For me, anyway.

I fit my Clover pants (modeled yesterday), mostly through an understanding of issues that I have in ready-to-wear: the ever-present gaping back waist and the weirdly low back. But I long to really understand how pants are supposed to fit and how to make them do so. So I went ahead and ordered Pants for Real People, hoping for some major insight.

To be honest, I just don't get the crotch at all. You know how Michael Kors is always shrieking something like "that crotch is craaazy!" on Project Runway? I don't make a lot of pants because I live in fear of the craaazy crotch. I'm hoping that my new fitting book will have a lot of insights into the crotch issue. (Tee hee!)

Are any of you out there pants-fitting wizards? How did you come to understand these wacky bifurcated garments anyway?

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Colette's great pants-fitting cheatsheet!

60 comments:

  1. Completely agree with you. I think one must simultaneously hold a degree in architecture and a super NASA worthy degree in science to figure out how two dimensional pattern pieces will work taking into account our body shape and the issue of movement.
    I've sewn a lot of pants for myself, never dress pants, always a loose fit khakis or draw string leisure pants. The fit on those is easier to achieve.

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  2. I can say that even drafting a pants sloper doesn't really give you more insight into anything but what your own individual pants fit will look like.

    It was so funny looking at everyone's different curves in the crotch depth or front rise and back rises because you truly couldn't imagine that all those different shapes would result in a similar looking pair of pants. But they do!

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  3. "How did you come to understand these wacky bifurcated garments anyway? "

    Now that is a sentence I never expected to see. As far as pants fitting? I dunno. I think this is why I make skirts.

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  4. hmmm... one of the first sewing projects I ever attempted was a pair of linen pants.

    I thought I had finished & held them up, only to find I had sewn a skirt instead of pants.

    Pants are indeed strange.

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  5. This strikes me as a very odd post for someone who teaches sewing......

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  6. It's all about having that center point in the right spot. Crazy crotch comes from having an unbalanced crotch. Just always remember if you take away from the front inseam, you have to add to the back.

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  7. Your post (and several of the responses as well) made me smile. I can whip up just about anything, and can usually look at the pattern pieces and know how they'll fit...but pants make me pause. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I make pants or shorts...I have to pin the pieces and triple check that I'm going to end up with, well, pants. Fit is a separate issue--even in rtw I have to try on many pants before finding the elusive proper fit, so my current project is to pattern-trace two of my favorite styles from garments I own and love, to see if I can create a set of tnt patterns that really work for me. I think I'm learning more from studying the pants-I-live-in and figuring out why they work for my body than from all the pants I've made from commercial patterns in the past.

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  8. orchidsinmay: ha!

    Hatty, this is why I don't teach a pants class . . .

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  9. I make lots and lots of pants as I cannot buy a pair of pants that fit--I am not willing to spend $$ on a 1x pr of pants (I weigh 135 lbs) so that I can take them all apart and have enough fabric to completely recut the garment. This doesn't mean they are all great though. I believe pants are harder than a tailored jacket, to tell you the truth. I have to make changes that NO book ever talks about (I have to have a SLOPING crotch seam (from front to back) Learning to remove 'fish eyes' from patterns really made a difference.

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  10. I actually love to fit pants, because of the mystery invloved! You have to understand the lower half of the body and all the crazy differences people have in this region. When you get it wrong it's really bad but when you get it right it is magic! The crotch depth is where it all happens and you have to understand that when you are sewing pants there is a differnt result when you sew the curve of the crotch than when you sew the back center and front center seam. I always have to give my pants a deeper crotch depth and i do a sway back adjustment which sounds like what you will also need to do. I have a book and it is my best friend when making pants, check it out, you will not be dissappointed. It is called " Easy Guide To Sewing Pants" by Lynn MacIntyre. This book shows you how to fit your pants and it has alteration methods for all sorts of fitting issues.

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  11. Pants for real people is my bible. Im still not sure i totally "get it" but that book meant i could at least start critiquing my muslin and it made a big difference to me.

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  12. You should check out Casey's newest post over at Elegentmusings.com. She posted some pictures of the new 40's style jeans she just made!! They look great and she's posting all of the construction details on Friday!! I really like the pants you made as well and I agree, the shirt pattern is to die for!

