How Can We Fit Some Pants? (A Call for Testers Giveaway) here)

I see pants fitting come up a lot lately around the blogosphere -the woes, mostly.  Pants fitting is one of those sewing quests that most of us make at one point or the other.  I mean- most people wear pants.  It makes sense to sew them, but fitting is another story altogether.

So… What is good fit for pants?

I found this nifty definition from New Mexico State University’s website(follow the link for a very useful page on pants):

“Fit is… key to pants comfort and attractive appearance. Pants should fit comfortably at the waistline and fall smoothly over the hips and thighs. In well-fitted pants, the lengthwise grainline is perpendicular to the floor and creases in the legs are on the straight grain.”

That’s more or less the criteria I apply to pants fitting.

Some people have no problem with pants fitting (I’m assuming).  Some people (me!) take embarrassing photos of their “smiley pants” and post them on the internet in the mad hope that a fellow sewist will see the photos, take pity and help fix the problem:

Yep.  That’s my smiley pants.  It’s a pretty embarrassing thing to have floating around, but it was part of the process.  My pants don’t come out like this anymore, I have a simple and reliable way to make awesome fitting pants like my knicks:

I figure if I want to wear something weird like knickerbockers, they should fit well…  Once I finally had pants that fit, I lost interest in making them for myself.  I’m really more of a skirt-fiend.

Instead, I made several dozen pants blocks for women of various shapes, sizes, ages and stylistic preferences in my classes last year.  We were doing a big class on pants and I preferred to draft custom blocks than go through the rigamarole of pants alteration.  I was delighted to find my drafts fit quite well, often with little or no tweaking.  I use the Maria Martin drafting template, but I added my own nuances based on my observations while working with other women.  One day I realized I didn’t actually need to touch someone to help them make pants that fit, and the penny dropped.   I wanted to extend this same service to the blogging world for the better part of a year but lacked the time to develop my idea.

When I quit my job last September, I had time.  I’m finishing up work on the logistics of sending custom pants blocks electronically with the help of a few intrepid testers (thank you, ladies!).  I’m not offering a pattern, but a tool for alteration.  A customized tool with no size, made to your own measurements.

I’m really, really excited to finally post about this project, the idea has obsessed me for some time! (I’m sure my husband and friends are sick to death of hearing about it.)

This is the main service The Consulting Dressmaker offers (I had to introduce her first before I sprang this on you all).  Her (I mean.. my.…) job is to solve problems for sewists.  Pants fitting is a solvable problem.

I’m offering a free pants block to two readers of this blog- I’d love to work with both a long-time reader and a newer one.  When you win, I’ll send you an email with more details.  I can send the block electronically or by post as you prefer.  I simply ask that you make a muslin, let me see it, then we’ll tweak it if necessary.  You don’t need any drafting or alteration skills (I will show you how to use it, it’s pretty intuitive), but this tool is useless if you don’t know how to sew already.

If you would like to enter, please leave me a comment here with a link to either:

  • your favorite site for pants-pattern-alteration tips (I’d like to make a list of the favorite alteration sites for reference) or
  • your own recent “smiley pants” type post, or
  • tell me your pants fitting issues.

If you’re reading this and I made you a block last year, feel free to chime in!

Anyone who sews and wants nicely fitting pants is welcome to enter; size and shape are not a consideration.  If you would like to be entered twice, then post a link to this page on your blog or Facebook and tell me you did so in the comments.  I’ll choose the winners at random.

The Call for Testers Giveaway will end next Wednesday at 12 noon Brisbane time.

This service is in the testing phase right now, but as soon as the logistics work well, I’ll explain more.  I expect the price to sit somewhere around $20-30.

Whew… That’s enough for now!  I’m going to go work on my sailor top.  If you’d like any clarification, just let me know in comments.


  1. I can definitely confirm that the pants block fits fabulously, with no tweaking whatsoever! and I have had all sorts of trouble trying to find ready to wear pants that fit well and look presentable. Thanks again, Steph, and good luck with this latest venture!

  2. Hi I’ve been following a while in google reader and always find your posts thought provoking! It’s a bit sad I keep buying pants patterns and never making them cos I don’t know where to start when they don’t fit properly. I’d love you to give me a kick up the butt and get me on track!
    Cheers. Rachal

  3. I’m forever on the quest for the perfect pants and I’m a bit of an odd shape! I’ve been on two courses and am definitely getting there but am always pleased to have input from another source. I’m searching for the perfect sloper so that I never have to buy a pants pattern, or worse still, an ill fitting pair of ready made ever again. And that includes jeans!

