Comfortable Waistband Pants

You all know how I rave on about how well Coni Crawford Butterick 5222 pants fit all my clients. Her pattern comes with a waistband and fly front but I modify/eliminate those 2 features to be less bulky by making a facing instead and using an invisible zipper like the big boys/high end designers use.

I was telling the two private label reps here in town-Carlisle and Doncaster that I felt that I must have altered 40 pair of pants for one of their clients in the past 2 years. Sure enough when I went back through all the invoices…there were exactly 40 along with multiple jackets and blouses and skirts with almost the same amount…picture her closet…no don’t.

But anyway, what I have seen is a trend toward invisible zippers, mainly down one side seam to make them a bitch for we seamstresses to alter and all sorts of smaller facings inside to keep them close to the body. In my world, I have been putting invisible zippers right up the center front of my other client’s pant along with custom shaped facings using the same fabric. Sounds simple enough but getting the shaping just right by folding out the darts in the main front and back pattern pieces and re-drawing out a new facing piece to fit isn’t always as nice as planned. It still adds bulk and a ridge depending on the fabric and the thickness of the body part/curvy hips below.

So, I thought about using 1 inch braided, NOT non-roll elastic instead on the last pair of wool crepe pants. My environmentally concerned clients pre-wash their wool fabrics (buy 1/4 yard extra for shrinking!) so as to avoid dry cleaning visits and sewing on that type of wool is a dream. The weave has a slight stretch and loftiness that curves and molds itself over hips and butts and tummies so it is a perfect combo with soft elastic. Below are the photos and steps I used:


You can see I cut the pants at least 1 inch above the top waistband seam where the normal waistband would be sewn. Then I chalk a line where the elastic will be sewn.3-serge-off-excess4-foot-as-guide

Let’s get it ready for elastic placement…Clean finish the top edge using your serger or pinking shears. I use the serger foot as a guide placing it along the stay stitching and chalked lines. Continue to the other end:5-coming-to-end

6-flip-zipper You will need to now fold the zipper onto itself right side together, you can see the interfacing on the back of the invisible zipper. Then place the bottom edge of the elastic right along the stay stitching and using a longer stitch for stretch, just stitch close to the edge.7-attach-elastic Then trim off the tails flush with the folded edge of the zipper. 8-trim-corners Trim off the corners of fabric under the elastic and any thick edge of the zipper tape hiding before you flip all this to the right side.9-flip-elastic-down

OMG, How neat is that? A little hand stitching of zipper edge to the elastic and we are in business! What’s left? How about tacking the elastic to each dart and seam inside for comfort?10-hand-tack

11-inside-hook-and-eye The finished waistband with hook and eye and supreme comfort. Now your fabric needs to give a little to make this work…a little spandex content or forgiving weave like wool crepe is a perfect match. There will be gaps of fabric between the tacking sites but the elastic will stretch to fill the gaps when worn. So curvy girls can enjoy the snug fit without a bulky or binding waistband where they have no waist or extra skin folding over the top of their pants.

That reminds me of the issue of crotch depth…how many times do you see unhappy sewers modelling their newly sewn pants with the center back seam crawling up their crack? The pants fit OK in front and then the dreaded back view. They ask us “What do you think” on their blogs and I want to scream…”DROP THAT CROTCH SEAM”…but usually I don’t. Women fail to measure themselves or know the amount needed to run from the belly button to center back. Hey…before you cut one more paper pattern please measure from belly button to va-jay-jay and from va-jay-jay to center back waist…write it down…now measure your paper pattern. Does it match the pattern? Probably not. Many of my curvy clients measure 31 inches from front to back- that is 13 inches in front and 18 in back. Try finding that in most patterns…I dare you…well Coni Crawford knows women come with those dimensions and she raises center back in the larger sizes so when you or your client sits down that back seam does not sneak down and expose your undies. She also eliminates the bagginess under the butt and back thighs…how does she do this…is it magic? No, it is proper drafting and paying attention to real women and using industry techniques that many pattern companies leave out.

