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To Fit Pants, Start at the Waist

Although the waistband is the last piece you sew, it should be the first area you fit
Threads 119, June/July 2005

Over the years, I’ve fitted pants on thousands of bodies, and although I can easily and happily fit pants now, I found this task frustrating and time-consuming when I first started my custom tailoring shop. Back then, I followed the traditional fitting method: I pin-fitted a muslin version minus the waistband, then attached the band once the fit was perfected. Unfortunately, adding the waistband usually sabotaged all of my hard work, and I would have to go back and refit the muslin all over again.

One day, when I was struggling with a waistband, I experienced an “a-ha!” moment: Everything hangs from the band, so it should be the first thing I fit, not the last. Once I figured that out, I was able to streamline the process. Now, I do the fitting in fully sewn pants. I call these “test pants” because I construct them in muslin or other inexpensive fabric—including the all-important waistband—and measure the pants only after any fitting changes have been made.

Choose a pattern that fits your hip measurement

The best pattern to use for your test pants is a basic pants pattern that features one dart on the front, one or two darts on the back, and a straight, noncontoured waistband. I prefer to start with a slightly tapered leg, as it’s easier to evaluate how it fits than a fuller leg. If you desire a straight, boot-cut, or full leg, it’s easy to make those style adjustments to the pattern after it is fit.

Because the hip area is the most challenging area to fit, choose your pattern size based on that measurement, even if your waist and abdomen are larger than your hip. I know this seems counterintuitive, but it really does work, as you’ll see in…

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  1. user-2698071 | | #1

    How do you accommodate the gap that resulted because the waistline was too tight? and obviously the abdomen was also too small. Do you just add the required inches at each side seam? Or do you slash and spread and add additional space in the middle of the pattern?

    1. carolfresia | | #2

      There are a few ways to get that additional circumference across the abdomen. You can release any front darts, and add some width at each side seam. There are other, more complicated ways to increase that area, which also add some length to accommodate a fuller abdomen, but if you need 2 inches or less, I'd start by working with the darts and sides seams.
      Carol Fresia, Threads Senior Technical Editor

  2. User avater
    [email protected] | | #3

    Excellent visuals and one of the best examples of correct pant fit I have seen, e.g., smooth drape from /over butt cheek. Examples of good fit give us a benchmark to strive for.

  3. user-3819778 | | #4

    Who is the author of this article and what book are they referring to (p. 36-37)?

    1. user-2698071 | | #5

      written by Joyce Murphy. The page numbers refer to the pages in Threads 119, June/July 2005 - the issue where the article appeared .
      Go to https://archives.threadsmagazine.com/threads/aug-sept-2021-216/flipbook/0/
      Click on the 'Library' button.
      and scroll down to past issues for 2005 (left margin)

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Fit and Sew Pants

Fit and Sew Pants

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