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Fitting Pants for a flat derriere

Mary_Friesen | Posted in Fitting on

I have been sewing for many years as well as taking courses for pattern making. I have come up against one problem I can’t resolve….making a pair of pants that fits. I have a 29″ waist and 36″ hips with flat hips and a fairly flat backside. I know the magic is in getting the crotch right, but I just can’t seem to hit the right solution. The patterns always have too much fabric under the seat and too much fabric across the front (especially when I sit down). As soon as I start plying around with the crotch seam, it goes all wrong. Any suggestions?


  1. Karen_Vesk | | #1

    Mary, without seeing exactly how the pants fit on you, it is hard to give exact advice, however, several of my clients have complained of the same issues when they purchase ready-made pants.

    If you have a flat rear, I suggest using only one dart - that is, you don't need to take in too much to taper from your hip measurement to your waist measurement.

    If you have too much fabric under your... errrr... buns... your pattern may be too long in the back. But keep in mind that your body becomes concave in that area - and the only real way to make it completely follow your curves is to make skin-tight pants from stretchy fabric.

    If you have too much fabric in the front, you may consider making pants with darts instead of pleats. Pleats, by their very nature, give you extra fabric in front. As for having too much fabric there when you sit, please keep in mind that when you sit, your body changes shape. The back of your behind becomes longer, and the front becomes shorter. For those of my clients who spend much of their working day sitting, I sometimes make pants and skirts that are more "hip-hugger" in front. But then keep in mind that when you stand, the front will appear shorter.

    Keep in mind that you want the fabric of the pants to drape gracefully over your body, not to follow all of its contours.

    1. A.J. | | #2

      *Mary,Not an expert with lots of years of experience in the cutting room, but rather an enthusiast, who is trying to learn a lot about patterns and fitting, I would like to offer my 2 cents to this. Spread out your flat pattern in front of you, I think it'll help "seeing things."1.The seat angle should not be confused with the seat seam. It it likely, that the patterns you came across have a seat angle, that would accomodate a rounder seat and not a flat one.You'd have to adjust the seat angle of the back part of your pattern to make this angle smaller; that puts the crotch edge of the back pattern part closer to the fork, without changing any line below the crotch of the back part. You'd immediately adjust the sideseam angle of your back part accordingly, again this would bring it closer to the fork. This is not just a seat seam adjustment. In other words, looking at the flat pattern of the back part, imagine a 90 degree angle, that vertically and laterally intersects the bottom of the crotch (where it joins the forepart). The upper portion (above the crotch) of the back part would be "moved" towards this vertical line, closer to it.2.You can adjust the seat seam after you adjusted the seat angle to control fullness or tightness in the crotch area of the back part. Plus, you can make adjustments in the sideseams of the back part if needed.3.It sounds like, you have too much material in the front vertically and laterally too. Make neccessary adjustments by lowering the waistline of the front and/or of the back to attain a balance that is suitable. Use elastic band around waist to measure crotch depth (from front waist to back waist) add ease, adjust front/back panel vertically.If front panel has too much fullness laterally,( too much fabric in width) adjust at sideseams.Another point is figuring out what to adjust so, that the pants not only fit, but also flatter. Still, the above applies.Hope, this is helpful, good luck,A.J.