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  13. http://www.ywea.net/October 13, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    i love your blog :)

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  14. Ooohh.. I just LOVE that book!

    I have some of the same fitting issues in pants, that you describe. Plus a whole host of different ones.

    That book helped me come to terms with them and I have actually sewn pants that really fit well! Linen relatively loose fitting ones, but never the less, there was not the slightest hint of crazy crotch og cats whiskers visible.

    If the book doesn't do it for you, i would recommend one of the courses. I took one, now I know all about knock knees and very full inner thighs... Hehe :-)

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  15. The whole reason I sew is so I can have pants that fit both my waist AND my hips. I learned how to make them and fit them from Cynthia Guffey, who I have mentioned in your comments before. I'm such a big devotee of her teachings that I can't help repeating myself :)

    Anyhow, her pants fitting book and videos are amazing, and in her class we learned an adjustment that happens on the back of the leg, sort of a T-shaped tuck that gives one a cute-looking butt in pants-- don't know how to put it better than that (and I can't remember if that one is in the book/video, it's been a while).

    I have seen her take people in a pants mockup from looking kind of not that great to WOW. Now I'm jazzed to go watch the video again. Thanks! :)

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  16. As usual, I have nothing sewing-related to contribute, but just had to say this post made me happy for two reasons: "Pants are Weird" is a phrase that floats through my head frequently, and the photo caption "not my butt" made me snort. Seriously.

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  17. I'm teaching a pants fitting and construction class through my ASG chapter and tomorrow we will finish the muslin fittings. There are different body types and each person brought their own pattern. It's actually been a lot of fun and can't wait to see everyone in their well-fitted pants. I would make one suggestion besides classes and book reading. Since you enjoy draping I would suggest draping a pair of pants on a form. I think you will see the lines and fitting changes in the seams. I would also suggest investing in a good 40" flexible curve ruler. This is used to measure your crotch curve and to capture your personal curve that can be copied to your pants pattern.

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  18. I need that book.

    I tend to be a skirt/dress person anyway, but I would wear pants if I could make them account for the fact that, among waist, hips, and thighs, I'm at least three different sizes, with a prominent backside and very full inner thighs. I sometimes try on pants in stores and they fit so badly I swear my thighs must be four-dimensional.

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  19. On a whim I cut a pair of pants last night thinking "there are only two main pieces and a couple facings, i can do this". uh-huh, famous last words!

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  20. Pants are indeed weaird! Although you looked smashing in the photos the other day =)

    A question to all the wonderfully talented people that I know read this blog: Anyone has a tip for a book or a blog that covers fitting pants for gents? I'm making my first pair of pants ever, for a friend. During the search for info I've found great books on fitting pants for women, informative books on sewing for both genders, but none who adresses the topic of fitting men's (dress)trousers. I know Peter had a sew along for jeans, but while it was fun to read, jeans are a lot different from trousers. Tips, anyone? Please?

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  21. Erika: you might check out: http://makingtrouserswithdpc.blogspot.com/

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  22. I was thinking about this last week. For the crotch, I used a flexible ruler. I molded it to my body, placed the flexible ruler as is on the pattern paper, drew it in, and added a couple more inches for ease. I made a muslin for pirate pants, and the crotch fit me perfectly! Pic here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2251578323895&l=dfdbae8f94

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  23. I hate pants too. I've been trying so hard to make some that fit. But the problem is I've now gotten so confused I don't know what a "good fit" should look like. I guess it lands somewhere between "insane crotch" and "bacon muffin" but where.....

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  24. I agree as well, pants are hard. Not just to sew but to buy any that fit! What really gets me is when I am watching Project Runway and they say "The fit of the pant is impeccable" but I think it looks awful, I don't get it. Maybe I don't know how a pant should fit?

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  25. Yep, I'm scared of pants. At least with bras it's small pieces of fabric if it all goes wrong. I am glad to hear I'm not the only one who finds it mental gymnastics to figure it all out.

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  26. I basically gave up on pants because I cannot get the front crotch to fit right. I was getting tons of good advice (albeit all online) from other sewists, teachers, using professional fitting books and trying every fix out there, and I just couldn't make it work on any of the pants I tried to make. I have lots of nice pants fabric so it's a bummer. All the pants I tried were fitted so I'm hoping if I try again with looser trouser styles, I can have some success. But jeans? I can find well-fitting jeans for $20, so it's not worth the mental anguish to try to make a pair myself. I really wish I could make myself some skinny trousers for work, though.

