If you’ve ever struggled with fitting pants, this post is for you! Here at Closet Core we love sewing pants, but we know that making pants fitting adjustments gives many of you the cold sweats. One of the most common comments I hear whenever we release a pants pattern (like our Sasha Trousers, Pietra Pants, Ginger Jeans or Jenny Overalls) is “I really want to make these but I’m scared of fitting them”. I have a major bugaboo about allowing fear to dictate the things you make or create (if you need reminding, this post encapsulates my thoughts on the subject). I know I’ve addressed your fitting anxiety in the past, but some things bear repeating.
First off, let’s take a few deep breaths. Getting a good fit is great, but not at the expense of spiking cortisone levels. My biggest piece of advice is to view this whole thing as an ongoing, continually improving process. So many of you put an insane amount of pressure on yourselves to achieve “perfection” when you’re sewing as if there was some prize or punishment at the end of a project. No one really cares if your pants fit perfectly or not – people are WAY more impressed that you made pants to begin with. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. You are making pants because you enjoy the actual time you spend sewing. Actually enjoy yourself! This means doing the best you can to resolve any fit issues, but also learning when to say “good enough”. Saying “Good enough” (and then maybe trying to improve a little the next time around) will mean enjoying your clothes and this hobby a lot more. Unless you’re one of those fit nerds who really enjoy drilling down and tweaking and tweaking for days at a time, I am officially giving you permission to not care quite so much. Good enough is good enough (especially when your good enough is leagues above anything you could buy RTW).
Although we’ve created a downloadable resource for fitting jeans, I wanted to offer something a little more thorough for pants fitting adjustments in particular, especially since some of these techniques will be unique to sewing trousers like Sasha. This post will cover the best tips for pants fitting, with illustrations showing you how to diagnose and correct any problems you may encounter. It’s not as complicated as you might think, and I’m hoping you’ll be brave and jump in if it’s something you’d like to do. We’ve also made all of this information available in a PDF ebook you can download and save for later. To access it, you’ll need to sign up for our newsletter below; we’ll send you the password to our members-only Sewing Resource Library where you can download all our free patterns, fit guides and downloadable sewing resources. Already a subscriber? Check the yellow footer of the last email we sent you and you can find the password there!
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Fitting pants can be an enjoyable exercise if you think about it like the problem-solving activity that it is. It’s also quite a bit easier with stretch pants like Ginger or Sasha; stretchy fabric tends to be more forgiving and easier to finetune. To get started, always begin by retaking your measurements and confirming what size you need to make. I always encourage you to grade in between sizes if you need to; it will save you time down the road. One thing to note is that just because you’re a size 12 in the hip, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a size 12 leg. This means you may find you like a slightly looser or tighter leg (or you may need to adjust because of the type of fabric you’re using). If that’s the case, simply add or remove from the side seam before you do anything else. For a recent pair I worked on, I added 1/4″ to each side seam to make a slightly less form-fitting pair; you definitely have some wiggle room here, so don’t feel overwhelmed if the fit through the leg isn’t exactly what you want straight out the gate.
Once you’ve settled on your size, take the time to make a muslin, or at the bare minimum, do a quick baste using your fashion fabric to see what needs to be addressed. You are primarily looking for “drag lines”; these are tension lines on the fabric, and generally point to the source of the problem. You also want to assess feelings of tightness or looseness; your pants should be comfortable and not dig into you anywhere. While you should enter into the pants fitting process with the idea of making an incremental improvement (if the pattern actually needs adjustments), I would once again like to stress that having a pair of “perfectly” fitting pants is elusive. Some horizontal lines at the back of your thighs in slim fitting pants is necessary; it’s called sitting ease. You may have “drag lines” depending on how you’re standing, or what you ate for breakfast that morning. Stop thinking about it in terms of reaching some pants-fitting pinnacle, and aim for pants that feel comfortable and make you feel good. That’s all that matters.
ASSESSING “GOOD” PANTS FIT
I think it always helps to see an example of what “good fit” looks like. Here are a few examples.
Above you can see our Sasha Trousers. Since this is a slim-fitting pant designed for stretch fabrics, the fit is quite snug through the bum and upper thigh. The front crotch is smooth with no drag lines. The bum fits well and it is relatively smooth along the back thigh. The fit is a bit looser through the calf and is laying smoothly in this area, not bunching up or showing strain through the widest part of the calf. Those two horizontal lines under the tush are not fit issues – rather it is “sitting ease” which ensures the pants stretch when you bend over or sit down. If you eliminated that ease for a perfectly smooth back thigh, your pants would really only be wearable when standing (the only exception to this is really stretchy pants like leggings – the high stretch of legging fabric does not require this ease). There are some very mild drag lines at the back of the knee which could *maybe* be fixed with a low seat adjustment, but frankly, in a dark fabric like this, they are hardly noticeable and not something I would stress myself out about.