      1. Elona_Masson | | #3

        *Mary, the first thing to do is get a Burda or Neue Mode pants pattern. These have the best, most realistic crotch curve you'll see in a pattern. There is a great discussion of fitting Burda pull-on pants at http://www.sewingworld.com, under "Pattern Fitting and Alteration." One of the regular contributors is a fine sewing teacher named Louise Cutting. Many ladies say that the two patterns discussed there have changed their pants-fitting lives.Next, see if you can get a nifty Singer paperback called "Sewing Pants That Fit" probably from http://www.amazon.com, and/or Sandra Betzina's cool pants-fitting video at http://www.sandrabetzina.com. These will help you understand a lot more about pants-fitting.Obviously, you have too much length, especially in the front crotch, perhaps because of a flat tummy, or just because you're short from hip to waist. To help determine what's up, you need to take your "stride" measurement. To do this, wear your undies and tie a length of elastic at your natural waistband. Then, run a tape measure between your legs from front to back, holding it no further from your body than you would like your pants to ride (the higher the crotch, within reason, the longer your legs look and the more easily you can walk, too). After you've done that, compare that measurement with the total crotch length of your pattern (figure in where you wear your waistband: If you like to wear a high waistband, your total length will be longer than if you like your waistband no higher than your navel). Chances are you'll have to fold out some length on the front and back pattern pieces.This, in itself, won't cure that under-rear fullness, which is a consequence of the flat rumble seat. A "wedge correction" may be of some help here. To make it, you draw a line all the way across the pattern, perpendicular to the grainline, below the back waist, but before you get to where the back crotch seam starts to curve. Then you cut along that line from center back almost, but not quite, all the way across to the side seam. What happens next is that you overlap the cut edges at the center back. How much? Not very much. For my flattish rump, I take out only 3/8", and it makes all the difference in the world. The angle of the center back seam is in essence a dart: It provides for the fullness of most people's behinds. If you don't have a prominent rear end, you want to bring that center back seam closer to vertical, to reduce the amount of "dart." If this gives you too little sitting room (the back crotch seam cuts you when you sit), you can "scoop out" a bit more room by sewing the just curve of the seam a little deeper (start with 1/4"). This will restore the sitting room, while still keeping the advantage of that more vertical center back seam.One important thing to do before putting the waistband on your almost-complete pants is to try them on with a 1" or 1 1/4" length of elastic around your waist. You'd be surprised how much fine-tuning of the fit you can do at this point, just by smoothing the pants this way and that, removing wrinkles and strain lines. When they hang well and look good, then, and only then, chalk-mark the corrected seamline below the elastic.

        1. Dot_Kingrey | | #4

          *I also would suggest a basic Burda pattern. I, too, have had that problem and would never sew pants because of the bad fit. Well, I got the Sandra Betzina video and a basic pants pattern from Burda and now love to make pants. I especially like them in the new cotton/lycra material -- I also recently used Sandra's new Vogue pattern with seams down the front and back and fell in love with that pattern. They fit and feel so good.

          1. Joyce_S._Murphy | | #5

            *Mary, I have another approach to getting pants to fit that may not have occurred to you as an option. Notice that Karen Vesk in her response to your post starts out by saying, “without seeing exactly how the pants fit on you”. What if you went to someone like Karen who fits lots of pants on many body shapes in her daily work and paid her to fit your pants for you? (I’m assuming, Karen, by virtue of your response to Mary that you are a custom clothier who alters and makes clothes for a living). Fitting is one of those things that is extremely hard to do on oneself. Most of us wouldn’t attempt to cut our own hair but when it comes to fitting clothes it doesn’t occur to us (especially “us” who sew for ourselves) to go to the fitter. (And if we did go how exactly would she be able to help us get the pattern that fits?) I’ve done much thinking on this subject because I’ve been there trying to fit my own clothes and I’ve spent 20 years fitting and altering clothes for other people. Now I’m starting a custom pattern business to help people like you get patterns to fit. My approach uses garment try-ons, teamwork, and a way to talk over a pattern. If you want to know more send me an e-mail and I’ll give you all the particulars.

          2. Karen_Vesk | | #6

            *You are correct, Joyce, I am a custom clothier. I have clients who sew for themselves, and I do walk them through the fitting process. Most of the garments I make are custom-fitted draped, but if a client were to ask for it, I could make corrected patterns for them. Most of the time, I make notes on their measurement page, as to what changes I made to which commercial pattern. The reason I do not go back and make a corrected pattern in each case, is that rarely does any client ask for more than a few pairs of the same pants. Or by the time I make repeats, their dimensions have changed.Most cities/towns have educators/classes/lessons, for example, through a Board of Education, where students learn by helping fit each other, supervised by the instructor. This is what we did in the design classes I attended.Having said all of that, I must confess to cutting my own hair.