  4. I’m new to being a (regular) reader, but I think this sounds fantastic. I have been pregnant several times in the past few years, and after each delivery my shape ends up different! After my daughter was born, my hips, waist and thighs were the same clothing size (just 3 sizes bigger than they were when I was the same weight pre-pregnancy). Now I am slimmer in the waist and hips and carrying my weight in my waistline. I have only made myself pants once–after my daughter was born–and am hesitant to try again now that I am shaped so differently. It would be awesome to have some help with pants fitting!

  5. I am currently playing with my pants block. The only alterations that I have made are for my ‘sway back’ to ensure they will come up high enough to be modest for work and also I have tapered the legs to match a favourite pair of pants I already own. I am going to make another muslin before I make my ‘real’ pants as the top of the back block is now a bit unsual, but I am fairly confident that it will work. Then I get to play around with waistband options and pleat details etc. I love those pants you have with the little box pleat in the front and I’m thinking of putting a little pocket just above where the pleat opens out. BTW – your knickerbockers are so cool!

  6. I’ve been a reader for at least a year and a fan of your Pattern Review reviews for longer. I just made my first muslin of the Wearing History Smooth Sailing trousers, but didn’t take smiley pictures. I have, however, attempted the Jaile stretch jeans and EvaDress overalls, with little luck. I have a high, round bottom which cause gaps in the waist no matter what I try, high hip and a rounded tummy but petite in length.

  7. I’ve been hit or miss with fitting pants as of late. If I follow the measurements on the pattern envelopes I end up with results like this: These are not “smiley” they are quite sad actually.

    But I’m always afraid to cut the smaller size and end up with them being too small. I always tell myself that I can always take them in but I can’t add fabric back that isn’t there. But once I get the fly in and pockets sewn, I never want to take them apart to fix the problems! I’m also lazy.

    I’ve been reading your blog for less than a year I think so I don’t know if that makes me old or new or somewhere in the middle.

  8. I would share a pair of poorly fitting me-made pants, but pants are scary. I have yet to try them because, well, they are scary. I have not said that in my own blog, but I’ve certainly commented to that effect on other blogs. But I do wear pants, it would be nice to make my own. I have even considered how poorly my dress pants actually fit (not tucking in hides most of this) that I really shouldn’t be that scared because how much worse could it be?

    I have my mom’s copy of Stretch & Sew 755 ( but after seeing all the Jalie jeans out there, I think I’d call that a pattern that I’d like to try. Or Colette’s Clover.

  9. I think this is a marvelous idea! I really need an updated pattern for pants.
    I seem to always get those baggy spots in the back, below the butt cheeks.
    I don’t require super snug fit, but it would be nice to eliminate all the excess fabric!!

  10. I would definitely be interested in a pants block. I’ve always avoided sewing my own pants because I have a 12in. difference between my waist and hips. Pants that fit a small waist never fit my larger hips and vice versa. I don’t get the smiley as much as pants sitting way too low.

  11. That’s really cool that you can help so many different women fit their pants. I personally am very petite, the distance from my neck to waist is short an so is the distance from my crotch to waist so everything that is supposed to sit on the natural waist looks super high waisted on me (but that’s just where my waist is!). Pant’s are the weirdest though, commercial patterns just aren’t drafted for my type and I’ve yet to see a petite pant’s pattern. I found most of this out when I tried making jeans for the first time last year (

  12. Oh wow, this would be fantastic. I can never find pants that fit me – I end up altering pretty much every single pair I buy – but I’m too scared to sew them on my own, and too poor to take a class.

    My main fitting issue is my waist-to-hip ratio. Pants that fit in the hips and thighs gape at the waist, so I have to add darts. It’s such a silly thing to call a ‘problem’ – “my waist is too small!” – but it does complicate things.

  13. This seems like a really great idea. I’ve tried making pants a few times but gotten pretty discouraged trying to figure out the various wrinkles. I had one pair that had smiles and said to let out the inseam so I did that and then it was way to big in the waist and hip, so I took it in on the outer seams. And then it was pulling somewhere else. Bleh. But I do so want well fitted pants.

  14. I’d definitely like to test the block as I do have trouble getting pants/trousers that fit. I’m a UK size 8 but I’ve got very curvy thighs, a ‘real’ bottom and a sway waist so I always have fit problems and can’t go without a belt. I haven’t tried making many pairs of trousers because I’m worried that they won’t fit properly and I won’t know how to alter them to look good.

