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copying/redesigning RTW pants

acrrola3 | Posted in Fitting on

I have two pair of RTW side zip pants that I have altered for myself and am happy with the fit.  They are in a stretch denim and a black stretch poplin.  The black ones are beginning to look really bad.  I am considering taking them apart and making a pattern from them.  I have a really hard time finding pants and jeans to fit.

1. Do I need to do anything special other than just picking them apart and pressing to use them as a pattern?

2. Would it be be a good idea to change the tapered leg to a wider straight leg or even a modest flare?

3. Could I use these pants to compare to other patterns to see how the pattern would fit? 

4. Would it be very difficult to change the side zip to a front fly for more design options?

Thanks for any advice you could give me.



  1. ShannonG4d | | #1

    Alison, you are on the right track with your questions.

    Taking them apart is an excellent idea.  I have done so on many occasions, for clients and for myself.  Good fitting pants are such a prize that the pattern you make from these will be a treasure!

    When you take the pants apart, be sure to mark carefully where the pieces match at the hip and knee.  Do this before removing the stitching by marking with a permanent marker on the inseam AND the outseam.

    After removing the stitching, match up the fronts.  You may see a bit of distortion due to wear, particularly in the knee and crotch areas.  Trace off the larger of the two pieces (the one that has stretched out the most) as your beginning pattern.  Do the same with the back pieces.  Make a muslin copy of these two major pieces and run it up with basting to double-check the fit.  You may find a couple of areas that need a bit of fine-tuning, and it's best to do this before cutting into good fabric. 

    Adding a fly front is not a difficult thing to do.  I would pull a fly pattern piece from another pants pattern and just match the pieces to the center front of your new pattern.  Be sure to accommodate the fly in the waist treatment, as well.

    Changing the shape of the legs is a good idea; just be sure to maintain the straight grain in the center of the pant leg.  You'll want to add or subtract from both inseam and outseam in order to do this.  Again, run up a muslin to check the hang of the pants.

    When you finish and the pattern is to your liking, transfer everything to heavy paper or cardboard for a permanent reference.  I've taken to putting some patterns on the construction paper used in house-building.  It's sturdy, cheap, and I can roll it up for storage.


    1. acrrola3 | | #2

      Shannon, Thanks so much for your tips.....I am feeling more confident about tackling this project....

      1. SewTruTerry | | #3

        Also remember that the original pants are made with a stretchy material you will want to check to see how much stretch is in the fabric and look for similiar material.  Also if you do not intend to work with similiar material you will have to add in some ease to compensate for this factor.  This is a reall good reason to test in some really inexpensive material.  Good luck.

        1. acrrola3 | | #4

          I have gotten so hooked on stretch fabrics in my pants, that I may never go back to regular rigid fabrics again! However, thanks for the reminder if I do decide to try some regular fabric.  

  2. mem1 | | #5

    I have done this too with good result .I would leave a wider side seam just to be sure since stretch wovens do vary. The other thing that Ihave found important is to check the method used in the waist band . I have found that stretch wovens are fantastic but they can GROW during a days wear and you end up with a droopy crotch (very Sad). I have found that adding some twill tape into the seam joining the waistband and the pants is a good idea .Also just recently I bought a pair of pants which are THE BEST ever fit on me .They have a waist band which is mounted onto a piece of elastic which is a little wider than the waist band . the elastic is about 2/3 the length of the waist band and attached at each end to two pieces of interfaced fabric . These create a flat non elastic area for zip and fastening etc. The top of the outer waistband is turned under and then mounted onto the elastic componant . This is stretched as you sew.the ends are finished in the usual way and the elastic is attached to the pant body by stitching in the ditch. They are the most comfortable pants  I have ever worn and allow me to move around very freely without the droopy crutch scenario!

    The only other suggestion is that you only unpick half the pants as then you will have the other half to use as a sewing guide.

    1. acrrola3 | | #6

      Good idea!.... These pants also have an hidden elastic waist....looks flat but has elastic....I am going to try to copy it.

      1. JeanEsther | | #7

        One more suggestion that has helped me: pull a thread lengthwise along the middle of each leg, and then crosswise at the hip and a little below the crotch. This will help you keep the grain straight and help you get the crotch curve correct even if the fabric has stretched.

        1. acrrola3 | | #8

          Thanks, I will remember that .

          1. SewTruTerry | | #9

            Another way to control the "growth" in the crotch and still maintain some stretch (after all sometimes we do need it there) is to use the clear swimwear elastic instead of twill tape.  Just heard about this one at the Sewing and Craft Expo in Chicago recently. 

