Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reader Poll for Book Two: Fly Front Pants?

Hey readers! I'm hard at work planning the skills and designs to go into my second book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (due out Fall 2014). I've come to a conundrum that has completely flummoxed me: do vintage enthusiasts care about fly front pants? I thought I'd go right to the source: you, dear readers.

Fly front trousers were very unusual for women in the 40s and 50s; the majority of pants had a back zipper. However, there are always exceptions to the rule! The great Katharine Hepburn's signature clothing item was beige gabardine trousers with a fly front. Here's an example from her actual wardrobe.

Sewing patterns for fly front pants are almost impossible to find in this era. Here's a lone exception from the 50s.


My point is: sure, fly front pants are not completely historically inaccurate. But does that mean that we want to make them? I personally do not like a fly on a high-waisted trouser since the fly opening has to be so long, making the pants look strange proportionately (at least to my eye). But on the pro side, I think sewing a fly front is an invaluable skill, and one that I've been teaching a lot lately in my classes at Marist College.

So I'm going to leave this up to you, dear readers. I've arranged a highly democratic voting system (i.e. the time-honored blog poll). Please vote below and leave your comments as well! As always, I appreciate your feedback.

Update: the fly front pattern and instructions would be in addition to side and back zippers, not in place of them. 



98 comments:

  1. I really enjoy the idea that women had their pants totally different to mens, I think there is something much more elegant in having a back or side zipper rather than a front one.

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    1. I totally agree. I'd prefer the side zip style.

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    2. In the 50s, lots of women's pants had side zippers. I much preferred them to back zippers (Yes, I was there). And, no to fly fronts on that style of pant.

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  2. Who are we to argue with the ever stylish Katherine Hepburn?

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    1. Oh, and I should add, that I have non-standard proportions and love the way front fly high waisted trousers sit on my hips. I only wish more clothing companies made them.

      My hope is you can make them fashionable again so I don't have to make every single pair by hand.

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  3. i did vote YES, but i felt that was limiting, LOL! will you include other pants patterns - whether back zip or no?

    i'm excited to see what's included in this next book - hoping for more than one fun blouse/top and a few variations of pants!

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  4. I would prefer a side zipper, but that wasn't a choice, so I went with front.

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  5. If it's a high-waisted trouser then I agree it would look better with a back zip (more streamlined), but having just watched the contestants on the Great British Sewing Bee (UK) freak out over trying (and mostly failing) to put in a fly then I definitely agree it's a skill that needs to be shared.

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  6. although not common, the skill is one that is usefull to know. having the option to know how to add a hidden zipper in the back as well as the fly front would be perfect.

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    1. This is a great idea! ^

      I voted for front, but I also think side and rear are preferable.

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  7. I'd love a really great set of instructions on a fly front trouser but I'm not a fan of them on high waists unless the waist band is really deep to trick the eye!
    That said, I love Katherine's trousers and that vintage pattern too although I'd always go for a wide leg rather than a tapered one (but that's personal preference on proportions!).
    Maybe a Katherine inspired pant that could be either fly front or side zip?!
    So I voted Yes!

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  8. This was a tough choice. I voted no because I personally do not like the look of a long zipper on the front of high-waisted pants. Yet putting in a fly is something that's hard for a lot of people to visualize so I think teaching it is definitely worth it....maybe just on a different style.

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  9. I vote no - long zipper can get into mom-jean territory really quick. I'd much rather have a side or back zipper. I think a smooth front is much more glamorous as well.

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  10. This might be a crazy-arsed idea, but can we have one of each?

    In practical terms, wearing a front fly is just so easy. But as everyone's pointed out, a high waist tends to look better with a side zip (back zips are for skirts only...assuming you're asking me).

    PS: I voted Yes!

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  11. I'm with Gertie on this one. Thinking of my 50's style 'pantalone alle sigarette,' the zip was always at the side or in the back. It's a clean look. I'm also recalling Cary Grant in "It Takes a Thief." He wore wonderful, full cut, pleated and cuffed trousers with (as I recall) a fly front. Because the cuffs give the pants a stronger visual weight, I think the fly front can work. For a plain or non-cuffed pant - zipper in the back!

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  12. High waisted fly front trousers fit me better than any other style of pant. Please please include this in the new book!