  15. Oh, wow. I would love to have a pants block made for me. I’ve tried using the Pati Palmer/Maria Alto method for altering trousers, but I have so many figure tweaks that I give up in frustration. I’ve got a big belly, rounded tush, saddlebag thighs and a deep rise. If I want to avoid plumberbutt, I wind up with baggy bottoms when I stand up. My shape is just a hot mess, I’m afraid.
    I have no smiley pants photos because the last time I made a pair I could actually wear in public I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 30. The McCalls maternity slack pattern I used actually fit fairly well. The two more recent pair I tried to make wound up being recycled into kids slacks.

  16. I recently started to read your interesting blog. Today’s theme stroke a cord with me. I am plus sized. When I learned to sew many many moons ago, I was a straight size from the pattern envelope, so no alterations needed and my teacher did not teach me how to fit patterns to my body since the patterns fit straight out of the envelope. Big mistake! The fit that I obtain from RTW is not good either. Thick waist, curvy bottom, sway-back … these are some of the issues that I encounter and have not been able to resolve satisfactory when fitting my pants pattern (currently a size US 16W in RTW). It would be fantastic to finally learn how to fit pants to really flatter my body type! I would like to be a tester for your block!.

  17. I have never made a pair of pants as I was always too big on the bottom. Now I’ve lost some weight I am wearing store ones but they don’t fit. I really need to make a pair but am scared to do it alone. I’ve made them for my sons – even made britches, but boys are easy to sew for! I’d love to have your assistance :)

  18. This is very exciting! Please enter me. I haven’t successfully sewn pants other than very baggy ones, though I have been sewing on and off for many years.

    My issues: generous thighs, a bum that would look better as a belly (because it is flat) and a belly that would look better as a bum (because it’s nicely rounded).

  19. I think I’m a relatively recent stalker, but I’m as gleeful as apparently my trousers are that you are doing this! My happy pants have the smiles, bunchy legs in the back only, proportionally skinny legs, and a host of other issues. I dislike pants shopping/fitting so much I’ve started wearing skirts…

    So I observed with interest the Colette Pattern pant fitting series ( but as you may notice, I’m still wearing a skirt. (I have to find a pattern that isn’t a skinny tapered fit.) Excited about this option!

  20. I haven’t ever made pants. I haven’t even worn pants for over 4 years, because even when I was in ‘perfect shape’ they never fit properly – too tight in the front waist, too large in the back waist, uncomfortable for sitting – and I got tired of constantly showing off my undies whenever I tried to move. Post children those issues just got worse. Given how much I’ve got used to skirts, I don’t even bother looking at pants in stores anymore, but sometimes I think it would be handy to have a pair for days when I feel like being different.

  21. I’ve just started my own journey into the realms of better fitting pants. I used to live in Brisbane, and would have 1 or 2 pairs of jeans for those few really cold days. I like to make dresses and pretty things, but now live in the central west of NSW. So my daily uniform for much of the year is jeans and long-sleeved t shirt (plus or minus more layers!). This is the last pair of shorts I made.
    They are a size 14 in width and size 10 in crotch length. I am thinking I will shorten the crotch length and widen the waistband, as I don’t like to wear things quite so high waisted. As far as online tips, I don’t have any favs, I’m still just cruising and reading and going to the library for books on tailoring. I think I have to make a few more pairs in different styles to really work out what I want in a pant.

  22. Oh, wow. What I want more than anything is a good pants pattern. I love wearing jeans, but trying to find any that fit is a ridiculous endeavor. I tried making a muslin of a simple pants pattern (no pockets, no waistband, side zip rather than fly) thinking that if I got a basic pattern to fit, then I could extrapolate the fitting tweaks to a jeans pattern, but I just ran out of steam. I have almost no waist definition and very little in the way of hips. In fact one of my hips is completely flat.
    I have photos of my pants attempt somewhere, but I haven’t posted them to my blog.

  23. I have been trying desperately to make pants. I fluked an awesome pair of 50’s pants once that are an ok fit, but such a damn cute style. Here is a link
    I have since made the same pants in the long version in a different fabric and they were disastrous.
    Since then I have made pants from the 40’s, and a few from the 60’s that I have not blogged about but that were either short in the crotch or way too long.
    I am blotting along trying different things but I would love expert guidance.

  24. I have been sewing a long time but don’t ever make pants due to fitting issues. Funnily enough I will tackle anything else with great confidence but steer clear of pants, yet I wear them all the time and absolutely hate shopping for them. I would love to be able to turn out nicely fitting jeans and slacks and shorts. I live just outside of Ipswich. Hope I can help.