          2. acrrola3 | | #10

            So, you stitch the swimwear elastic along the crotch seam?  I don't think these ready to wear pants had anything like that, but i will have to examine them more closely.

          3. SewTruTerry | | #11

            No I would bet the RTW doesn't have the elastic in them however they are probably stay stitched or they have some selvage sewn into them.  You may have to look very closely.  What I was trying to say was that on some fabrics like the slinky knits that can continue to stretch but don't have the bounce back qualities that they should it helps to add the elastic to prevent the stretch out of the crotch seam.

          4. acrrola3 | | #12

            Oh I see......I am planning to try some stretch twill or poplin or denim....you know the kind that just stretches enough to give you a little comfort......

  3. Imzadi | | #13

    Definitely change to a straight or flare leg. On the tv show, "What Not To Wear." they show that unless a person has vitually no hips, tapered legs (otherwise known as peg-legs,) rarely look good on anyone. The tapering gives an inverted triangular silhouette, emphasising the hips & making them look bigger, and the legs looking short & stubby. When the people changed to wider straight legs, they looked classier, leaner, with longer legs.

    Start the wider line from the widest part of the hips on down.

    1. Theodora | | #14

      Even if you already ARE short and stubby? It wouldn't just be an illusion on me.....if I do straight legs from the hip on down, I might as well be wearing an evening skirt.

      1. Imzadi | | #15

        Especially for people who already ARE short and stubby. :) The purpose of the show isn't about plastic surgery, dieting, exercising, etc. It is about making the most of what you already have, de-emphasiszing bad points & highlighting good points OR drawing attention AWAY from bad points.

        Here is a pic from the show. It just so happens the way the pants legs falls on the mannequin, the leg on the left gives the appearance of a tapered "V" leg (both inside & outer leg) vs. the straight line of the leg on the right side of the screen. If you cover up the right side of the pic, the tapered leg even looks like a pirate's peg leg shape.

        So you can see, even on the same body, (and this is a slim, long body) that the overall line of the legs make a difference. On a body already short and stubby, the difference of pointing out or de-emphasising the stubbyness would be more dramatic.


        I could never figure out why some RTW pants looked better on me while others didn't, until I specifically tried on straight leg pants.

        If you can't straighten from the hips, at least start a gentle straightening from mid thigh or above the knee. :-)

    2. acrrola3 | | #16

      I hate tapered leg pants.....I have also been watching wntw and have taken the straight leg pants advice to heart.  I have trouble finding them in my size and that is one of the several reasons i am going to try this project. 

      I am short with short thick legs and when I wear a straight legged pair of pants and a little bit of heel, I feel much taller and more pulled together.

      1. SewNancy | | #17

        I am not short, but I have hips and love flared pants or straight leg.  But, I don't cut them straight fromt hip, they would be too wide, but they taper out gently below the hip.  or flare from the knee.  Also, in Easy Guide to Sewing Pants Lynn MacIntyre talks about a percentage of your hip fro the optimum leg width.   I look at it as a minimum.  Also, if you have a pair of rtw pants that are flattering check the hem width and use that.


        1. acrrola3 | | #18

          Thanks, Nancy.....I'll do that.....I certainly don't want my pants legs to be as wide as my hips!

        2. Tauri06 | | #19

          Question --

          You mentioned in your e-mail a book by Lynn Macintyre - Easy Guilde to Sewing Pants.  Where did you find it?  I'm very interested in her theory about percentage of hip for optimum leg width?


          1. SewNancy | | #20

            I have had it for years and don't recall where I bought it . But it is a Taunton press book. Try their website or Amazon.

          2. woggy | | #21

            I have this book.  Can you site the page that gives this information.

            Thanks so much.

          3. SewNancy | | #22

            Funny that you should ask, but while I know I read it there I can never find it without a lot of work.

          4. SewNancy | | #23

            I looked again in my book and it is 41% of the full hip. I think that a bit more is more flattering on my 44" hips. But, I really like my 22' wide pants from Hot Patterns. They are the Razor pants with flat front. I am on my 5th pair after years of struggling to get pants that fit and are flattering they are fab. The back was alsways the problem for me and with just lowering the back corner of crotch about 1" for my low rear, they fit smooth and straight! And I do mean corner. They have an L shaped back crotch that I have never seen before and it really works.
            I am going to narrow them to 19" and see how they look.
            PSits on page 135

          5. lbbray | | #24

            Some how just found this thread and devoured it.  But, I must say that I taper (slightly as a rule) all of my pants legs.  I am one of those people that flared and sometimes straight legs look like full skirts on.  I have no hips or fanny.  Granted, for evening pants I do love the fullness, but need the shaping of the tapered legs for regular wear.  Isn't it fun how many different shapes we all come in. 

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