Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body

Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body

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by Pati Palmer, Marta Alto, Jeannette Schilling

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This pattern book features step-by-step instructions on fitting and sewing pants for women of all different body types using the twin techniques of tissue- and fabric-fitting. Important sewing choices are highlighted, including choosing fabrics, selecting appropriate alteration tools, and finding styles that are most flattering. The fit-as-you-sew process of


This pattern book features step-by-step instructions on fitting and sewing pants for women of all different body types using the twin techniques of tissue- and fabric-fitting. Important sewing choices are highlighted, including choosing fabrics, selecting appropriate alteration tools, and finding styles that are most flattering. The fit-as-you-sew process of making pants is illustrated with progressive photographs of fitting pants for nine women of different size and shapes. Covered are a variety of styles including non-roll and expandable waistbands; centered, lapped, and invisible zippers; faced and contour waistlines; and cargo, double welt, and simple side seam pockets.

Product Details

Palmer-Pletsch Associates
Publication date:
Sewing for Real People Series
Edition description:
Fourth Revised and Expanded Edition
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

Pants for Real People

Fit and Sew for Any Body!

By Pati Malmer, Marta Alto, Sue Neall, Connie Hamilton, Kate Pryka, Jeannette Schilling, Theresa O'Connell, Pati Palmer

Palmer/Pletsch Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Palmer/Pletsch Incorporated
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61847-035-5


The Palmer/Pletsch Approach to Pant Fitting

The Palmer/Pletsch Approach to Pant Fitting







1. Buy the right size pattern.

2. Tissue-fit the pattern.

3. Alter and refit the pattern.

Does the fitting approach described here sound too good to be true? After fitting thousands of women in pants since the '70s and perfecting pant fitting techniques, a proven method is now taught by Palmer/Pletsch instructors worldwide. For the first time, they will share with YOU what they've learned about tissue-fitting pants!

Learning to fit pants is a process. The more you do it, the better you get. Once you get a pattern to fit, all you will have to do is pin-fit each fabric you sew. Fabrics all drape differently, so "tweaking" the fit on your body will always be necessary.

4. Pin-fit the fabric.

5. Enjoy the final pair of pants.


Pants Can Flatter You

What pant style is best for your figure? Our philosophy is that any figure type can wear any style as long as it fits properly. Even a person with a large tummy can look nice in a pant with a waistband and the appropriate top. Good fit can make you look 10 pounds thinner! With pants that fit, you will be liberated to wear more variety and to look more fashionable!

Which Pant Styles Are Most Flattering?

Tight pants show off your shape, so unless your shape is perfect, looser pants are universally better for both thinner and heavier bodies. Even a narrow-leg pant will be more flattering if the narrowing is gradual rather than beginning just below the tummy and derriere.

Trousers are a very flattering style since they are loose-fitting and have vertical lines that make you look taller and slimmer. Jeans, on the other hand, are designed to fit tightly, often with no "ease" in the hips. See page 20 for information on ease including the "pinch test."

More ease isn't always more flattering, however. A full pant on a petite person can be overwhelming, and a full pant can make a large person look larger.

The good news is that ANY style of pants will be flattering IF THE PANTS FIT. Ease is a personal preference and can be changed to suit the wearer, but it is good to know the amount of ease built into the various styles available so you will know what to expect when you buy a pattern.

Pant Styles and Standard Waist, Hip, and Crotch Depth Ease

Leggings — knit pants that stretch to fit the body. Originally they were used for exercising, but moved into fashion in the 1990s. Unless you have a perfect shape, always wear a long top over them, to cover the derriere.

Traditional jeans — very fitted except in the waist (so you can bend over!). Originally a functional pant for riding horses. Extra crotch ease would cause chafing and saddle sores!

Plain fitted pants — a nice basic, with minimal bulk in the tummy area, especially for wearing with sweaters and tops that are not tucked in.

Classic trousers — have slanted pockets, fly front, pleats, and a front crease pressed up to one of the pleats ... lots of vertical lines. For the most flattering look, press the deeper pleat and crease flat to the thigh.