Before I leave you I want to share a hazard of sewing for brides that most people don’t know…OK maybe my friend in Georgia who works at a David’s Bridal is familiar with this phenomenon. After my newest bride has been standing for 30 minutes, knees locked staring at herself in the big mirror and spot lights on her white dress she says she feels funny. I stand up from pinning her 3 layers of silk chiffon hems and her eyes roll back, her face turns purple and her knees fold up and her arms droop. Holy crap…this girl is either fainting or going to have a seizure. I reach around her, give her a bear hug and drag her to a chair. She is given a huge glass of water and while she sits there sweating like a pig she says, “Maybe I should have eaten something today”… it is 2:30 pm… a starving fasting bride is no fun and with her wedding 8 days away on the 18th she thinks this will make her more photo ready…GUESS AGAIN! What it will get you is a chair to use on the altar or collapsing before you say those vows. Be a star in your own wedding, get on YouTube and embarrass yourself before the reception that your parents paid a fortune for…brides…wearing a white/ivory dress makes them loopy for sure!

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33 Responses to Comfortable Waistband Pants

  1. prttynpnk says:

    Ok, I am headed for the tape measure- I think you may have solved my pants hatin’ issue…..

    • mrsmole says:

      If the “U” shape of the crotch is right, then the other variable is front and back depth where they meet at va-jay-jay junction.

  2. theresa says:

    I really have got to try those pants! 2013, the year to tackle a few more pant patterns and coats and jackets. My usual answer to the bridal brew-ha-ha, elope, put the cash you save into a house down payment and have a hell of a wedding/housewarming party instead
    Oh and snow..let’s just say snowmeggedon might cover it all. 🙂

    • mrsmole says:

      You already make such darn cool pants with cargo pockets and trims…might as well have the crotch feel right and side seams hang straight. Those folks who ordered up a white Christmas for the Northwest can send a memo back saying “enough”.

  3. ellecsews says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put together this tutorial, I really appreciate it. You are my new hero! One question, pre-washing wool, that is hand wash right?

    • ellecsews says:

      oh yeah, and I am going to buy the Connie pants pattern today. I am so easy.

      • mrsmole says:

        Hand wash or machine on gentle setting…depending on how much it may shrink, then do into a warm dryer. I think I have posted the before and after shots of shrinkage of this torture but once it is done, it’s done. It will shrink width wise too so maybe cut a sample square, measure it, torture it and measure again. A loosely woven fabric will tighten up sort of like a felting project if it is agitated too long in water.

  4. Tia Dia says:

    I’m going to have to try that CC pants pattern. I’m still working on the perfect fitting pair of trousers. I guess what I really need to do is make a block and then I’ll be able to make all the styles I love without all the fitting hate thrown in! I love dress pants, and wool crepe is my all-time favourite fabric to work with.

    • mrsmole says:

      Her pattern sizing is in 2 sections with a big jump into the second larger one with that center back seam rising higher. Coni told me if I could stay within the first sizing and just cut the largest I would be OK. At the time it worked fine and I added a little to the side seams, then I lost some extra weight and everything fit better. Her sizing tries to mimic RTW sizing so say an XL is really an XL and her hip and waist measurements are right on.

  5. Monique says:

    Thanks again Mrs. Mole for helping us out, knowing what home sewers like me are looking for! Getting ready to work on pants myself and “studying” those fitting issues in preparation. I’ve learned the benefits of a good preparation above my former hasty starts and mishaps. 🙂
    Hope you’re in for wonderful Christmassy weather and lots of coziness. All the best!

    • mrsmole says:

      Once you cut out her paper pattern and lay it on another brand with straight of grain lines together you will notice differences and see why other patterns hang weird. I even took apart other pants (Mccalls) and re-cut them so they would be perfect.