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  13. I vote yes - both because it is useful as a skill, and also because I've noticed that a fly front tends to camouflage fitting issues over that area (my side-zip pants - especially the slim fit ones - always have those annoying crotch wrinkles, arhgh).

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  14. Best option (in my view):

    Include instructions on a fly-front, but have it as one of the alternatives. If possible, have the main pattern be a side/back zip, and then include a how-to on installing a fly-front, perhaps with pattern pieces that can simply overlap the top of the non-fly-front pants pieces.

    This way, folks who want to channel their inner Katherine can do so, and the rest of us can have smooth tummies.

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    1. This is exactly what I was thinking. Best of both worlds to please anyone!

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    2. I feel the same way and this is what I was going to suggest. Some people may choose the fly-front for their own reasons, just as those who prefer the back or side-zip have their reasons for prefering those. If the fly-front is included as an option for those who would like it, but the pattern still has the side and/or back-zip options, you cover pretty much everyone. I think it would be great to allow the options. - Sheri

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  15. I love a side zip pant, but post-childbirth I find a front fly + flat front camouflages my pouch nicely. So my request is entirely selfish.

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  16. When I think of vintage pants, I love the sailor pant- the buttons and angled lines can look great on so many shapes. I would rather see this or even a side zip (is that historically accurate?). I agree about the extra long fly front on a high waist-ed pant, but I find zips in the back to be uncomfortable.

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    1. That's what I'd love to see too!

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  17. uhm, i am not really a fan.. but i see i'm in minority, so... ;DD

    www.elenaperletti.it

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  18. It depends is the pants will be loose trousers or tighter like petal pushers. Tight pants look bad with a fly front but trousers look great.

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  19. Would the trousers be a completely different model if they had a fly front? Because it is relatively easy to leave it out I guess, as well as drafting one on, so you coould aslo leave it to the reader once she's deciddes to make the pattern. This way one can acquire even more skills :).

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  20. I selected yes but I wanted to clarify that I meant it as an addition to the back zip style pants not an alternative. If you only have room for one of the styles then go with the more authentic vintage back zip style.

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  21. Just wanted to thank you for the first book! I'm working on the Peter Pan collar blouse.
    I'm hoping you include the double button front trouser..... I think they're called a sailor pant. Not sure if it's historically a vintage item or a current costumey take on the era.... but I can't find a decent pattern anywhere.

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    1. "Wearing History" (sorry, can't find the URL but she sells on Etsy) has a sailor-pants pattern, drafted from (I think) a 30's original.
      Apologies to Gertie if noting someone else's patterns is out of line . . . but I like Lauren's blog too.

      Sandy in TX

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  22. I´d love a zipper section with several alternatives, including fly front, that way each can pick and choose. I only wear front zippers as it helps smoothening my rather round belly. Besides, this is a modern take on vintage, isn´t it?

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  23. The skill is valuable to know and then it gives folks the option to adjust your patterns to fit their personal preferences. If you have room for it in the book, I'd say go for it!

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  24. I understand your reasoning and it's a tough call. Sewing a fly front is a great skill to have as a seamstress but to stay historically accurate (or close to it), I wouldn't include it in the pants. Plus, that's what differentiates pants now from pants back then.

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  25. I'm feeling very greedy and I would like your version of both a fly-front and a side or back zipper pant. Thanks Gertie!

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  26. I vote yes because after reading (and now referencing heavily) your first book, I think your instructions are likely to be very clear and accurate. If I do ever want to make one, I would have somewhere to turn.

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  27. I voted "NO"!!! My reasons include taking up valuable space in your ~ certain to be wonderful ~ book, with a skill that can be learned in every other sewing book, as well as the 'web'. The main reason, however, is they are Inelegant and Unfeminine!!! Yes, Miss Kate, may have had some front zips in her wardrobe, but she was wearing an admittedly masculine style at the time.

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  28. I say No. You are right that the fly front would be loooooong and I just don't see myself ever wearing anything like that. Plus it would take up space that might be reserved for something much cuter. :)

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  29. First of all; you used conundrum and flummoxed in a single sentence. Well done. As for zippers... Fly front trousers for Katherine, side or back zip for Audrey. Who among us doesn't look to one of the fabulous Hepburn women for wisdom on style & elegance? I think if we could ask either one of them they would say having the choice is one of the great things about being a 21st century woman.

