A guide to pants fitting problems – sew pants that fit you
If you’re like me, nothing can kill your sewjo (sewing mojo) faster than a garment that doesn’t fit. And pants are often the worst culprit, as far as I’m concerned (like that time I bought alllllll the jeans and pretty much none of them fit). So today we’re tackling pants fitting!
This post was born from the video below (and on YouTube here) which was originally a Facebook live video. Because of that, it’s a little long and more conversational than my videos tend to be, and I debated about whether to share it. But in the end, there’s a lot of good information in the video, so I do think it might be worth a watch. And then read this post for more examples and clarification.
Note: this post has spawned many, many emails and comments asking me for personal fitting help. While I would love to personally help everyone that asks, there is not enough time in my day to do so. If you comment or email with a personal fitting question a response will not follow. My best suggestion for further help is to get some cheap fabric and experiment with changes, making sure to CHANGE ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME to see how it affects the fit.
Because bodies and pants patterns are all different, I ALWAYS recommend making a muslin or toile of your pants first. The ones in the video and the ones below are made of actual muslin fabric, but yours doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be any inexpensive fabric with similar properties to the fabric you intend to use for your final pants. In other words, don’t use a stretch fabric if your final pants will be non-stretch, and vice versa.
When I make a muslin, I usually only cut the front and back pieces and make them about knee length. This saves fabric. Below, I’m using my Forsythe Trousers pattern. On the front, I pinned the pocket in place on the side seam, and folded the fly under, so all I had to worry about was the front and back.
To make the muslins for this video and for the post, I started with a pair of pants that fit me well and then altered them to make them not fit me. Hopefully the video above and images below help you figure out your own pants fitting issues so that you can successfully resolve them.
And before we get into pants fitting problems, it’s good to note how pants should fit. They should be flat in front when standing, and fall from the buttocks down in back, with perhaps some wrinkles in the back (depending on how tight the thighs are).
As you can see in the well fitting pair above, not every wrinkle will be eliminated and you should not try to eliminate every single one! You need some room in the thighs or you won’t be able to walk or sit, and that room can translate into wrinkles. In addition, you may have wrinkles around the waistline if you are fitting a pair of elastic waist pants (as these are). When making a muslin you can tie elastic around your waist to hold the pants up – this makes the muslin a very quick sew.
A well fitting pair of pants has both enough room to go around the hips and enough room to go between the legs. If either of these proportions goes off, fit issues happen. For the purposes of this post we’re going to assume you’ve got pants that you can pull up over your hips – if not, size up. But just because you can pull the pants on, doesn’t mean they fit properly.
So, let’s talk about the front fitting problems you might encounter – starting with smile lines around your crotch in the front.
Smile lines are caused by not having enough depth in the crotch/room in the front thigh. In the picture of my muslin above, you can see the wrong muslin on top and the correctly fitting one on bottom – see how a change of 1/2 inch gives me a diaper crotch?
Another common problem is not having enough curve to the crotch, as shown below.
This problem can look like a camel toe, or manifests in horizontal wrinkles at the upper thigh. Now, sometimes very fitted pants can have this look (think jeans) intentionally, but in a pair of pants with a looser thigh such as these the crotch needs more of a curve to have a flatter, more flattering front fit. In the muslin image above you can see the too shallow curved pair on the bottom, and the correctly curved pair on top.
It can get confusing to determine whether you need to scoop the curve or extend the crotch point, so I have a comparison below.
As you can see above, the wrinkles are different for the different fit issues. The pair that needs scooping has horizontal wrinkles, the pair that needs the crotch point moved out has wrinkles radiating from the inner thigh toward the upper outer hip.
These problems with the crotch curve are even more common to encounter in the back of pants, because booties vary so much in size and shape. So if you’ve got a wedgie, here’s what to do.
See how I can’t even get the back waist of the muslin above to tuck into the elastic I’m using to hold the pants up? That’s because the back rise isn’t long enough for me, which can be fixed by a deeper crotch scoop. The muslin image above shows the too shallow curved pair on the bottom, and the correctly curved pair on top.
On the other hand, you can also have a wedgie from needing to extend the crotch point, and the two look different.
When the crotch point needs to be extended, the pants will be tight around the fullest part of the buttocks and possible seem loose below. In the picture of my muslin above, you can see the wrong muslin on top and the correctly fitting one on bottom. Note that this kind of wedgie is the type often seem in mom jeans – and it can sometimes be intentional.
How do you know whether to scoop the crotch or extend the crotch point?
As you can see above, on the left, there is a wrinkle of fabric at the fullest part of my buttocks. That is the big clue that a scoop is needed here – there is extra fabric being pulled into the wedgie. Compare that to the picture at right, where the excess fabric is above and below the fullest part of my buttocks.
This post isn’t an exhaustive list of all the pants fit problems you can have, but it does cover the most common problems I have seen in pattern testing. I do plan to add to it in the future, so pin or bookmark this post for reference.