  6. Alethia says:

    Great tip on the pants!
    As for the fainting brides, that happens all the time. And, it happens to my cotillion girls. All that crap they have to wear up under these gowns, standing for long periods, their nervousness, and it doesn’t help that they don’t eat…. I have stopped a many of clients from passing out just by learning the signs~ they start rocking, they turn pale, green, purple, they starting sweating, and complaining they feel funny and don’t know why. That’s my cue to set these girls down, unzip their dresses, and undo their corsets, then dash to get them some water or a piece of candy and something to fan with. Afterwards, they are good to go. Go figure. I only had one to actually faint…no warning…she was actually pregnant. That’s bridal biz for you!

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Alethia, thank you for reminding me…the pregnant ones, top heavy to start with but wanting every bit of chiffon hanging even with the floor and estimating how they will look a month later when the tummy is wider. All this palaver and in the end the girls end up exercising/dancing in these gowns and downing champagne.

  7. Karin says:

    I am one more reader who wants to try those pants now! Your discussion of crotch depth is spot on in my case.
    Thanks for all the pictures showing how you get a nice finish with this waist treatment. I shall try it sometime!

    Merry Christmas!

    • mrsmole says:

      Hey Karin, your blog, is so colorful and varied with bags and knitting and darling kids and clothes…whoa! We both have British husbands, what area of the UK do you live in? I spent 8 years just outside of Liverpool. Your weather has been brutal but I hope things calm down a bit for the 25th and beyond! Have a mincemeat tart for me!

      • Karin says:

        Thank you for the kind words! I live in Essex, just outside of London proper, on the Central Line. It’s warm and wet here. We managed to go for a walk in Epping forest today; it was squelchy. Luckily, we are not in one the areas that has seen flooding. Imagine flooding over Christmas!
        I’ve eaten more than a few Waitrose, all butter mince pies. I gave up trying to make them after a few years.

  8. LeeAnn says:

    I have learned so much since I started reading your blog a week ago! One of my favorite RTW trousers have the elastic facing waistband. I’m so glad you talked about those pants. I haven’t attempted pants yet, but with your insight I’ll begin with these!

    • mrsmole says:

      Love your mini purses made with calendar fabrics and holy moley, girl…your veggie garden and flower arranging just makes me so jealous! What a great blog for dropping by!

  9. sharon says:

    Have you ever put the zipper in the back?

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Sharon I have but only for my own. Most clients don’t want to reach behind and when it is in front, the pull tab lies flat and you can put a hook and eye or floating snap at the very top to help with stress at that point. You can’t do up a hook and eye easily on center back. Most of clients never tuck their shirts in and this technique allows the pants to really cling to their body so if they wear sweaters or knitwear, there is no bump in front for the fly nor waistband tight enough for a muffin top. It is a fast technique after fusing 2 strips of interfacing where the zipper goes. Thank you for asking.

  10. Cindy says:

    I’ve heard of petticoat junction but va-jay-jay junction is a new one! And “I feel funny” is indeed code word for “I’m about to pass out”!

  11. Judy Galligan says:

    I have just started getting your posts, and Wa La you are talking about the invisible zipper in slacks.
    my favorite ready to wear pants have the Hollywood waist paints with the invisible zipper, I have lost weight and need to do some alterations so I can wear the slacks this winter, that I purchased last spring on sale. So I have to take the facings off make slightly larger darts front and back , works for the waist to tighten that up but I need to take out that pesky zipper and bring the side seams in. It has been years since I put a zipper like that in. Any help on this would be gladly accepted. I don’t have the confidence to do others sewing s, My mom used to do it , I admire you for your work and enjoy your wonderful stories.