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  30. I like a front zipper

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  31. I voted no simply because for high waists, I love side zips - but I agree that some readers would prefer a choice! Looking forward to your next book - I've just bought the first one and I'm loving it! Its solved all my fitting problems - thank you. Hx

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  32. I voted yes since you say the patterns are so rare. I think having the other options available will please everyone. I have a Simplicity Pattern that I love It is #4044. Long and short sleeve lined jacket, skirt and a killer pair of trousers! Very Katherine Hepburn!

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  33. I much prefer a sleek front on high-waisted pants. So, side and back zippers are definitely my preference in terms of design.

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  34. I have never even attempted fly fronts because they seem like such a nightmare to sew, I'd rather sew almost anything else than have to deal with that.

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  35. Good, clear instructions on how to insert a fly closure on a pair of pants are hard to come by and incredibly useful. If you're including other advanced techniques, this would be a great addition.
    (So says the costume shop manager who still has to reference her ancient Readers Digest Guide to Sewing every time a fly front is getting installed...)

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  36. I always want historical accuracy when it comes to sewing or purchasing vintage/vintage inspired clothing. Though a front fly on trousers is not entirely inaccurate for the 40s and 50s, it was certainly not the most common. For me, authenticity is quite important. I voted for no, but including a front fly option would be alright, as long as there is also a more authentic option.

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  37. I voted "yes" because I want to know how to do it (as a few others have said.)
    It's a really neat tailoring skill.

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  38. I voted no, since I like to put the zipper in the back on vintage styles. I like the front seam to be completely flat on high-waisted trousers.
    If people want to learn a fly insertion, the best source is one of the modern jeans patterns or books. I would hate to have you take up precious pages in your book that could be better used for another wonderful vintage style.

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  39. I voted "yes" because the information would be in addition to side and back zippers. I think all options are good to learn about and understand. We all have different likes, dislikes, AND figure types.

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  40. I have ski slacks from the 30s with a side zipper. Much more comfortable than front or back IMO. But having that skill to sew a front fly can be very useful. So I vote yes.

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  41. I don't care for a front fly, it adds bulk to my stomach, and I can't think of a time when I would want that!

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  42. I'd love to learn how to make a variation of pants to shorts. I have your most recent Butternick pant pattern and think they would make cute shorts for summer!

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  43. Hepburn -ish! Yes! Fly front! :-)

    Carrie C.

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  44. I voted yes, because it's a skill I'd like to learn (in vintage pants or otherwise), but I LOVE the idea of a back zipper on trousers - never heard of that! Perhaps you could include both?

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  45. I voted yes because it's part of an iconic look. We see it in a lot of photos (albeit with one person. Even though it was not common in that period, we still associate those pants with it, and I'm sure your readers - myself included - would like more opportunities for more looks! Also, your book is on my list for my birthday! It would have a place of honor next to Tim Gunn.

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  46. I vote for all three. Being a very short round person, a front fly works best for me, but my daughter being taller and thinner can do both back and side. Oh, and yay, another book!

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  47. i vote for "no" because i think only a woman with miss hepburn´s flat belly can wear fly front trousers. this women are very rare in real life. i only use this kind of closure for man´s trousers. for woman i prefer side zip.
    o.k. - a skilled seamstress should know how to do it.....

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  48. As a huge admirer of anything Katherine Hepburn, I would vote for anything she wore....so I voted yes.

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  49. I think that if they are that rare for the era, then they are best saved for another book than one focusing on vintage casual. Because otherwise your book is going to get very very big if you include every single little variation on the era... Variations on Vintage may be your next book, eh? lol!

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  50. When I was young we did not wear pants with fly fronts. The zipper was either on the side or in the back. The great plus side of the zipper in the back is it really gave a nice line to your figure and accented the bum; looking smaller, if the pants fitted correctly. I think I shall go make some pants now or how we called them "slacks"! Oh and Gertie? My daughter went all purple on her hair, taking confidence in your blog~ she looks beautiful, & will show up clearly in HS graduation pictures! ;)

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  51. I voted no, I'm with Nita on this one. There are good tutorials on youtube for how to sew a flyfront (I followed one recently and had the zipper in in no time).