    Damn pants! (Shakes fist in the air)

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  27. i'm a fashion design student, and one of our first projects this semester was to make a pair of pants to fit ourselves, using our measurements from the body scanner. you'd think perfect measurements would make a perfectly fitting pant, but 10 muslins later... i've learned that i'm ridiculously difficult to fit, but in getting to that perfect pants base i've learned a lot. having an instructor who was a industry pattern drafter for jeanswear is an amazing help! with all the fiddlyness of crotch-fitting, it's important to muslin, muslin, muslin!

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  28. I think I have my trouser sloper figured out by now. In many cases, weird creases at the crotch could have been avoided by simply allowing for a little bit more ease at that height. Project Runway contestants typically drape their garments, and trousers are notoriously difficult to drape. Almost impossible (because of those curves to hold moving parts), according to the lady who taught me flat pattern making.

    By my understanding of fitting trousers, the issues you have suggest a few things: a slightly bigger than usual waist-to-hip-ratio (small waist, bigger hips) would cause gaping of the waistband and the dipping of the center back suggests a fuller butt than assumed in the pattern (sorry to get so personal there). Even in a pencil skirt, that would not show because skirts can go up and are usually hemmed at the last stage of their production, correcting that. Trousers are fixed at the crotch.

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  29. I've always thought that pants are so simple to sew, but nothing is harder to fit.
    Fitting the front crotch area is the bane of my existence.

    I've been sewing for 30+ years and still haven't figured out pants fitting.
    Mermie

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  30. Try JSterndesigns for some good pants info. One of the things she, Jennifer said to me really stuck, the crotch point fits two ways, length, but also girth in the thigh. Lorrainne Henry says the armscye is a crotch, so if that helps your fitting mental image, there ya go.

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  31. I will have to check out that book!
    I have sewn for over 40 years and it is still hard for me to fit pants for myself. I find men's pants, that I sew for my sons are much easier to get a proper fit, maybe it is just not as difficult when I am fitting to their measurements instead of taking a real honest and critical assessment of my own measurements.:P

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  32. What blows my mind is how you have to remove fabric to increase size - my brain just can't understand that (though I know, by having made adjustments that work) that that's the way it goes in the crotch...

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  33. Sewing up my Clover muslin Sunday night was the first time I'd ever done anything with a pants pattern. Although it looked incredibly odd in pieces, I could totally envision how it would come together to make a pair of pants. Then I put the sewn muslin on and said, "Hmmmm. What the heck do those lines mean?" All insight was lost once it came to trying to alter the fit (even slightly in my case)! I too decided to go the route of ordering "Pants for Real People".

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  34. Pants are defintely tricky and the thing is that very minor adjustments can make a huge difference. When I fix pants sometime adding an 1/8" here and there makes the fit a lot better.
    I'm skeptical that a book can solve all pants fitting problems. Each pattern needs to be tweaked according to the wearer's body. Do not draft your own pants. Go and find an old pair of pants that fit you well, take them apart, and make a new pattern based on this fit. Even if they are not 100% perfect at least you have a good base and have a better idea of what to change for a better fit.
    @ Hatty- just because someone sews it does not make them a patternmaker. That is a separate skill set.

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  35. PS: I've used Artemesia's flexible ruler trick to very good effect. I heard about it first when reading a really great post about pants fitting on Myrna's blog...

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  36. Pants used to be really hard for me, but now it's easier because it dawned on me to not cut them on the fold. Now I love making them!

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  37. I so should not have read this post and all the comments just before I attempt to sew my first pair of pants. LOL And I admit I'm going to do it without a muslin, too. I think in large part because it all seems craaaaazy as you said and I wouldn't have the first clue at this point on what to fix if something didn't fit right. We'll see how sorry I am after. ;)

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  38. I don't think I've ever heard anyone so bold as to describe themself as a pants fitting wizard! In my experience, it's a lot of muslin trial-and-error.

    PFRP is a good book. That said, where I feel that most fitting books could do better is offering more guidance on dealing with multiple alterations simultaneously, since most of us do have more than one fitting issue.

