Continuing on with the Sew, Wear Are They Now series, today I’m looking back at all of the bottoms (pants, skirts, shorts, etc.) over the past decade. While I think my quantity has decreased, I think my quality has increased, so I’m actually pretty excited about how my sewing skills have advanced in this category. There’s a lot to look at, so let’s jump in!
My earliest bottoms were actually not sewn for me, but for my sister. I wasn’t too interested in sewing the highly recommended “beginner skirt” for myself at the time, but my sister found some cute remnant fabrics that really were best used in the skirts they became. Most of these early makes suffer from really poor fabric choices, but I did learn the basics of zippers and fly fronts from these early garments.
- Simplicity 2410 was a skirt I made for my sister. I think she wore it a few times, but since she was going to school in a colder climate and then changed sizing a bit, I don’t think it got an overwhelming amount of use. I’m pretty sure it got donated eventually, but I learned a lot from making it since it was one of my first sewing projects.
- BurdaStyle Download A-Plus-A-Line was from back when the BurdaStyle US site was actively working on creating community and being inventive by providing unique digital download patterns (for free) to its users. This skirt was ok, but the pattern had some issues and the whole process taught me that I really don’t like dealing with PDF patterns. It’s probably the main reason I still prefer using printed paper patterns today because dealing with all of the print outs was not the most fun. Like the other skirt, I think my sister wore it on occasion, but eventually donated it because it no longer fit.
- Burda World of Fashion 09/2003 #104 was part of my early crusade to find the “perfect” pants pattern. I’m actually still pretty proud of the construction on these pants, but I do not have them anymore. Since they were lined they didn’t have a lot of give, and so I gave them away when I gained a lot of weight after my back injury. They wouldn’t fit me now either, but I did wear them quite a a decent when I first made them, although at the time I didn’t have as much occasion to wear formal trousers.
- BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114A is probably my most used pants pattern; I’ve made at least a dozen PJ pants with it and one pair in linen. Having pockets in pajamas was a revelation, and you’ll be seeing a lot of this pattern during the rest of this review. This particular pair wore out a few years ago, but I wore them weekly for at least 6 or seven years, so I’m not complaining, though I am still a bit sad because this was probably one of my favorite flannel prints.
- Vogue 1051 was also part of my attempt at finding the perfect pants pattern, and I made multiple versions. Ultimately, none of these saw that much use. The fabric was all super nasty polyester, and none of it had a lot of give, so everything felt tight when sitting down, and the fabric was itchy and generally gross. I never wore many of these, and I usually pulled them off after putting them on, which is always a bad indication. I loved the style, but I hated the fabric.
Overall a majority of these garments fell out of use because of poor fabric choice, but I think I actually had a pretty good sense of which patterns and styles of garments I liked in the early days. I honestly sort of want to revisit some of these and see if I can update them and make fit adjustments to add this style back into the current rotation.
I continued my love of the wide leg and flared trousers in 2012. I did expand my horizons a bit by actually sewing a skirt for myself though!
- BurdaStyle 10/2011 #127 was probably my most worn trouser pattern from the early days, and it is because this fabric was so ridiculously comfortable. It didn’t have the best fit in the front of the crotch (it was too long) but I honestly didn’t care because I wore these pants a lot. The fabric eventually got too worn to use these in polite company, but this was definitely a successful sewing project from 2012.
- Vogue 1051 was made again, but this time in much better fabric. This pair saw much more use than the original versions, but was passed on after they became too small. Honestly I think I need to revisit this pattern, but with a proper muslin and size testing because I think the crotch curve was not optimal from the original versions and now that I know a bit more about pattern fitting I think I could do much better.
- BurdaStyle 02/2005 #128 is a garment I still have! Linen is super durable, so it is still in great shape, but I also don’t wear skirts that often to have really tested the fabric. I think the style is fine (I still like the contrasting fabric) and I pull this out when it becomes unbearably hot, but I honestly just don’t wear skirts that much so I can’t really claim that this is a “wardrobe favorite.”
