Luxury Loungewear Challenge: A Loose-Fitting Top and Power Mesh Leggings
For the record, I don’t design loungewear. Loungewear to me is boxer briefs and a T-shirt. Admittedly, I wouldn’t run to lunch in that outfit. Still, comfort is key around the house. I typically design and construct more formal garments: jackets, evening gowns, strapless bodices, etc. The idea of loosening up and making chic pajamas isn’t in my wheelhouse. Hey, they don’t call them challenges for nothing.
Coming up with a luxury loungewear design
Not really having a basis for women’s comfort clothes, I polled my female-identifying friends. I asked what they thought loungewear was. Their options were: floaty robes and silky pajamas; sweatpants and T-shirt; yoga pants and a tank top; and leggings and an oversized T-shirt. The results were overwhelmingly . . . a four-way tie. Gee thanks, ladies.
Bewildered by the results, I got to thinking. If my lady friends can’t come to a consensus as to what loungewear is, why should I? I learned that no matter what I designed from this pool of options, there would be at least one woman out there who’d think my look was the ideal lounge outfit. I’m still back to square one as to what I should design. At least it would be easier to justify.
Navigating a second challenge
A second personal challenge to this luxury loungewear challenge would be working with knits. I know how to sew knits, but I rarely gravitate toward them, as I’m more comfortable patterning and sewing wovens. Yeah, I could have just made a silky kimono robe/pajama pant combo and called it a day. In my personal work, I have been trying to “loosen up” the rigid structure I’m used to. This challenge was a great opportunity for me to have to work with shapes and materials I’m not accustomed to.
Because of the nature of the assignment, I knew this had to be an easy pattern and silhouette. As I often do, I began by sketching my basic ideas. Initially, I wanted an asymmetrical design, then a skin-tight design, then a combo of the two then so on and so on.
Draping a design
Oftentimes when I sketch too much, I confuse myself more. So I abandoned the pencil and started draping. The form usually makes more sense to me in three dimensions, and when I threw the knit on the mannequin, it clicked. The pattern piece for this look’s front and the back are essentially the same piece, with a slight modification to the neck on the front and back respectively, and the back got swung out for more volume.
My personal patternmaking is always less professional than it should be, so I have reproduced the pattern pieces as a technical flat. The front and the back are genuinely the same piece. The “sleeve” is built into the bodice and is angled straight off the shoulder for more flutter.
Adding volume to the back is an easy technique that can quickly add volume to simple pattern pieces. I placed the center back tip of the neckline on the fabric’s fold, with the stretch going across the body. I angled out the body of the pattern then cut it out. I continued a smooth curve from the pattern’s center back to the fabric fold, being sure to meet the fold at a 90-degree angle.
For the at home/out-and-about versatility of the look, the shirt is beltless on the couch, but can be cinched in through side slits for running to lunch.
Adding side seam interest
For the leggings, I had to add an aspect of subversiveness. The sheer power mesh stripes down the side probably wouldn’t cause a scandal doing a crossword on the living room recliner but might at brunch with the girls. To balance this, the tunic is long enough to shield the thighs from prying eyes, but short enough to keep them guessing.
This is a simple detail to add to any legging pattern. From the stitching line at the side seam on the front, draw a parallel line in, half the width of the stripe you want. In this example, let’s say you want a 3-inch-wide vertical stripe. You’d draw in 1 1/2 inches from the stitching line. Repeat for the back. Cut away the strip on both the front and the back along the lines you drew. Add seam allowance to each cut line of the front and the back pattern pieces. These are your new “side” seams.
For this example, our stripe is 3 inches wide (1-1/2 inches from the front and 1-1/2 inches from the back). Add seam allowance times two (let’s say your pattern’s seam allowance is 1/4 inch all around, so you’d add 1/2 inch) to the width of the stripe (3 inches + 1/2 inch). And cut a strip of power mesh that is 3-1/2 inches wide by the length of the side seam.
To construct, I sewed the front-crotch seam together, then the back crotch together. The stripes were sewn to the front “side” seams, then the remaining stripe seam gets sewn to the back side seams. I then sewed the entire inside leg seam as one long seam. From that point, you can do the hems and the waist treatment as normal.
A worthy challenge
I’m glad I did this challenge without relying on my usual arsenal of techniques. Hopefully, it will teach me to loosen up with future projects.
In the next post, we’ll talk about some tips and tricks to help control pesky knit seams.
Editor’s note: To find out more about the construction of Gilbert’s ensemble for the 2022 Threads Digital Ambassadors’ Luxury Loungewear Challenge, read his second installment here. You can also see what his three challengers created and who was voted the favorite here.