Dawn's Costume Guide

Simple drawstring breeches

There are a number of "authentic" patterns for leg coverings. If you find one and want to use it, more power to you. Otherwise, if youíre here to find out how to make pants for your kid the pirate, or want some sort of simple drawstring affair to wear on cold days at the Faire, read on. These can also be made up in flannel with elastic at the waist for pajama or lounge pants.

This pattern requires some careful fitting around the crotch area. An assistant is nice, if you can get one. This is a full day project.

Take the following measurements:

Waistline ____ x2 = ____.
Hip ____.
Diameter of Thigh just below crotch ____.
Crotch (front of waistband to back of waistband) ____.
Length (waist to below knee or ankle) ____ +4" hem = ____.

Compare your waistline and hip measurements. Chose the larger of the two. Youíll need at least twice that amount of fabric in a length to suit you. You can use more fabric if you want really baggy, foofy pants, but I wouldnít suggest you get much below that number if you want to avoid splitting the crotch every time you sit down.

Look at your thigh measurement. If it is greater than half your waist/hip measurement, you are going to need even more fabric to get a good fit.

It will help to get a piece of graph paper and mark out a simple diagram, like this.

About the crotch measurement: There are two ways to do this. You can take one measurement from front to back and it will work well enough. If you notice, however, the front and back are different, and if you measure them separately, you get a slightly better fit in the end. Wearing jeans or comfortable slacks, measure from the belly button to the crotch seam on the pants you are wearing. From the back, measure from the waistline to the same point on the seam. The back is usually several inches longer than the front.

You need to be careful with the length you choose. It is easy to make your breeches too short. If you want the cut-off-at-the-knee length for raggy pirate pants, give yourself an extra 6 inches below the kneecap. I'm not sure where it goes, but when you lay 2-dimensional fabric on a 3-dimensional body, some of it vanishes.

Make sure you choose the right fabrics. Striped fabrics make great breeches. You do have to lay out the pattern so that the stripes run up and down your legs, and not around them. This may mean making less efficient use of the fabric than otherwise, since I have seldom met adults who have legs skinny enough for me to be able to get more than one pantleg out of a 36" width of fabric. When you are shopping for fabric, go with the pattern that is printed along the length of the goods, not across it from selvedge to selvedge.

If you pick a lightweight fabric, such as cotton or a poly blend, make sure it isnít so sheer that folks will be reading your underwear label through it. If you can see your hand through it, other people will be able to see what else you have in there.

Whatever you choose, make sure it is soft enough that you can stand wearing it next to your skin for a period of time. Donít assume it will soften if you wash it.

Once you have all your measurements itís time to fold and mark the fabric.

Cut your yardage into two equal pieces. Each one will become a pants leg.

If you are using the single crotch measurement, fold the two pieces in half, right sides together. Divide the crotch measurement number in half and mark a curved line on each piece as shown in the diagram.

If you are using front and back crotch measurements lay the two pieces right sides together. Mark one edge as the front and the other as the back.

Get your front crotch measurement. Look at yourself and estimate how much of that measurement goes down the front, and how much of it curves into your crotch. If you arenít sure, itís better to make this marked line smaller so you can enlarge it later on.

Do the same with the back measurement.

Mark your fabric like this:

Notice that the back curve is deeper than the front curve. Both curves should end at the same point below the waist. You may have to adjust the lines to get them to match up.

If you are absolutely positive you are doing this right you may cut the crotch lines, leaving yourself a half inch for seam allowance. Otherwise, give yourself an inch in case you made them too large.

Sew the front crotch line. Sew the back crotch line. You now have a big tube of fabric connected by two curved seams.

Open the tube and match up the top of the front seam with the top of the back seam, right sides together. Pin securely. Match up the bottom of the front and back crotch seams.

The legs part of your pants should now be obvious. Sew from the crotch seam down each leg.

Now comes the moment of truth. Try them on. Match the front and back crotch with your waistline and see how they fit. Too small? You can enlarge the crotch until theyíre the right size. Too large? Know anyone they might fit? Yes, the waistline is huge; youíll be gathering it with elastic or a drawstring, so donít worry about it at this point. The thighs should fit you, and not be too tight. If you think they might be a little snug, try sitting down in them. If you cut off circulation, consider starting again.

To enlarge the crotch, take note of where the problem is (not deep enough in back? In front? Giving you a terrific wedgie?) Turn the pants inside out and mark a new sewing line. Sew along it, and rip out the old seam. Try them on again before cutting any extra fabric away. You canít put extra fabric back after youíve cut it.

Assuming the pants arenít too small, and you have been able to enlarge the crotch a little to fit better, all that is left for you to do is hem the bottom of the legs, and add drawstrings if you wish, and hem the waistline. Fold the top of the waist over a half inch, then over again an inch or more. Sew the fabric down to make a hem casing you can thread a heavy cord or drawstring through. If you unpick the front crotch seam just a little bit, you will be able to get your cord in the front to thread it.

If you donít want to gather all that fabric into the ankles, you have the option of tapering the leg seam so that the bottom is not as wide as the top. This will also help them fit into high boots a little better without being bulky.

If your efforts came out wrong, look at where it doesnít fit and try to analyze what mistake you made. Usually itís a measurement problem. Getting pants to fit right isnít the easiest of jobs. Use the first pair you made to calibrate against the next time. If you want, go ahead and mark all over them in pen where they didnít fit, and use that to make a better pattern for a pair that does fit.

All text and artwork copyright 1990, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 D. Duperault. May not be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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