- Patrones Extra 10 #40 was a pattern that I should have loved in theory, but never wore that much in practice. The fabric was great, but the waistband never really fit right, and I’ve always felt weird wearing lighter khaki colors. At the time I also wasn’t a huge fan on the pleating on the front of the pants. I love the wide-legged style, but these pants just weren’t comfortable enough to see much use because of the awkward waistband and crotch fit.
- BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114 actually got made as real pants one time! I made these in linen, and they became my “travel pants” because they were so cool and comfortable to wear on long car rides. Probably not the most stylish, but super practical. I still have them, but I think the waistband is a bit small at this point. I might see if I can adjust it so that I could still use these when summer roles around again.
I actually really appreciate the styles of a lot of these garments, even if they weren’t favorites at the time. I think I learned a lot about what I do and don’t like to wear from these different projects, though I still wasn’t doing as much work on fitting the pants patterns properly.
2013 – 2015
During 2013-2015 I was doing a lot of sewing on commission, so my personal output decreased substantially. I will say though that the pajama pants made during these years have without question been the most worn items in my wardrobe since they’ve been sewn.
- BurdaStyle 03/2013 #109 was a skirt I made because I was enamored with the white lace skirt in the magazine. As much as I was pleased with the quality of my construction, I never really wore this a lot. I just don’t wear a lot of skirts! I’m always cautious when wearing white on my lower half, so this was never a go to because of that. Also, in hind sight, I remember just never loving the way that stiffer A-line style looked on me. Kibbe recommends against this type of skirt for Soft Naturals, and, at least for me, this recommendation seems to be correct. I made an entire outfit to wear this skirt with, and I still was never grabbing for it on a regular basis.
- Burda World of Fashion 02/2006 #128 is a skirt that saw a bit more use than the white lace one. I only ever wore it styled as you see in the photo, which didn’t make it a super versatile wardrobe piece, but it was helpful when I needed to dress up a little bit. I still can’t claim that it got a lot of use (did I mention I don’t wear a lot of skirts?), but it did get more use than the other skirts I made. I think part of that was because of the cotton fabric; it was just more comfortable to wear than the lace skirt with poly lining.
- BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114 is a pattern I keep returning to for pj pants. I made 4 more version from 2013-2015, and I actually still use all of these, though the blue zig-zag print is nearly done for (I tried to mend it over the holidays but as soon as I patch one hole another appears). Considering these have all had near weekly use for at least 5 years, I’m not complaining though.
- The Captain America: Winter PJs were a gift I made for a friend. I’m not sure how much use these got, but they were copied from an existing pattern and a learning experience in terms of figuring out how to copy an existing garment, so that was at least a somewhat practical experience.
This period pretty much solidified BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114 as one of my all time TNTs and gave me a lot of cozy PJs. I also experimented a lot with skirts that were made really well, but just never worn that much.
Aside from the Sewing Bee shorts, it’s just a lot more PJs. But, I mean, PJs are kinda great.
- BurdaStyle 03/2016 #113 was a shorts pattern I made for the first round of the 2016 Pattern Review Sewing Bee. Honestly, I’ve never really worn these. I just don’t love wearing shorts, and I’ve never been able to figure out a good outfit for these shorts. I’m still proud of them (they got me to round 2!), but they just haven’t seen a lot of use outside of the competition photographs.
- BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114 was made twice more are New Year’s Eve PJs (one for me, one for my sister), as was BurdaStyle 12/2010 #134, which was made as a gift. All of the PJ pants are still in rotation for their respective owners, though some of us use the extra warm flannel pants more often than others.
Basically all I really got out of this year was that I don’t really wear shorts, even if I have them.
The Wardrobe Sudoku contest and Sewing Bee probably pushed me to try more unique and varied styles than I would have without them, and that’s sort of awesome! I think more than any other year of sewing, this collection of garments taught me what I do and don’t like to actually wear.
- BurdaStyle 12/2015 #115A was a skirt I made as part of the Pattern Review Wardrobe Sudoku contest. I actually really liked this style, but I didn’t wear it often because I just don’t wear skirts that much. I think if I had made it after I started the job I have now it might have seem more use in the early days (pre-pandemic), but I just never had much need for fancier clothes at my previous job so I didn’t pull it out to wear on a daily basis and sort of let it languish in the closet.