Let’s take a look at a looser fitting style like our Jenny Overalls:
The fit of these pants is very good. The front looks great – no drag lines across the hips or around the crotch. I am seeing a slight bubble at the inner thigh that could be eliminated with a tidy wedge removed at front inseam, but this is very mild and may be due to how she is thrusting her hip. In the back, the bum looks great. Those mild vertical draglines at the upper thigh could be aided with a tiny wedge removed from back thigh, but since it’s so slight, I would personally not bother. The overall effect is of a well-fitting pair of pants, so it always helps to take a step back and look at the overall effect rather than zooming in and obsessing about something no one else would ever notice.
THE PANTS FITTING PROCESS
Here are our tips for how to start fitting your own pants.
- Print the Pants Fitting Worksheet in our PDF ebook, which you can access in our Sewing Resource Library (you need to sign up for our newsletter to get access)
- Assemble your basted pants. Make sure the waistband and facing are basted together and sewn to the waist of the pants. This ensures you are studying the fit of the waistband, and also not stretching out the waist opening of your pants.
- Stand in front of a full-length mirror in good lighting, feet hip-width apart. Look at the front first. Are there any drag lines along the abdomen, crotch, thighs or knees? Does anything feel tight or uncomfortable anywhere?
- Bend over and squat down. Is the rise high enough for you?
- Look at the back with a hand mirror, or better yet, have someone take a picture of you. Note any drag lines or feelings of tightness or looseness.
- Take pictures of the front, side and back with your crotch more or less at eye level.
- Using the worksheet, draw any drag lines you see on the drawing of the pants, however minor. Make notes to capture any initial observations you have.
- Study the following diagrams to see what fit issues you may be having.
- Check off the corresponding adjustment on the worksheet and draw the adjustment you will make to the mini pattern pieces.
- Make corresponding adjustments to actual paper pattern pieces.
- Adjust muslin or fashion fabric you’ve cut out; many adjustments can be made to the original fabric, but anything involving a wedge added or removed (ie. a full tummy or flat seat adjustment) will require new pattern pieces to be cut out.
- Re-baste and try on. Take more photos so you can study the improvements.
- Repeat as needed, or take a breath and say “Good enough!”, and get cracking on your final pants.
COMMON PANTS FITTING ADJUSTMENTS
In the following diagrams, I outline sixteen of the most common pants fitting adjustments I think you’ll need to make for the Sasha Trousers, but these apply to just about any pants pattern. If you’re still stumped, I highly recommend the book Pattern & Fitting Alteration; it’s the most exhaustive fitting book out there. Pants for Real People is also helpful but I find it poorly organized and difficult to navigate, so if you have the budget, the former book is definitely my favorite. Let’s get started!
SHORTEN CROTCH ADJUSTMENT (CROTCH TOO LONG)
Symptom: Drag lines radiating downwards from front crotch, resembling a frown.
Solution: Remove width from the inseam (or front thigh) to shorten front crotch curve. Work in 1/4” increments since small adjustments make a big difference. Smoothly join your new inseam line into mid-thigh with a french curve or ruler.
LENGTHEN CROTCH (CROTCH TO SHORT)
Symptom: Drag lines radiating upwards from front crotch, resembling a smile. Crotch will feel tight.
Solution: Add width off to inseam (or front thigh) to lengthen front crotch curve. Work in 1/4” increments since small adjustments make a big difference. Smoothly join your new inseam line into mid-thigh with a french curve or ruler.
Symptom: Horizontal wrinkles at the front crotch may indicate that your pubic bone is a little flatter than what is drafted for. Many horizontal lines spanning the width of the hip indicate that pants are too tight at the hip, so if it feels too snug try letting out the hip first before attempting this adjustment.
Solution: Draw in a shallower front crotch curve; this flattens the curve. A 1/4” or 1/8” adjustment can make a big difference.
ROUND PUBIS (CAMEL TOE ADJUSTMENT)
Symptom: Vertical drag lines around the front crotch seam. Seam digs into pubic area.
Solution: Scoop out front crotch curve. This deepens the curve and creates room for the pubis. Work in 1/4” increments since small adjustments make a big difference.
FULL TUMMY ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: A full tummy may create diagonal drag lines radiating from your stomach. The side seams may also come forward around the stomach, along with a little tightness in the crotch.
Solution: To correct, slash along the center front to the hip and rotate along a “hinge” to add length and width through the abdomen area. You may also find you need to add a little length to the crotch curve by letting out the inseam.