    Judy galligan

    • mrsmole says:

      Hi Judy, if the side seams are pressed flat you can just open up the seam below the zipper and then take it out. Mark where your new side seam line will be and place the zipper teeth on those lines and using an invisible zipper foot, stitch it in place. Then stitch the side seam below the zipper tail closed. Sometimes I cheat and only take in the other (right hip) side seam a little more than I should so I don’t have to mess with the zipper if it is just a small amount too big. I know this is cheating and it might throw off the center back or front seams 1/8-1/4 inch but think about the labor time involved removing and replacing a zipper…Do you have any friends who don’t mind sewing that type of zipper? some gals use 2 way tape to hold the zipper in place as they sew…it washes away, well some brands do, and it beats ripping out. If I have a tough place to maneuver into I just hand baste that sucker in place, check for the top edges being even and just stitch it with the machine. Good luck!

  12. Oh now I’m going to have a get out my tape measure and figure out how to use it! On the crotch – hubs always looks at me funny when I do this. Thank you so much for your writing and this tute and the CC trou pattern shout out. Can’t help but laugh my arse off and learn stuff all at the same time :o).

  13. Jennifer says:

    so after you measure the crotch depth between the back waist and the nethers, do you add depth at the top of the pants along the waist or do you deepen the curve at the bottom or both?

    I love this blog because I’m learning new things every time i red it! thanks

    • mrsmole says:

      I usually add one inch to the top of the waistline seamline or more depending on the fullness of tummy and/or hips. When my client comes for a fitting, I put a one inch wide elastic around her waist, tight held with a safety pin to be flat against her skin and then tuck the pants up under the elastic. Wherever the bottom edge of the elastic sits, I pin the fabric to the elastic and mark it. It can vary 1/2 inch from side to side or tummy also depending on the drape/give of the fabric…the more tightly woven, the less give so add more than an inch when you cut out the paper pattern. After i cut the paper pattern, I run a basting line at the proper seamline so I know where the pattern company thinks the client has her waist. Wool crepe is divine to work with as it molds to hips and tummies but a wool/poly tighter blend is not happy with back darts over hips and you may need to add a little to the top edge (top 2 inches) of the side seams that can be pinned out later or dragged over to the nearest dart placement. I deal with all sorts of shapes so I cannot actually tell you unless I see you…does that make sense? The more you add in the beginning at the top edge of the cutting stage, the lower your crotch will be but it may surprise you in the elastic stage that you are a perfect size out of the envelope but if you don’t add that extra to start with, you have nothing to work with. Coni describes doing this in her pattern instructions. Try sitting down when the elastic is pinned to the fabric and see if your undies show…that will tell you if you need to use the extra fabric at center back…thank God you added it if you need it. You can then add that to the paper pattern or take some away if you need it shorter in the front as well to get rid of any bagginess.

    • mrsmole says:

      I add at the top which drops the curve lower until you determine the correct height. You an always trim off the top later.

  14. symondezyn says:

    I wish I had an abundant enough booty to have this problem but sadly most pants are saggy on my butt, not tight! lol
    Still, it’s the same solution for me – I’m still a novice at pants, but I learned I have to adjust that crotch depth! lol

    I can’t even imagine why a person would starve themselves; if you have to starve to get married, it’s not worth it IMO – lol ^_^

  15. Rebecca says:

    Awesome tutorial. I was thinking about using this on some stretch twill khakis that will be made into capris. Will this work?

    • mrsmole says:

      I’m sure it would as I have seen this on RTW pants in stores. What the elastic does is replace regular facings but keep the inside circumference tighter to snap back into place.

  16. Eleanor says:

    Hi I am just a basic sewing grandma who is trying to alter a very smart slim dress that I made for my granddaughter about 6 months ago to go the ballet. She has just turned 12 and is very petite. The dress is now too tight at the bodice as she is changing but I can still convert the bottom into a long skirt as she loves the very pretty material.
    I made the dress with very generous side seams so the skirt will be looser but still not enough to step into. Can I use the above instructions to convert the skirt with a zip and elastic band so she can grow and use the skirt for a little longer.
    Thank-you in anticipation

  17. mrsmole says:

    Yes, Eleanor, that would work and it is up to you how tight you make the elastic and how much slack there is between tacking points (darts, side seams ).

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