Modified trousers — may have slanted trouser pockets and a fly front zipper, but no pleats or crease. Nice if you want a fitted pant with pockets.

Culottes — pants with a longer crotch. They look like a skirt, so the longer crotch just adds comfort without looking baggy.

Full evening pants — these must be made of very soft drapey fabrics to be flattering. If you are heavy or petite, buy a smaller size with less ease for the most flattering look.

Flattering Fabrics

If you are heavy or short, avoid bulky or stiff fabrics, tweeds, plaids, wide-wale corduroy, and shiny fabrics. They add visual weight. Wool gabardine or wool crepe, microfiber polyester gabardine, and linen-like fabrics are universally flattering pant fabrics. They are heavy enough to drape over and camouflage body bulges, yet not so heavy or textured that they add bulk. Our favorite pant fabric is wool crepe because it is easy to sew, drapes well, and just seems to mold to fit your body.

Pant Colors

The most versatile colors are the basics: taupe, beige, black, brown, ecru, gray and navy. You can wear many colors of tops with them. They are also seasonless. If you have a navy wool gabardine pant, you can wear it all year round in most climates. Wool breathes. Pants in colors other than neutrals will be much less versatile, and then each pair will provide limited options in your wardrobe and you will need more pairs of pants to coordinate with your tops.

Use Color to Your Advantage

Your eyes see light, bright, and shiny colors first, so if you want to de-emphasize your hip width, avoid these colors on the bottom. Use them to call attention to your face. Study these drawings to see how color can enhance your figure:

Very light top and dark bottom with strong contrast shorten figure with horizontal line.

Medium light top and medium dark bottom won't cut the figure in half, yet the eye is still drawn to the face.

Monochromatic (same color) top and bottom is elongating. Colors can be of slightly different shades.

Jacket and pant in same color create a full-length vertical line. Light blouse draws eye to face. This is the most slimming look of all.

Building a Pant Wardrobe

Carry swatches of your wardrobe fabrics on a card in your purse to use for color matching while shopping. You will plan better and will look smarter on a much smaller budget.

Also, keep in your wallet the amount of yardage you need for 45", 54", and 60" fabrics for a plain pant and for trousers.

For example, possible yardage needed for size 10:


When you buy fabric for pants (see more about fabric, pages 15–17), decide if it would be a good fabric for a jacket, then buy it all at one time since dye lots vary. There are so many different blacks, whites, and navies that you may never match the pants. We go one step further. We buy enough for pants, skirt, and jacket at one time. The cutting advantage gained will often leave enough fabric for a free vest or skirt to be added.

Waistbands Designed to Flatter

If you are short-waisted or have a full and low bust, a narrow waistband will be more comfortable and flattering.

Contour waistbands require tissue-fitting since they must fit well to look good.

Low-riding pants are more flattering if you have a small waistline with a fairly flat tummy.

Pull-on pants fit more smoothly around the waistline if you have little difference between the size of your waist and hip.

If your waist is a lot smaller, you will end up with more gathers. A zipper would be more flattering.

Jackets with Pants

If your pants fit well, jacket length can vary. However, if jackets stop at the fullest part of the hip, they will emphasize hip width. Overall proportion must also be considered — a short person may look better in a shorter jacket. Before making a jacket, pin the pattern pieces together and try on with the finished pants. A full-length mirror will give you your answers.

If the proportion doesn't seem right, try one of the following:

• Change shoes (shape and heel height).

• Change jacket length.

• Pin pant legs narrower.

• Match jacket and pant colors.

Pant Shoes and Hosiery

The wrong shoe can throw off the whole proportion of your outfit. Hosiery is important too. If you want your legs to look their longest, ALWAYS blend your hosiery and shoes with your pant color. Tights or trouser socks can be opaque in the winter, but should be sheer in the summer. A closed-toe pump with a 11/2-2? heel is a universally safe year-round shoe that can be worn with both pants and skirts, so if your budget is tight, this is a great way to go. Avoid wearing out-of-date shoes and stockings. Flip through fashion magazines looking at nothing but shoes and stockings for a quick way to learn current fashion.