FULL SEAT ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: If you have a fuller bottom, you may notice drag lines all pointing to the back crotch seam.The back waistline may also be tugged down so it sits too low at the small of your back – this is very common with rounder bums.
Option #1: You need to add length to the back seat curve to make room. The proper method is to cut through the center back seam to the hip and rotate along a “hinge” to add length and width through the seat.
Option #2: A quicker method is to add a little to the inseam and top seam as indicated above. You may also find that you need a deeper seat curve – if you scoop out that curve more, please note you will have to add a little to the hip since you are removing width across the hip with this adjustment.
FLAT SEAT ADJUSTMENT (AND/OR THIN THIGH ADJUSTMENT)
Symptom: Bagginess under the bum with diagonal drag lines pointing up to the hip indicate either a) the upper thigh of the pant is too roomy or b) the seat is flatter than what the pattern was drafted for.
Fast method: Remove length from the back seat curve. Start by taking in the inseam.
Proper method: Cut through the center back seam to the hip and rotate down along a “hinge” to remove length and width through the seat.
LOW SEAT ADJUSTMENT (LOW BUTT ADJUSTMENT)
Symptom: If the curve of your bum sits a little lower than the pant has been drafted for, you’ll find horizontal drag lines under your seat and excess fabric at the crease of your bum and legs.
Solution: To remove horizontal drag lines, scoop out the seat curve so it makes more of an “L” shape. This will make room for the lower curve of your seat.
Symptom: Waistband gapes against lower back. Pinch out excess with a pinned dart so you know how much you need to remove.
Solution: You must remove length from the top waistband edge so it sits closer to the body. Note the width of the dart you made and cut and hinge your waistband between side seam and center back to remove width to top seam only. Your waistband will now have a more pronounced curve.
Symptom: Pant gapes against lower back, below waistband. Pinch out excess with a pinned dart so you know how much you need to remove.
Option #1: Try to correct gaping by sewing a deeper dart. If more width needs to be removed, take from center back seam, changing angle of back crotch seam.
Option #2: Cut from back crotch seam to hip and leave a hinge. Rotate in top of back leg at hip hinge. Redraw center back crotch seam so the angle is the same before you rotated it. This method removes width at waist and height at the small of the back.
Symptom: Pants pool with horizontal lines below waistband and above seat. This indicates a hollow at the small of the back, with a shorter depth between hip and waist.
Option #1: Remove height along top of pant, grading to nothing at hip.
Option #2: Cut through the center back seam to the hip and rotate down along a “hinge” to remove length through the seat.
Option #3: Try sewing deeper darts.
FULL THIGH ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: If you need more room in the thigh, your pants will tell you with diagonal drag lines or wrinkles pointing towards your crotch inseam.
Solution: Extend your back crotch at the inner thigh to give yourself more room.
THIN THIGH ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: If the thighs are too roomy, you may see vertical drag lines along the back of your thigh. Sometimes a thin thigh adjustment resembles a flat seat adjustment with diagonal drag lines pointing up to the hip.
Solution: Taking width off the back inseam will help; you may also need to remove a little from the front inseam as well.
FULL CALF ADJUSTMENT
Symptoms: Horizontal drag lines above the back of your knees along with a snug fit through the calf indicate the need for a full calf adjustment. If the calf does not feel too tight, try a low seat adjustment first – sometimes scooping out the seat curve can eliminate horizontal lines above knee.
Solution: Cut your pattern as indicated above, and hinge seams along the lower leg to create more width along the back of the calf. This will widen the ankle opening. If you prefer a skinnier fit, you may want to try taking in the side seams below your calf to taper the ankle opening.
KNOCK KNEED ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: If you’re a little knock-kneed you may find that the fabric is tight along your inseam and looser at your side seam. You’ll see diagonal drag lines radiating from along the side seam above and below the knee.
Solution: You need a little more length at the inseam and a little less at the side seam. To achieve this, slash to a center point in the center of the thigh on either side and rotate the entire upper pant so that you are reducing the length along the side seam while slightly adding to the inseam.
BOW LEGGED ADJUSTMENT
Symptom: You’ll notice drag lines radiating out from the inseam around your knee and calf.
Solution: The exact opposite adjustment we made for the knock-kneed; you need more length on the side seam and less on the inseam. To achieve this, slash to a center point in the center of the thigh on either side and rotate the entire upper pant so that you are adding to the length of the side seam while reducing the length of the inseam.
Phew! I know this is a lot of information, but hopefully, the breakdown of these pants fitting adjustments has demystified the process a little bit. I know it can feel a little overwhelming, but it’s important to realize that small, incremental changes can make a big difference, you don’t need to figure everything out your first time around, and good enough is good enough.
Hope this helps on your pants fitting journey! And if you need help fitting other types of garments, be sure to check out all our fitting posts!