Friday, 1 August 2014

HSF #13: Under $10 - 1930s-40s-style trousers

Remember my almost favourite trousers?
I've wanted a new pair of wide-legged white summer trousers for quite a while now. Over time, it evolved into a pair of 1930s-40s-style wide-legged trousers. I looked at pictures, I looked at vintage patterns online, I compiled a Pinterest board for active wear / outdoors wear / hiking wear / whatever of the era, inspired by Swallows and Amazons (I love Arthur Ransome's books, as my Literary Heroine Party questionnaires attest to). After all that, I was on the lookout for white cotton twill to make my trousers. Sounds like a basic enough fabric, right?

A basic, classic look, right?

Well, that was probably the problem: the shops I visited were full of colourful prints and low on very basic fabric. And I didn't always have the money to spend on fabric, so I could not be on the lookout all the time. In the end, I found exactly the fabric I wanted this January, with my Christmas money. And it was in the remnant bin, so it was marked down. All great, and I bought it; the problem was, there was only about 1,2 m of it, so I wasn't at all sure it would be enough for my wide-legged trousers.

At the beginning of July, I finally mentally crossed my fingers and cut into it. I just so-so squeezed the trousers out of it, with the help of
a) the fact that I have short legs, so 1,2 m was long enough for both legs and waistband,
b) inside waistband of a different material,
and c) some creative seam allowances (and this is one of the two huge reasons why I love the continental Europe practice of patterns with no seam allowances and going by the sewing stitching line, thank you very much).

 See? Some very creative seam allowances there.

Oh, and d) forget about those folded-up cutting diagrams. Such a waste of fabric. I never use that sort of layout, I just make sure I have the grain right and cut wherever I can squeeze it.
It did help that I was going for the vintage style with a lapped zipper on the side: a fly would take more fabric. Somehow, I even managed to squeeze the visible part of the slant pockets and the belt loops out of it. And I still have some small scraps... well, more like tiny. (Probably not even enough for doll trousers. I'll probably still try. :D)

The pattern is based on the one taken from those trousers I found at home. I made the back darts a bit bigger in the process. I also altered the front crotch a tiny bit (the original is very L-shaped, I made the curve more gradual because it always felt a bit off). Made a waistband, of course. And following the example of the vintage patterns I've looked at, the legs are not tapered at all, just cut straight down from the crotch/hips.

It results in a bit of a baggy look, but that, I believe, is quite correct for the era.
As you can see on this photo, though, I may still have to line the top part - the navy stripes of my T-shirt and my pantyline (ugh!) are showing through.

The fabric got a bit off-grain in the wash, so the trousers are cut a bit off-grain, too. Here's hoping it won't play havoc on them over time.

As mentioned previously, there's a lapped zipper on the side - handpicked. Then there's hooks and thread bars in the waistband. The hem allowance is handstitched, too. Otherwise, it's straight stitch (+ flat-felled inseam), zig-zag and some pinked seam allowances (at the pockets and in the waistband).

I also made use of the selvedges wherever I could.

The most important thing, of course, is the fact that I finally have nice casual trousers I can squat in and do stuff in without exposing my back.

Okay, they're white, so it's probably not a good idea to do all kinds of stuff in them. But the point is, I have a pattern that works.

In the end, styled with a striped T-shirt and the matching Miss Barbora hat, in emulation of the beachwear of the time, it's definitely more Miss Barbora than Swallows and Amazons. I plan on using the same pattern to make shorts for the Outdoors challenge, though, and that will fill that Ransome doing-all-kinds-of-stuff slot. :-)
Thus the "Pattern - Nancy" tag.

Just the facts, ma'am:

The Challenge: #13 Under $10
Fabric: cca 1,20 m of a white cotton twill remnant + a piece of an old tan cotton twill pinafore for the inside waistband. Oh, and I forgot about the old bedsheet for the pockets...
Pattern: my own, adapted from a pair I own
Year: cca 1930s-1940s
Notions: white cotton thread, metal zipper, hooks (+ thread bars, because I did not have enough overlap in the waistband for an eye)
How historically accurate is it? I think about 80-90%? I based the style on vintage pattern pictures, tried to only use techniques that would have been used then (straight stitch, zig-zag, some pinked seam allowances, some handsewing). But the slant pockets, placement/number of darts and details like that may not be quite accurate.
Hours to complete: I lost count; like usual, it took longer than I had expected, there was quite a lot of handsewing... maybe 10?
First worn: So far, just for some quick pictures (it was either too hot or too rainy for actual wearing). They’ll definitely get a lot of wear, though.
Total cost:
Cca 160-170 CZK for the fabric (I've lost the receipt), 15 CZK for the zipper + the other odds and ends take it to about 200 CZK = Just about those 10 USD (yay for remnant bin!).

Also wearing:
the Miss Barbora hat - C&A, a gift 
striped T-shirt - Ellen Amber, thrifted
necklace - made by me
belt - unknown origins, found at home
shoes - Clarks, second-hand

And a tomcat who wasn't happy about becoming a fashion accessory at all. 

Oh, right, outside of being a Historical Sew Fortnightly item, it's also an #Oonapalooza item for the Sewcialists group. So I wanted to be a bit more creative with my photos, Oona-style, but no. My poses, it turns out, are limited to: front; back; maybe side; okay, squatting down not very creatively; looking off into a distance in a manner that makes me unwilling to share those photos; grabbing a cat and hoping for the best.


  1. Hani, moc hezké letní oblečení a opravdu to evokuje třicátá léta... Modrý proužek na halence spolu s bílými kalhotami do zvonu - to je i mé oblíbené letní oblečení. Moc ti to sluší.

    1. Děkuju. Oblíbená modrobílá kombinace. :-)

  2. LOVE them! Straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. Although of course, not the victim or the murderer hehehe

    1. I'm the onlooker who reluctantly lets the detective talk her into cooperating.

  3. Nice job!! I guess "squeezed" is the right word - good for you!

  4. oh hana, i don't know if i've said it before, or you're simply psychic: if there's anything i consider a timeless classic, it's wide legged white trousers. i owned a pair once, long before i sewed, and i wore them to death-- their death came in the form of a chocolate gelato.

    this ensemble is stunning, truly-- you've absolutely nailed the poses-- i want more hana posing now!! you've opened pandora's box ;)

    1. I've mentioned them at your post, but the idea came first. I wanted to make them either way, Oonapalooza just came around serendipitiously! (Such a word!)

      Thank you so much. The poses are mostly by accident, I think... but I guess having a fun outfit to pose in helps.

  5. Such fabulousness on such a tight budget! They really do look great, and I like the way you styled them. Very nautical chic and summery.