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  39. my biggest problem with the trouser is that I usually sew ones which must be danced in. Not just mum boogie-ing at home but on stage dancing and possibly doing the splits. And they have to look right. Never having been taught I do the make it up as I go along thing, and sometimes have to make it up several times to get it right for the specific child. Sigh.

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  40. It's harder for curvy women to get a good fit in pants. I have persevered and have figured out how to fit my body. There are a lot of methods out there and some of them are totally opposite. I like to tissue fit, but not pants. Go over to Peggy Sager's Silhouette patterns website and see her two pants fitting webcasts. She has a very simple but effective method for fitting pants. I did not use her method to fit my pants, but I am using it to fit a jeans pattern which is even harder than pants to fit for my body.
    I strongly suggest that once you get a pattern to fit to your satisfaction that you copy it in some indestructible material and use it to make all of your pants just changing the style lines. If you can get a pair of narrow pants like Colette's to fit you than making wider leg pants will be a breeze.

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  41. Yes!! I am attempting to pattern draft my own pants, and even after what seemed like a success with the sample fabric, the final fabric pants STILL fit weird. I hate sewing pants at this point. Ugh!!

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  42. You are hilarious! The book you ordered will be a great help, it has been for me. I can fit pants for me because I understand my shape and what I need to do for me. that has helped me understand a little about how to fit a different shape.

    for years I didn't get it. for me it is simple, no bottom cut high crotch so there is no bagging, for my friend gorgeous round bottom low crotch, gives her room for the roundnes.
    Sure there are other fitting issues but the 'no bum high crocth, 'bigger bum lower crotch' helps me get it right.

    the book will help.

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  43. Whenever I make pants, I end up with a front that reaches my bra, and a back that gaps and is too short. It's SO annoying!!!! Finally one day, I just turned them around, and wore the back in teh front - fit perfectly. Now it's even more confusing to remember that the back is the front and the front is the back!!! :) I'm serious, I wear my pants backwards and they are are comfy and fit perfectly.

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  44. I've always had trouble with pants. The only pair of pants I was able to make successfully was when I was cosplaying and made a fake hakama. That was a challenge.

    I always wish that my cousins would have baby girls because pants are just too hard to make. =\ I would be so excited to make cute miniature dresses.

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  45. I know all other garments are relatively easy to "see" in 3D while one is working on them, so perhaps pants have some extra dimension - like 4D?

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  46. Having been born with what is, for want of a better description, an non-traditional backside, I cannot tell you how glad I am that I sew!

    It's not just crotch depth, or the place where the front crotch ends and the back crotch meets it, you know. For me, it's the angle of the back crotch, which must allow a certain magical amount of bias to creep into the equation, where my curves just need more love, if you know what I mean. LOL.

    If I were limited to pants made to fit flatter backsides, I'd be limited to wearing skirts!

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  47. I think it really helps to have a trusted friend or partner (with some sewing sense) help with taking the measurements. Also, taking a side measurement while seated is a good number to have. For me, where the tape measure meets the seat of the chair I'm sitting on seems to line up perfectly to where the pattern piece starts to curve. I too think you've chosen a good book to use as a reference.

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  48. I have yet to try fitted pants for this very reason. Right now I'm telling myself that I'll attempt them when I've got more sewing experience under my belt (so to speak! lol) but for now bloomers are as far as I've gone.

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  49. That book is great - I have made two fitted pants attempts so far - one with and one without Pants for Real People - and you can tell the difference.

    There are several pages on "Crotch Oddities" that are helpful

    For me, I found the pages on fitting full thighs and a large derriere very useful. I wish they had a model who had exactly my figure, since I still end up with extra fabric up front - but for that I guess I should take a class!

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  50. Took apart a pair of RTW trousers that fit well -- rare indeed! -- but were too shabby to wear anymore. The front crotch seam was quite short, and the back crotch seam very long and ... curly? Tipped far forward? At any rate, it kept curving up past what I would have thought was the match-up point for front and back seams. Maybe all those years of flat paper pattern adjusting were wasted. It seems that an equal balance from front-to-back does not fit nearly as well as the whoppy-jawed pattern I derived from those commercial pants. I've made 3 pairs in a month from that pattern, and they're all great. Oh, and it had a contoured yoke, too. Sits right at natural waist.