- BurdaStyle 10/2010 #104 are really great pants and I love the way that look, but I rarely ever wore them. I have this crazy idea that I will like wearing white on my bottom half because every time I see an image of someone wearing white trousers I am obsessed, but I never feel comfortable wearing them myself. I really pulled these out when I was doing photo shoots of my other makes, but otherwise never used them too much. It’s like when I see the pictures I think “that’s how I want to dress when I grow up” yet I always took them off after I put them on, and I certainly never wore them to work at the time for fear of getting them dirty. I would absolutely love to re-make this pattern in a different fabric though; I do really love the wide-legged trouser style. I just need to keep reminding myself that as much as I think I like white trousers bottoms I just… don’t.
- BurdaStyle 02/2017 #104C were culottes that I tried to fit into the Wardrobe Sudoku collection because I was obsessed with the magazine photo and because in 2017 culottes were the thing. Honestly they never really went that well with the rest of the collection or the rest of my wardrobe, so I never wore them as much as I would have liked because I had no idea how to style them. I have worn them out a few times though (they are comfortable), but I’d actually like to re-make them but as full length trousers because I think that’s a style I would actually wear a lot.
- BurdaStyle 02/2014 #129 is probably the big winner from this sewing year. I love these pants! The fabric was a super thick, super stretch corduroy from Mood, and it is awesome! These pants are often too warm to wear from late spring through mid-fall, but they are amazing in winter. I always forget how much I like them but then when I put them on again I realize how great they are. I think they might be a bit small at this point, but I will probably keep them to see how my weight fluctuates post-quarantine and if I can use them in the future, because they are still in great shape.
- The Pink Floyd Sewing Bee pencil skirt was a mashup of several patterns, and honestly hasn’t seen that much wear since I made it, but it has definitely been worn out of the house on at least a few occasions. As with many of my clothes, it is a bit tight at this point, but I’m still holding onto it because I’m really proud of this garment and how I did in the Bee that year, and because if I fluctuate down it might fit again at some point. I know general wisdom is to ditch anything that doesn’t fit, but this is one of those special pieces that I can’t quite give up yet, regardless of if I’m actively wearing it or not.
I have to say that, overall, I think this was the year when I really leveled up in terms of combining technique with fabric and pattern choice. I’m still really proud of all of these garments, and they all still exist in my closet, even if I don’t wear them much.
These years really saw me sewing more with a theme or wardrobe plan in mind. I never really was able to work on my Sew Your Kibbe plans, but I do think that having a more mindful approach to garment planning did have a positive result on the outcomes.
- Burda 7195 was part of my Sew Geeky wardrobe plans for 2018. I loved these pants, even though I didn’t have much occasion to wear them out. They are, to be frank, a bit much. I do love them though. I love the details, I love the style, I love the fabric. I just didn’t have much occasion to wear them, and I hemmed them to be worn with heels and not flats. So they’ve sort of been waiting for a party that never really happened.
- The Ginger Jeans probably have seen the most use out of any of the bottoms I sewed in 2018. While the fit wasn’t perfect, I actually wore these a lot regardless. I still need to do a lot of tweaking to get to that perfect jeans pattern, but this wasn’t a bad first attempt.
- I made the Vogue 9257 as a prototype for a cosplay, and never really wore these pants much because of that. I actually think that, in terms of the costume, I need to re-work the trouser pattern because it just isn’t quite what I was going for, but that might mean I can move these trousers into a more regular wardrobe rotation if they aren’t being stored with my costumes (where I forget about them).
- BurdaStyle 06/2011 #114 is the pattern that keeps on giving; I made 4 more versions of it as sleep shorts for my sister. It is easily one of my top 5 most used TNT patterns.
- BurdaStyle 01/2016 #106 is my most recent make, so I don’t have as much time to consider how it’s use has been, especially considering the pandemic. But of all of the skirts I have made, this is definitely the one I am most comfortable wearing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it sees much more use than skirts I made in the past. Also going for it is the fact that it is one of the few pieces of clothing that currently fit really well, and that it is part of a mini-collection that is designed to produce a lot of wearable looks. I love it with the coordinating top, so that’s an instant outfit if I ever need to be slightly dressed up at any point in the quasi-near future.