Watch Out for "The Tacky Look!"

Panty lines — Look in the mirror before you go out. Any lines? French cut panties (high side legs) with wide elastic that comes to the waist work well for some figures. It is usually the bikinis that hit you at the middle of your hips that create major dents. Or try panyhose or shapewear with built-in panties, or a thong.

Blouse lines — Pati simply pinks the lower edges of blouses so they are flat when tucked in. Marta serges hers. Also, try tucking blouses into panties or pantyhose. You will be less likely to have panty or blouse lines with looser pants, firmer fabrics, or with lined pants.

Style Changes Affect Pattern Drafting

When pants go from very fitted to a wide-legged trouser, the shape and length of the crotch changes. Some of your needed alterations may even go away! Here is what happened in the 1970s when the first trousers reappeared since the 1940s. (Pink is a fitted pant and black is a trouser.)

Can We Change Our Shape?

Yes! We can change in weight but not proportions. One of our favorite sayings is "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." We can also exercise and tone the figure. One of Pati's favorite leg exercises is to do side leg lifts while she is brushing her teeth, washing dishes, or fusing interfacings.

But the easiest way of all to "change" our shape is to create the illusion of svelte by wearing pants that fit!


Pant Fabrics

Fabric Choices

Wool Gabardine — comes in various weights. It is a tightly woven twill. If the quality of the wool fiber is good, you can grab a handful of fabric and crush it and when you let go, it will spring out flat without wrinkles. Generally, cut all pieces in the same direction to avoid a color variation. A hot iron can cause shine on dark colors. Test. If it shines, use a press cloth when pressing on the right side. Long seams tend to pucker. Use "taut sewing," page 40, to prevent puckered seams. Lining is optional.

Wool Flannel — can be wonderful to sew unless it is really dense and tightly woven. Then puckered seams can be a problem. Also, do the wrinkle test mentioned above to determine the quality. Lining will help prevent wrinkles and make the pants feel wonderful.

Wool Crepe — The wool filling yarns are tightly twisted, making the fabric very springy and wrinkle resistant. Wool crepe just molds to the body while also being very easy to sew and press. There will be no color difference if you reverse pattern pieces. Lining will help prevent wrinkles and make the pants feel luxurious. Wool crepe works in both fitted and trouser styles.

Linen — Unfortunately, today's linens seem to wrinkle more than some brands we used to have, so we reserve linen for jackets where fusible interfacings lessen wrinkling. Or you can just wear the wrinkles and call them "status wrinkles." Looser styles and lined pants will wrinkle less.

Synthetic Linens — Rayon and polyester blends are woven into fabrics that resemble linen. To avoid pilling, don't overdry in the dryer.

Denim — is always popular and comes in many weights and styles. It is 100% cotton woven in a twill weave that has a mind of its own. Don't try to straighten denim — it will revert to its original state after washing and you will have twisted side seams. It is recommended to preshrink it three times to remove all shrinkage. Some denims are a blend of cotton and spandex. Denim is easy to sew. A "denim needle" can be used if you get skipped stitches. Use a size 90/14 or 100/16 needle if you are sewing through several layers of heavy denim. Some denim looks are made from Tencel(r) and are more drapey than cotton.

Cotton and Poly/Cotton Sportswear Fabrics — are durable for play pants, but they don't drape very gracefully, so may not be the most flattering pant fabric category. But when a workhorse fabric is needed, you'll have play pants that fit. These fabrics can be a plain weave poplin or a twill weave gabardine. Some stretch because a spandex fiber has been added. Fit them snugly since they will grow during wear. Use "taut sewing" to prevent puckered seams.

Chino — a twill fabric, originally made of 100% cotton. Today it is also found in cotton-synthetic blends. Originally used for military uniforms.

Crinkle Gauze — Some are cotton, others rayon. They can grow while you wear them. We recently experimented — after preshrinking, we ironed most of the crinkles out, cut out pants, and sewed them up. They still grew a little, but not so much we couldn't wear them. You could sew a stabilizing tape in the crotch seam to prevent stretch.