  25. I’m a new reader, and I would LOVE the block!!! I’ve only made one pair of pants (plus some “leggings” that ended up being way too big) so far, but they were so incredibly awful that I’m too scared to try again. They were tight in the waist, but baggy in the rump with those terrible “smiles” at the crotch and hugely, ridiculously baggy everywhere else. They were these: So cute, but I even after trying to resize a few times, I kept getting the the smiles and bagginess behind the knees. I would LOVE to be able to make pants and figure out what I’m doing wrong!

  26. Oh, wow! I am not ready for this as I’m still doing very basic stuff, but I will definitely be checking back in about a year or so when I’m up to attempting trousers.

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  28. I would LOVE to have a pants pattern that fit me properly. It’s my nemesis. In fact, fitting is what puts me off sewing more. I have the time, the fabric, the patterns and the alteration books but I just can’t get past that fitting hurdle.

    I just finished fitting an elastic waisted pair of capris from Burda Plus that have worked out reasonably well, but I’m still not 100% happy (not sure whether that’s the pants or body issues though. *smile*) I got my husband involved in the fitting process much to his chagrin, but at least he’s another pair of hands.

    Here is a pic of my first muslin, with some alterations already made/pinned into place. There was a lot more angst after this pic was taken, believe me.

    PS. I’m also in Brisbane! :-)

  29. Hi Steph! I’ve been a (devoted) reader for months and months, and this is VERY timely! I really need to make some pants, since ready-to-wear pants nevereverever fit me correctly, and it’s driving me nuts. I’ve been collecting pants-fitting resources in the hopes of altering a Vogue palazzo pants pattern to make it work, but I suspect it will be a tricky process. My favorite pants-fitting resources are the Coletterie, with all their great Clover sew-along fitting posts, and the Snug Bug – Patty has some really great info, and a little graphic of hers was very illuminating for me about the crotch length versus crotch depth concept.

    The biggest fitting problem I have with pants is that I’m very high waisted, and not just that, but my hipbones are very high as well – so RTW pants that are supposed to end at the natural waist end up putting a waistband right on my hipbones. Which ends up especially unfortunate because I’m on the plump side, and I carry some of my weight high on my hips – a waistband digging into my poor flesh is neither attractive nor comfortable. However, I don’t seem to be quite as full at the lower hip as RTW pants expect me to be, so I end up with this odd collapse to the fabric, and the legs end up skewed.

    Also – I’m doing my master’s degree at New Mexico State University, the school whose site you linked! That’s a funny coincidence, since it’s rather an obscure middle-of-nowhere kind of state school. I mean, it’s great, but it’s definitely not world-famous! ….until now. ;)

  30. ooh I’d love to be a tester, pants that fit are my quest for the next year! I’ve tried many patterns and all of them have to be changed, but I’m never really sure how. The issue is mainly because there’s a difference of at least two sizes between my hips (or rather backside) and my waist and I seem to have a full derriere – though not sure it’s not a swayback or something else.. I’ve tried several adjustements (from the Threads magazine archive, and links given by Colette patterns as a part of their Clover sewalong), but it doesn’t seem to work yet because the pants are still too high in the front, too low in the back and with too much fabric under my bottom.. So I’ve made some wearable trousers but I wouldn’t say that thay fit! Please count me in :)
    (by the way, I’m off writing a blog post about this call!)

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  33. Oh, a pants fitting magic wand would be helpful! I am short (157cm) with large quad muscles so making a pair of pants that are flattering while not being super wide legged is a challenge. I have made some Colette Clovers last year, but cobbled together the legs with the crotch curve from a comfortable pair of RTW pants. I had to drop the front crotch height, deepen/ lengthen the back crotch, and adjust the hip curves. After a week or so of wear I took in the centre back seam and waistband to remove more ‘gaposis’ and am contemplating taking an inch off the height of centre front but not sure I can be bothered with messing around with the pockets. The next pair will be better. I have rather optimistically bought some denim with some bootlegged jeans in mind…. I love messing around with fit and patterns to get them ‘just right’ as i don’t see the point in sewing something that doesn’t fit better than RTW.

    • oooh! A magic wand it is not, but it is the simplest way I have found to reliably alter pants patterns for fit. There’s still a little work to be done on your end, but I can guide you through that.

      I just don’t want someone to think it’s effortless because it’s a process. A generally painless one, but a process nonetheless. :)

  34. I’m a new reader, I stumbled over here from Robin’s blog (a little sewing on the side). I took a pants fitting class from a Palmer-Pletsch teacher

    and it was an utter failure for me because I found the pattern they used to be old fashioned and baggy. And some of my fit issues were not addressed.
    My rise is shorter in front than average. My waist is lower in front than in back. I have lots of fabric wrinkling below the tush and weird little vertical wrinkles in front below the zipper. The waist always dips in the back, but I do not have a sway back (I learned that I don’t have a sway back when I took Kenneth King’s Moulage class. I have a perfectly fitting sheath and no sway back adjustment was even considered.)
    I want well fitting trousers, jeans and “chinos” (fitted, but not as tight as jeans. Casual pants American’s call Khaki’s because they are often a light tan color.)
    Do I need a different fittling block for each type of pant?