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  52. I prefer the side zipper, but we want it all, don't we..? I think making polls like that will leave you with a whole lot of work :)

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  53. Yes, please! Back zippers annoy me to no end, and besides I am used to front closure. I'm sure you will have a fly front that looks good as well as being functional.

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  54. As it is a book about vintage techniques, I would love to read about the side seam and back closures. I don't care too much about the fly front, as you can find plenty of instructions for it in the internet and in books.

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  55. As I don't wear pants, it makes little difference to me. However, it's always nice to have options for construction, so adding in fly front instructions could be very useful one day. Maybe the idea of pants will grow on me one day! And the Katharine Hepburn connection always adds points to any argument/suggestion :)

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  56. I prefer side-zip trousers. Really looking forward to your new book!

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  57. I'm another no. Mainly because the long zips on high trousers often look unflattering. But... a short zip and a wide waistband would be my preference.

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  58. I voted yes. However, it is kind of conditional. I think you should include front fly depending on the style of pants. If it would look good go for it. I trust your judgement. I read in a few other comments about sailor pants. I would LOVE a pattern for those.

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  59. I have a long rise..about 14"..so,personally I don't like a fly front (the zipper would be too long & make me feel more 80s). I do love a side zipper though! I would also LOVE a good instruction for a button placket on the side of pants. Can't wait for book #2. x x

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  60. Side zips rock my socks personally, there's something about them that seems elegant and chic and very vintage. Although there is a lot more pressure with them to get the fit perfect because there's no fly at the front to distract the eyes from anything that's going wrong down there!

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  61. While I agree that high-waisted pants look better with a back zipper I still voted yes. I have learned so much from your sewing instruction I can't help but think your input on doing a fly front would be a great addition to anyone's sewing skills.

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  62. Please make Katherine Hepburn pants leg width and all
    Including zipper as in clone them


    That being said, I have had lots of sports injuries and can't get my arms behind me to pull back zippers up and even side zippers are iffy

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  63. her red jacket looks pretty great too!

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  64. I'd save the fly front for capri pants and go for the smooth front that back zippers or sailor bibs give. Though Katherine is so very stylish...

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  65. I Voted yes, seeing all the options for zipper insertion in a book on casual styles would be great. I think that front zips are very effective on trousers that finish at natural waist. I also voted yes, as my understanding of the side and back zippers in vintage styles is that women wearing front zips on trousers were considered promiscuous-I think its great that Katherine Hepburn wore front fly trousers!

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  66. This wee debate sent me into a bit of a turmoil due to the horror I have of shopping for pants. No matter where the zip is I'd probably end up covering the whole zip area up with a top. The tricky part for me will be to alter the pattern to fit my body shape - curvy hourglass with tummy, which seems to be a difficult shape to fit. I would be very pleased to have some detailed instructions on fitting trousers in your new book. I can't wait! I have several portrait blouses and a Gertie Shirtwaister in my wardrobe. Plus a pile of cut out patterns all ready to go. I have discovered that frost cloth, which is like a very light interfacing, and comes in big rolls from the garden centre, makes brilliant, durable patterns.

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  67. As an aside, 'Bespoke' by Savile Row tailor, Richard Anderson, has one or two anecdotes about Ms. Hepburn's trouser fittings. Worth a read (Find on Amazon).

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  68. It's asking a lot, but could there be a way to include both? I don't like fly front pants, I get a smoother look when they're on the side. However,a lot of people have made some good points for fly-front.

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  69. Too many comments here to read them all, but for many women, a fly front is not just a feature, but an actual need. Bathroom urgency is a huge problem nowadays, and I know that as a custom sewer, this is a design feature many women not only want, but need.

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  70. although i think a fly-front is a nice feature on a flat stomach, it's not such a nice feature on a not-so-flat stomach. for myself, having a tummy that pooches out is enough without adding a multitude of layers. if i were shaped like katherine, then it would be a different story, no doubt. i'm also no big fan of side zippers, which, if lapped, make one hip larger than the other. i always ignore fly-front instructions and insert back zippers.

    i'm not as old as ketherine would have been, but i'm vintage and that's how my clothes were made, RTW and patterns alike.

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  71. Minority here--I love high-waisted front fly trousers.