          3. A.J. | | #7

            *My mother had an uncle, who became a dental tech and a dentist before there was anything like a Dental School. He is in his 90-ies now. Not only did he do his own dental tech work for himself, but he pulled his own teeth, performed root canals on himself, fitted caps, bridges and the whole nine. There's got to be a way to fit yourself well, when it comes to garment construction.Happy stitching,A.J.

          4. Joyce_Murphy | | #8

            *Karen, Good to know that you have clients who sew for themselves who come to you for fitting. Guess what I suggested isn’t such a new idea after all. Oh, and your carton is great! Maybe I’ll start using the major surgery example along with the haircut when I suggest to the custom clothing hobbyist that she (he) go to a professional fitter. And Karen, you gave me another idea. I’m going to attempt to post a pattern diagram with a more constructive answer to Mary about her pants fit.A.J., Wow! I can’t imagine doing my own dental work. Yikes, makes my teeth stand on end just thinking about it. Must admit though I did pierce my own ears on my 21st birthday. And I agree with you 100% we should be able to fit ourselves if we want to spend the time at it, and we should also have the option of not having to fit ourselves if we don’t. I just hate to see the fitting aspect stop us from sewing.Mary, about fitting your pants -- Sounds like you are up for the challenge so it would be amiss of me not to help in any way I can. As Karen said “Your pattern may be too long in the back”. To show you what is probably going on with your pant fit in the back I made a diagram from my stock size pant pattern. (And yes the single dart in the back might be better for you. I didn’t change that on my basic pattern.) What I wanted to explain is that you can lower the waist in the back and scoop the seat to eliminate the extra fabric under the seat. The back inseam is shortened up slightly when you do this and can be stretched when sewn to the front inseam. The caution is that when you shorten the stride (see diagram) you remove some sitting and walking room since both moving your knee forward and sitting create a pull on the line from center back to inside knee i.e. the stride.

          5. Joyce_Murphy | | #9

            *Mary and all:I'm afraid the attachment to my last post will not work so I scanned my diagram and saved it as a .jpg file. Here it goes again. Sorry about the last one.

          6. A.J. | | #10

            *Joyce,That's a neat diagram you put on the web! Your diagram shows a correct seat angle for a flat butt, but "scooping out the seat" will add to the problem. I wonder if Mary is still with us, or all this was just a little too much info for her?A.J.

          7. Joyce_Murphy | | #11

            *A.J.Thanks. Glad you like it!I scooped the seat because Mary says she has too much fabric under the seat. I assumed that the extra fabric is too much length and so I lowered the waistline and scooped the seat to remove excess length. Now if the extra fabric comes from too much width then you're right she wouldn't want to scoop the seat. Instead the adjustment might look more like this (see Maryp2.jpg attached file). This time I took 1/2" off the crotch point, straightened the center back seam up into the waist, straightened the side seam and changed the back from 2 darts to 1. So hard to tell without seeing.... It feels like fitting (in person) with my hands tied behind my back! Hope the pattern drawings help.The fun of fitting is that even after 20 years of doing it for a living there is always something new to learn so if I've missed something here let me know. Joyce

          8. A.J. | | #12

            *Joyce,Yes, I think I like your last diagram best!I would still pay close attention to the seat angle under the buns.I am learning from old books, such as "The Art of Cutting and Fitting" by J.K.Wilson.Truly a gem of a trade book.Happy adventures in fitting!A.J.

          9. Elona_Masson | | #13

            *Cool, Joyce! I notice in your excellent diagram that your crotch curve gives a much better depiction of an actual sagittal section of the feminine pelvis than the Big Four patterns do.