Although it’s still “too soon” in some sense to really see how these garments are doing, I am really pleased with the way fabrics and patterns came together in these styles, and it’s let to more overall use than with the garments produced in previous years.
Looking at all of the bottoms I’ve sewn over the past decade has given me a few insights:
- I don’t wear a lot of skirts. Maybe now that I’ve found Kibbe’s recommendations (and have become obsessed with the historical stylings of CosTube) I will be more inclined to wear them moving forward. And I do feel much more comfortable in my recent skirt than in any of the styles I have previously sewn, so I think that’s a step in the right direction. But, honestly, I really don’t wear a lot of skirts. I should accept this and try to focus on sewing more pants if my goal is to maximize use for my sewn garments.
- Full length is better than a culotte is better than a short. I just really don’t like having bare legs. It’s a bit weird, but growing up as a skater I always had tights or leggings on, so I never really had bare legs, ever, past the ages of being a teenager. I don’t really like having them exposed now, and I will always gravitate towards more coverage rather than less if given the chance. Considering climates, this means I should really plan on making more pants in different fabrics for both summer and winter, because having linen pants is a very different experience to having wool pants, and sometimes one is much more appropriate than the other.
- I love the look of white trousers, but I don’t ever wear them. Really. I just don’t. I’m still obsessed any time someone posts a white linen trouser to the internet, but I really need to snap myself out of it because I’m just not going to wear it. I will wear other lighter colors and grays quite a bit though. So maybe that’s the compromise I need to make. But I need to snap myself out of this white thing because it’s the fantasy of what I think I want my life to be, and not the reality of what it actually is.
- I love a wide-legged trouser. I mean, I knew that. But, like, it’s still a thing.
- I should go back to some of my original Vogue trouser patterns from 2011, actually take the time to work out the fit issues with the crotch curve, and make it in a decent fabric. I know that the slightly bell-bottom-ish style hasn’t been in for a bit, but I sort of don’t care. I worked for me in the early 2000s and I’d totally try to rock it again.
- I’ve never really don’t a proper pants alteration to substantially improve fit. I’ve been getting away with “good enough” for a long while and I think I need to move past that and actually deal with fit issues so I can have good pants. Not good enough. Good.
- It’s probably going to be a recurring theme, but cheap fabric is never worth it. All of the garments made in yucky fabric never got worn. When I was starting out I rolled my eyes at the self proclaimed fabric snobs, but, yeah, 10 years on I’m totally asking to join the fabric snob club. If you want to make a long lasting garment, cheap fabric just isn’t worth it.
- In terms of colors, I tend towards more neutral bottoms, but I’m not opposed to colors as long as they aren’t too bright. Gray and navy are definitely the winners here, but I also wear a good bit of teal, and the occasional print if it isn’t too loud. Unless of course we are talking about PJs. If we are talking about PJs then obviously the louder the print the better.
- More than other categories, bottoms seemed to see a lot more repeat patterns, at least proportionally. I think this makes sense because I’ve always used the bottom half of my outfit as more of the “uniform” and the top half to be more expressive and inventive.
- Unlike tops, though, since most of the bottoms are made from wovens and not knits, they are much less likely to ride through weight fluctuations as easily. This has been a bit part of when I might or might not wear a particular garment.
Overall I feel that my general instincts in terms of picking styles has been pretty good, and I was pretty clear with myself when I was trying to make something as a wardrobe workhorse vs. something more experimental. I do think that I’m much better about fabric choice now, and after my two most recent projects I think I’m finally heading into the era of actually putting in the work to do the proper pattern adjustments to get the results I actually want. Because, especially with pants and things on the lower half, if it doesn’t fit I’m not wearing it. So I’m going to keep heading the direction I’ve been going, but perhaps with the insight that planning whole outfits and not just random bottom pieces is key. So many of the things I made were wardrobe orphans because I had no idea how to style them, and they few things where I had outfits but still didn’t wear them tells me something about the fabric and style choices that did or didn’t work. I’m definitely a pants person, so, although I have another skirt planned as one of my next two bottoms, after that I think I really should focus on making more pants because that’s what I know will really see the most use in the long term.