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  72. Seeing the contestants on the Great British Sewing Bee trying to puzzle of the fly on men's trousers certainly has me interested in understanding how this is done.

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  73. I have a 1940's fly front pants pattern, and quite frankly, the fly was perhaps the hardest part- and the part I messed up of course ;)
    So I'm all for it!

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  74. I voted no because I can't wear them because I'm too much on the short and round side. But I see that I'm in the minority.

    It's also true though, that I've always been afraid of making that fly front.

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  75. I think it depends on the style of the trousers. Trousers that are tighter may look better with a side/back zip as it looks more streamline.

    However, I went for yes to front fly because I made a pair of trousers just like the ones on the pattern and I love, love, love them! I find the front fly much more practical than faffing with a concealed zip (although putting concealed zips in I find easier). The making of the fly front wasn't actually all that difficult-there's quite a few steps, but definitely do-able and well worth the effort!

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  76. Every time I read the words "book two" on your blog, I get so happy. I cannot wait for publication, fly-front pants or no.

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  77. I vote both fly front and side zip.

    Though my go-to style of pant is a high waist cigarette style with a back or side zip. I'm 5'2 though and on the small side.

    I did make Hepburn trousers once and never wore them as I needed to wear a 10cm heel in order for them to look 'correct'.

    Audreychrysalis

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  78. Could you perhaps make a pair of high waisted worker jeans? In the spirit of Rosie the Riveter?

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  79. Voted yes.
    Because most commercial trouser patterns for women are completely flat down the centre front,yet we women are curvy, I usually apply a little menswear technique picked up years ago working for a tailor.
    Subtract 1-2cm from the centre front waist (shape back in at lower fly point) and add 1-2cm back to side seam waist (or leave out front darts). This gives a really flattering line over the stomach.

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  80. Definitely side zip! I find it the most flattering, especially on high-waisted pants. (And I love high-waisted anything.)

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  81. I vote "yes" since it's a different technique than side or back zips. Once you understand side zippers, they are more easily moved to back zips. And side zips are easier to use.

    I missed the post on what this book is to accomplish. If it's to teach sewing using vintage inspired patterns, definitely include front zippers. If it's to re-create authentic vintage fashions, it's a bit of a gray area. Front zips may not have been common, but they were around.

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  82. Hi Gertie,

    I think a back zip would be much nicer. A fly front on high waisted trousers can tend to bulge if your stomach is less than flat. Not sure if this is can be solved with clever sewing. I think it depends on whether you plan to tuck your top in or wear it over the top of the trousers. A back zip would be smoother for the latter but might look a bit plain if you tuck your top in....

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  83. I would like to see both types. I do agree with you with the high waisted pants, a fly in the front looks odd, it ruins the elegance of the pants.
    I would want one option of a fly front, just to honour Katherine Hepburn. If you want to emulate her, you need a front fly. She bucked tradition, you need to have that option for the person out there who also wants to buck tradition. (Although, I think with today's fashion the side or back zipper would be more of a buck tradition look, then a front fly.)

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  84. I actually recently sewed a pair of pink high-waisted fly-front trousers for Valentine's day, and I kind of love them! I totally understand the side-zip preference, and it does make for a nice clean line on the front, but I prefer the detailing a front fly and waistband allow for, and feel like the fly visually breaks up what can otherwise look like a big expanse of fabric (especially if there are pleats).

    http://emmasteinkraus.blogspot.com/2013/02/our-valentines-day.html

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    1. You tell 'em, Miss Emma. I can picture these really cute pants. Work it, mamma!

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  86. Thats also website http://www.acesewvac.com

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  87. Just found your blog. I totally love fly front drop crotch vintage pants. If you can get your hands on a the patternmaking book "Pattern Drafting and Grading Women's and Misses Garment Design" by M Rohr, there's instructions for drafting a pant block for drop crotch trousers that is easy to draft and a good fit (assuming you know how to measure yourself properly)

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  88. Don't include a fly front in the book. Considering the era, they were more not exactly the norm. But.... after the book is released, do a tutorial on how to add one!

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  89. You know what, I won't be a "hater"; why NOT include it? There are many folk who would appreciate having it, Gertie. For those who do not DON'T read that portion of the book! There will be plenty of other goodies included I am sure.

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

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