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  51. Pants are so hard! In theory, they should be easy - if you can fit a sleeve, why can't you fit a leg? Yet somehow, I always get stuck! Your Clover pants, though, have inspired me to try again :)

    Check out my post on sewing with sweater knit fabric: thelittleironpress.blogspot.com (I am new-ish to blogging and need all the support I can get :)

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  52. Pants are difficult!! Maybe because the particularities of our bodies do matter so much regarding pants! Not so much with skirts, specially if they are loose, but pants have to fit like a glove... I have two tricks regarding pants. One, better if the material is a little bit elastic. Like 2% is enough to get comfortable pants. My second trick, if you find a pattern that fits you..SAVE IT for the future!!!
    Cheers everybody!

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  53. I have found some useful tips in Pants for Real People. That said, I have a "one-seam" pattern on CD from Wild Ginger. This has become my TNT pattern. One think Wild Ginger has you do is measure from your front waist to the floor and the same from your back waist. Do not be surprised if your back waist to floor measurement is longer. Lay front and back pattern pieces together at the side seams then gently add that amount to the center back with a curving waist seam. You may still have to make some other adjustments but this can make a big difference in the dip in the back.

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  54. Wow!! Tons of comments! I haven't read your post in two days- because I have been sewing a few things, and one of them being the Clover Pants!! I definitely have fitting problems with these pants also- Sunni looked so cute in hers at the Sewing Summit- I want to not hate my shape- so I can look better in Pants.... Perhaps I also need to read the "pants for real people"

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  55. I am so glad you feel this way too! Ok glad might not be the right word but it makes me feel a little better that you are human and do have a weak spot ;)
    I too am not good with the pants. I have tried and it was a disaster! They were given away. I bought the same book you did and hope to work on it some soon as well.
    I have similar issues as you with the added bonus that I have very large thighs.
    Good Luck! Keep trying!

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  56. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pants-for-any-body-pati-palmer/1000542980?ean=9780935278088&itm=6&usri=sewing%2bpants

    This book (Pants for Any body) was the book that my mother used when she was making my pants. I am about 5'11" and when I was a pre-teen, I grew FAST. SOOOO incredibly fast, that my mom made most of my clothes. I remember that she ALWAYS used this book. Due to my long legs and short waist, it was really hard to find any jeans long enough. There were ALWAYS problems with buy store bought jeans: If they were long enough, they were too wide. If they were the right width, they were too short, if they had teh right width and height, the crotch looked funny. This book solved all those problems. When my mom made my clothes, they always fit right :D

    I HIGHLY recommend this book as a review book. I'm 22yrs old and beginning in my moms footsteps of becoming a seamstress. It's one of her many books that I will DEFINITELY buying for myself.

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  57. Compare a Burda crotch with a Big 4 one. See which one puts you in mind of a real body more. Use that forever after. That's my approach.

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  58. This seems to be old post but I still want to share my thoughts.

    I can never find pants that fit me the way I want, so I have to sew them myself. I have perfected my trouser pattern so that nowadays I can pretty much make any kind of pants that fit. Allthough, depending the material I might have to do some alterations on half-finished pair.
    Trousers aren't the easiest thing to do. I have to thank my good teacher in vocational school. She had clear and understandable notes for drafting and sewing pants.
    Crotch is the trickiest bit. If the front curve is tuu curvy it creates baggy area where us women don't have the "stuff" men have. If it is too straight it can create what us women fear called "cameltoe". Sometimes perfect fitting could be adjusted just by millimeters. Curve continues on the back ofcourse. If backseam is too short pants tend to slide down and reveal your knickers (or even more) when you bend over. These are the fitted pants. Then ofcourse there is all sorts of loose fit-styles which aren't so picky about the perfect fit.

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  59. In sewing school we made our own pants last term... Wasn't very difficult. You just have to remember to iron out a certain part of the crotch area on one of the pieces before sewing them together... Unfortunately, since my studies are in Finnish, I'm at a loss on how to explain it. My crotch on my pants turned out just fine, close enough not to look strange, but far enough to avoid the dreaded camel-toe.

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  60. Thanks for the great sharing! I don't know how to choose Cheap Men's Pants for my man, can you give me some tips? Thanks again!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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