Monday, September 9, 2013

An exercise in fitting: Side Zip Pants

Did any woman on tv rock the side zip ankle pant better than Laura Petrie? This is one of my favorite looks: fitted tapered pants, ballet flats or low heels and a turtleneck or knit top. I'm not willowy like Laura, but I think this simple style of pants works well on just about every figure type. In fact, another one of my favorite television women, Ina Garten, is the polar opposite of Mary Tyler Moore shapewise, but always looks stylish in her ankle pants when she's shopping for cheese or bread in the Hamptons.

Butterick 5614 has been in my pattern file for a while and I made a less than successful linen version a while ago, then blamed it on the pattern and shelved it in disgust. 

This time, I decided to give it my best shot and begin with a muslin. I referred to a few fitting articles and made minor changes, namely pinching out diagonal creases in the front crotch and vertical creases in the center back leg, from the seat to the knee. 

The biggest adjustment was what I lovingly refer to as the "big ass" adjustment, which required me to add about 2 inches to the center back seam. That's right- 2 inches! 

I like the way these fit but there's still room for refinement. I have a great fitting pair of similar RTW pants in my closet and compared them seam to seam. Next time, I will move the seams forward slightly (increase back side width and decrease front side width) and add about 1/2" to the back crotch. Hopefully that will further improve the fit at the front crotch. There's a Craftsy class on custom pants fitting, One Pattern Many Looks, that I have been eyeing, which would probably be worth the time and money. 

This is a great basic pattern and the fitted nature is probably going to require significant adjustment for most bodies. The style is so classic, that it's worth spending some time getting it right. Seriously, it's 1 1/2 yards of fabric, six seams and a zipper. As Ina would say, "How easy is that?"


  1. You look so gorgeous that no one would notice minor fitting issues with the pants! I don't have your patience for fitting but finally had some success with StyleArc pants. Have you tried those? On another note, how were we ever satisfied with RTW pants given that every shape is unique?

    1. Awww, thanks Cissie! I have my first Style Arc pattern in the top of the queue, but its a dress. I do have my eye on the Willow pattern. Which style did you sew? You're right about RTW- we are willing to overpay for "good enough" but hold ourselves to impossible standards!!

  2. I've made Willow, Claudia (my favorite), and the Elle pant (more like leggings than pants). I like them all! On their advice, I ordered size based on hip, not waist, measurement and the fit was great with very little adjustment.

  3. Every time I make a pair of pants, i kind of hold my breath and hope for the best - even after extensive muslin-ing and measuring. They are not my favorite thing to make, but sometimes they just have to be done (when I've got a piece of fabric that screams "only pants"). I totally agree with your MTM assessment on fitted, tapered pants - what a great look! And your pants look so good on you - and if they are comfy, that's even better!

  4. So true-and surely it's the challenge that keeps us going back for more!