How to make trousers that fit: part 1

This is a huge topic, but it’s one I feel I can’t ignore. Well-fitting trousers (or pants for our American cousins) have been my holy grail ever since I started sewing. But it can be such a confusing world to launch yourself into that I thought this new series might help others grappling with the same problem.

I don’t pretend to know everything about the process, so I’d welcome your suggestions for improving and updating the posts in this series as I go along.

So where do we start? By choosing the right pattern.

If trying on trousers in a shop has ever brought you to tears, you’ll know that there are styles that do and don’t suit you. (You’ll also appreciate this awesome long read post by the Holistic Seamstress.)

Does the style suit you?

Being large of hip and thigh, I accepted long ago that skinny jeans are unlikely to ever feature in my wardrobe. I live in wide-leg, flared and (unfashionable horror of horrors) bootcut trousers. I’m tall but not all that leggy, so I avoid cropped trousers, side seam pockets, pleats in the front and anything too high or too low waisted.

You might be the opposite – petite, or very slim of leg and larger of tummy. Whatever your shape, find what suits you and avoid the heartbreak of finally making trousers that fit you perfectly but which don’t suit you. If you’re a confident sewist, you might want to alter a pattern to suit your style. Personally, I prefer to take an easier route and choose a flattering style to start with.

Another straightforward option is a flexi-fit pattern with different pieces for different styles. In my stash (but so far untested) is this Simplicity Amazing Fit trouser pattern 1696, which contains three different trouser shapes.

How closely does your shape match the basic measurements on the envelope?

When it comes to fitting, not all trouser patterns are created identical. Each pattern company uses its own fit model and if your proportions are the opposite of theirs then you’re just creating extra work for yourself blending different sizes.

For example, the Thurlow trousers by Sewaholic are designed for pear shapes like Tasia and aren’t recommended for non-pears. You can read Lauren Guthrie’s post about her (non pear-shaped) experience with the Thurlow pattern if you’re curious.

I suspect apple shapes would get on better with Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers or the Papercut Guise but I’d welcome your suggestions and experiences.

Not sure what shape you are? Try on different RTW trousers and study where they’re tight and where they’re loose. Or take your waist and hip measurements – if the difference is greater than 10″ you’re a pear; less than 10″ and you’re more of an apple. If the difference is exactly 10″, lucky you – you can choose a mainstream pattern and you’ll have one fewer alteration to do.

If you can’t find a pattern you like anywhere, there’s another route you can take – drafting your own. With the right instructions, it’s fairly simple to draft a basic trouser block using your own measurements. On the upside, you’ll then have only minimal fitting alterations to do. The downside? You’ll need to add in all the styling yourself (and it won’t come with instructions for sewing them up!). So this is a good option for confident drafters, or if you’re looking for a relatively simple trouser pattern.

See part 2: choosing the right fabric and why you’re going to have to make a toile




  1. Trousers have been a huge challenge for me, I got the sewoverit Ultimate Trousers to fit but I want to try another pattern next year! Looking forward to reading more!


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