Polar Fleece — Polar fleece is a soft, napped insulating fabric made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or other synthetic fibers. It was created in 1979 by Malden Mills. Owner Aaron Feuerstein intentionally declined to patent Polarfleece, allowing the material to be produced by many vendors, but unintentionally coined a term for a new category of fabric. In 2007 Malden Mills became a new company called Polartec(r), which specializes in performance wear.

Silk and Silkies — make wonderful dressy pants. Depending on the weight of the fabric, they can be made into trouser styles or soft full pants. Use "taut sewing" to prevent puckered seams.

Silk Suitings — are easy to sew because pressing will remove any puckering. You will have less wrinkling with a trouser style pant. Lining also helps prevent wrinkling and feels good next to your skin. Silk suitings come in solids and tweeds; avoid tweeds if you are heavy on the bottom.

Corduroy — is a cotton fabric with a nap. Wide-wale corduroy is very sporty and a great look, but does add pounds to the figure. Looser styles work best because corduroy will stretch out during wearing. Some corduroy now has spandex fibers added to the cotton for crosswise stretch.

Microfiber — is the term for a fiber that is very thin, a denier of 1.0 mm or less. Most clothing fibers have a denier of 7.0 mm. Microfibers are made from acetate, polyester, nylon, acrylic, or rayon. They can be blended with other fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, and spandex.

Doubleknits — are generally polyester or wool. Polyester doubleknits wear like iron and are easy to sew. Wool doubleknits used to be very heavy, but they are lighter and drapier today.

Stretch-Woven Fabrics — Polyester fiber can be heat- set into a crimp so the yarns will stretch when woven into fabric. Any fiber combined with spandex when woven into a fabric will also stretch.

Cotton Knits — are best when combined with spandex for better stretch recovery in pants. Be sure to preshrink the fabric before cutting. Use cold water and a short wash and dry cycle to help it retain its color.

Stretch Velvet — is a wonderful napped polyester knit that is luxurious and soft. It also washes very well and never seems to lose its color brilliance. It makes great lounge pants.

Ultrasuede — can be found in soft chamois weights that make beautiful washable suedelike pants. Cut using the "with nap" layout.

Polyester/rayon gabardine — These fabrics drape well, are usually 60? wide, and are inexpensive. Use cold water and a short washer and dryer cycle to keep them looking newer longer.

Tencel — This popular fabric is an environmentally friendly rayon that is sporty like cotton and linen, but wrinkles less.

How Can I Tell if a Fabric Will Make Nice Pants?

1. How does it drape?

Grab the middle of a yard of firm cotton fabric and do the same with a soft rayon. The cotton will fan out and the rayon will hang straight to the floor. The stretch wool pant below left hangs more smoothly than the stretch cotton to the right.


Excerpted from Pants for Real People by Pati Malmer, Marta Alto, Sue Neall, Connie Hamilton, Kate Pryka, Jeannette Schilling, Theresa O'Connell, Pati Palmer. Copyright © 2012 Palmer/Pletsch Incorporated. Excerpted by permission of Palmer/Pletsch Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Marta Alto is the coauthor of Fit for Real People, Jackets for Real People, The Serger Idea Book, and Sewing Ultrasuede. Pati Palmer is the CEO of Palmer/Pletsch Publishing, a designer and consultant for the McCall Pattern Company, and the author of Creative Serging, Mother Pletsch's Painless Sewing, and Sewing Ultrasuede. They both live in Portland, Oregon.

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Pants for Real People: Fit and Sew for Any Body 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
GayleVA More than 1 year ago
This book is full of illustrations and color pictures. There are problem solvers for all types of figures, small frame to extra large frame. There are chapters on zippers, darts, pockets, linings and jeans for the whole family. If you sew pants for yourself or others this is a must have book, if you don't sew you will find out what is wrong with the fit of your "off the rack" purchased pants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are lots of photos, and examples showing how to fit people with different body types. The format is good too, and the authors' style is approachable and made me feel like I could actually make well fitting pants.
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