          10. Joyce_Murphy | | #14

            *Thank you A.J. and Elona for your compliments. The pattern drawing I used is the "Designer's Eye View" of my soon to hit the market first pattern. I'll let you know when it's ready just in case you might like one. Elona, Sagittal? I had to look that one up in the dictionary! I thought at first that you made it up and it had something to do with sagging behinds or something like that. Thanks for the new word!A.J., Tell me more about "The Art of Cutting and Fitting" by J.K.Wilson. What era is it from and is it primarily women's or men's wear or does it deal with both? Are there good pictures or drawings in it? I haven't heard of it before.Joyce

          11. Elona_Masson | | #15

            *Unfortunately, Joyce, if "sagittal" did have something to do with sagging cabooses, it might be all too appropriate. But really, when you look at the crotch curve provided by, for example, Vogue patterns, it's laughable to see that funny, shallow little V-shape that they think women's bottoms have!

          12. Karen_Vesk | | #16

            *My dictionary did not even have "sagittal," but that won't stop me from using it in a Scrabble game in the future. The closest I could find were: sagacious (def: wise in a keen sort of way), sagamore (def: an Algonquin chief) or sagitate (def: shaped like an arrowhead, e.g. calla lily leaves). Not to mention the concern this new word causes to me because I was born under the sign of Sagittarius...

          13. Joyce_Murphy | | #17

            *from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:sagittal - 1: of or relating to the suture between the parietal bones of the skull 2: of, relating to, situated in, or being the median plane of the body or any plane parallel thereto - sagittally adv

          14. A.J. | | #18

            *Hi there,I let my inquisitive mind glide over that word "sagittal" and just tried to figure out from the context, what it may mean. Glad to hear, you all had stopped for a split second, pondering what this mysterious word might reveal about the complexities of fitting.Joyce, the book I mentioned about is out of print, it came out in 1950. The author was the two-time winner of the Golden Trophy award in England, that was something like the Oscar of the sartorial art.In a wonderfully lighthearted way, Mr.J.K.Wilson explains the fitting knowledge he accumulated over the years, that stood the test of time. Primarily, the book illustrates fitting guys, butthe "mechanics" studied in the book apply to the human figure in general and a chapter is devoted to women with careful attention to the curvature of the female body.I had no idea what I was buying, when I purchased this book over the Internet, but now I feel, that the "Art of Cutting and Fitting" is well worth its weight in gold. It is clear, concise and thorough, yet not overwhelmmingly dry at all.Generally, I find, that old trade books give you detailed and precise instructions on fitting. Perhaps it is no wonder, they are from an era, when not name brands, but the cutting/fitting/sewing skills of the tailor made a splash and made heads nod with appreciation. I also enjoy books by Mary Roehr and Natalie Bray. Their cutting books are great, out of print, but not entirely unavailable nowadays.A.J.

          15. Joyce_Murphy | | #19

            *Thanks, A.J.It is hard to find good books on fitting and alterations. Thanks for the information. I have a couple of favorites too. One that I have used as a reference for making hand stitched buttonholes and decorative arrowheads over skirt vents as well as other hand stitches is a book by Stanley Hostek called "Hand Stitches". The author taught at Seattle Central Community College until about 1980 when he retired from teaching. I learned from a couple of his students who taught in the Apparel Design Program there soon after. Another book I found useful is "Fitting and Alterations For Men and Women" by Richard and Verna Fuller. I think this one was given a good review in the Creative Machine newsletter a while back. They have a tailor shop in Casper, Wyoming called Fuller's Tailors. I like the idea of awards having been given for tailoring skills. Too bad there isn't more of that today!Joyce

          16. A.J. | | #20

            *Joyce,I have also used M.Roehr's books, "Altering Men's/Women's R.T.W." I got them from Atlanta Thread & Supply. Best of luck in all your sewing adventures!A.J.

          17. Mary_Friesen | | #21

            *I want to thank you for the excellent advice. My job took me out of town shortly after I posted my enquiry. When I got back about 10 days ago, I immediately set to work incorporating your advice. I modified my pattern in three locations: dipped the seat curve, shortened the back inseam (very slightly, because I can often see slight bulging between the legs when viewing from the front in the mirror) and I shortened the centre back seam - again just slightly. I had already cut the curve along the hip. I am absolutely amazed at the difference! Got to say, I'll be sewing up another pair this weekend. Thanks again!

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