    • Now that is an interesting question. The blocks I make have about 3cm (~2″) of ease which works well for a variety of pants styles. Fit can depend on the type of fabric used as much as the pattern, and you can kind of cheat a little bit taking deeper seam allowances. I don’t know you and your preferences (yet!), but to me I should think that trousers and chinos would have more or less the same fit, but use different fabrics. Trousers would perhaps use a slightly heavier gabardine or something of that nature, while Chinos would be a light twill or even nice poplin. That would affect the fit appropriately, I should think. As for whether jeans need a completely different block, I’m working on that. I don’t -think- so, but then taste varies on the issue so it needs more research. :)

  35. I have made pants that fit pretty well, by cutting apart a pair that fit well and copying them. ( My big problem is that I don’t really understand how to alter them for different looking styles. I did spend a ton of time making a simple pair of elastic waist pants that didn’t fit like oversized pajamas. Like the reader above I wonder if I am going to need a different block for every style.

    There is so much information on bodices, but really very little on how to make different pants styles (beyond narrowing the legs!) I have the trousers book by David Coffin, but he states straight out that he doesn’t have the time to fiddle around with fit. I would love to be enlightened!

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  37. Yes please I would love to enter and this is a brilliant idea and giveaway. I haven’t made real trousers yet for myself, only those with elastic/drawstring waist or PJs, which don’t count. On my list of sewing stuff to ‘nail’ are pants with flyfront, buttons, pockets, contoured waistbands and all that jazz.

    My trouser fitting woes with RTW are because I have no waist, am tall everywhere, and am skinny everywhere (other than at my waist, it seems)

    PS I’ve linked to this post on my blog –

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  39. What a wonderful offer from you!

    I would love to test your block. My body has gone through many changes over the last nine years. I have tried every alteration in the Universe that I could find to fit my shape and have made over 200 hundred muslins. I have a flat fanny, a wide tilted pelvis, pot belly and a few other fitting issues. I am not heavy but I am not slim.

    I have tried multiple pattern companies but have yet to find a pattern that will stay up on my body. Pants want to slide down my backside no matter what measurement the crotch depth is.

    I am a member of and it is from this website that I have learned a great deal about pattern alterations.

    It would be wonderful if I could make a simple pair of pants to wear to work.

  40. Hi, I’m a brand new reader of your blog and also new again to the world of sewing (stopped for several years), after buying a new sewing machine recently. I want to make pants for myself, and recently bought the Jalie stretch jeans pattern, after seeing the positive reviews for it on Pattern Review. I am hoping this pattern will bring good results, but I am sure that your blocks will be a better way to success!

    Thanks to Calico Stretch for alerting me to your great blog (and this contest).

  41. This looks like the answer to my sewing prayers! I have several fitting issues with pants, and have pretty much given up trying to make ones that fit me right. I just found your blot (thanks Stumble!) and would be so excited to have a pants pattern that fit properly. No matter what I try, there are wrinkles in front and wrinkles in back! I am sharing your blog on Facebook.

  42. Thanks for this post – the links you’ve given are very useful. Its nice to know what a well-fitted pair of pants *should* look like – gives me something to aim for!

    Good luck with your pant-fitting endeavour, I think its a fabulous idea.

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  44. I would love a pants block. The fitting issue I’ve run into with almost every pants pattern I’ve tried has been the front and back crotch length. There always seems to be too much fabric in the front and not enough length in the back. I tend to end up with a bubble of excess fabric at the front. I’ve tried shortening the CF and lengthening the CB, tapering to nothing at the sides, I’m just not sure I’m doing it right.

    I look forward to any pants fitting posts you write in the future.

  45. Oh this sounds fantastic!!!! I’ve only made 2 or 3 pairs of pants in my life, and only just enjoyed making the last pair, last year. But even they’re not perfect yet. Pants have always been scary for me because of all the curves; I find wrinkles all over the place! 3 mulsins last year, and they still need some adjusting.

    I would love to give your pants block a go, so I’ve also made a link to this page on my blog:

  46. Heck yes! I really want to make some well-fitting pants. I’ve been planning to try the Colette Clover pattern. They did a sew-along last fall (I think) on their blog, so there is a lot of info and support on fitting the pattern. Here’s the last pair of pants I made:
    first pants

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