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Some pants fitting basics

With the Clover pant pattern, we wanted to create a slim fitting pant that’s flattering on many women.

When you’re making your own pants, you want them to fit perfectly. Remember fitting room woes and the time it took to find the right pair of pants. Fitting pants will take time just like finding those ready-to-wear pants. Your pattern will be unique to you but will take time to get it just right. Just like fitting any pattern to your body, you have your own fitting issues.

Later on, we’ll do a sewalong that will include real fitting tutorials. In the meantime, I’ll talk about a few common adjustments for pants and where to find information on fitting. Remember that there are multiple ways to fit a garment just as there are multiple fitting adjustments for every figure.

Initial Fitting

Take accurate measurements of yourself with some help, if possible. Measure your waist, hip, inseam, and crotch length. Cut out the pattern and sew it in a muslin fabric similar to the fashion fabric you’ll use in the future. Sew the pattern and attach the waistband but don’t include the facing. You’re making a simple version for fitting.

Once you’ve put on the muslin, make sure you’re wearing it the way you would the final garment. The side seams should be in line with your legs and the waistband is sitting where you like. From there, you’ll need to determine your fitting adjustments.

Look for any of the problems listed below while standing in a natural, straight position. You’ll always have some wrinkling while moving, leaning, or shifting your weight, but your goal is to have a smooth look when standing straight and stationary. That’s why it’s good to have a friend help.


  • Gaping waist: If the waistline is too large it will gape out from the body. For a gaping waist, pin the side seams to fit the waist. For gaping at the center back, check with the mirror or a friend to see if the waist is where it should lie against the body. It might be gaping because your back curves inward, requiring a sway back adjustment, or because of a full derriere.
  • Tight waist, loose hips: If your waist is close to the size of your hips, you may need to remove the darts (and add the dart width to the waistband). This is best for a non-curvy figure, i.e. not a lot of protruding in the butt and lower tummy.
  • Further reading: Among other things, this Threads article talks about waistline adjustments.


  • Tight derriere: A full derriere can cause gaping at the center back and tightness across the width of the derriere. Check out this Threads article on seam method alteration.
  • Loose derriere: Excess fabric will frame a small or flat derriere. For a small derriere, again take a look at the same Threads article.

Sway Back


  • “Smiling” crotch: Look for upward lines, or smiling, in the crotch. This signals that the crotch is too short and needs to be lowered.
  • “Frowning” crotch: If the lines are frowning, the crotch is too long and needs to be raised. For a low crotch, check out Sugardale’s helpful post.
  • Tight horizontal crotch lines:The side seams need to be let out if there are horizontal lines coming from the crotch.
  • Further reading: This Threads article goes into several types of adjustments, including low and high crotch.


  • Tight thighs: If the pants fit tightly in the thighs they will pull across the front and back beneath the crotch. The wrinkles will be pulling around the thigh. Add width to the pants along the inner thigh. Start at the crotch and taper down 7″. Or you can use a slash and spread method as illustrated in this article.

Remember, we’ll be sharing more fitting tips and demonstrating techniques later on, but this should give you a start on diagnosing common fitting problems. Stay tuned!

Extra reading:

Caitlin Clark

Caitlin is the Colette Patterns design assistant. You can follow Caitlin at her blog, the story girl.



September 7, 2011 #

Thanks for these details and the links. Very useful.


September 7, 2011 #

Great points on fitting! I’m itching to give the pants pattern a go (again… ;), this time with the help of a good book and lots of patience!


September 7, 2011 #

I can’t wait to make these pants! I’ve only ever made one pair before that were fairly successful, but I definitely did not make a muslin.


September 7, 2011 #

The tips and links are great – I will be checking them out next time I venture into pants territory, thanks! And the clover pants are adorable. If I was certain they would look that good on my body, I would be snapping up that pattern!

in the meantime, the phrase “smiling crotch” will be creeping me out all day… :)


September 7, 2011 #

I have only ever made one pair of trousers but a friend recommended ‘living’ in the muslin for a few hours. It really helped me fit them properly.

I’m going to try and get some of the books you mentioned out when I go back to college.

perfect trousers here I come!


Jane W.

September 7, 2011 #

Thanks for presenting this information in such an accessible way. I can hardly wait for the sew-along!


September 7, 2011 #

I’m so excited about the new patterns. Keeping myself busy with Violet and Ginger until they arrive.


September 7, 2011 #

this will be so helpful, guys—thanks for the awesome post!


September 7, 2011 #

Just as an FYI, the 2nd link under the sway back adjustments doesn’t go anywhere… I’d like to see it! I think this is one I’ll be needing!


September 7, 2011 #

I fixed it, thanks for letting us know!


September 7, 2011 #

Can I add a shout out for Sunni’s pant fitting tips from her sew-a-long on a fashionable stitch? They are fantastic :)


September 7, 2011 #

YES, thank you for linking to Sunni’s wonderful series of posts! If anyone else has links to add, please do!


September 7, 2011 #

Oh thank you very much for these tips! I’ve been meaning on making my own pants for the longest time, but I always have an issue with fitting for sway-backs. Thank you again! =D


September 8, 2011 #

These are awesome resources! I actually had not read the Threads article, but have now bookmarked that for future use. I don’t think you can ever know too much about fitting pants. I can’t recommend Pants for Real People enough either. That book is such a great resource for pants fitting, in my opinion. Easy to get your hands on too, which is a HUGE plus in my book! Oh I love this new Clover pattern – just made up my own version from the test pattern and am wearing them today. They are soooooo 60’s chic!


September 9, 2011 #

Wow, what a wonderful & productive way to pass along those fabric pieces and scraps we can’t bear to just throw out. Thank you for the information!

Also, looks like a wonderful new sewing book from Nancy!

Best of luck to whoever wins her wonderful prize package!

Blessings to all ………..



September 10, 2011 #

Thank you so much for this! I’ve always been panicky about the crotchage, and that bit about the frowning and smiling crotch really helped! Love your blog btw, great stuff always :D


September 11, 2011 #

Wow, these were super helpful. Thank you so much for posting these!


September 11, 2011 #

When will the patterns start arriving? I’m *itching* to get my hands on them!


September 11, 2011 #

Thank you so much for all of these tips! I’ve been struggling with pant fitting lately, but never knew where to start fixing the problems.

Jessie L. Bower

September 13, 2011 #

I really love these new patterns! I have been looking for a pattern for the perfect pants. I couldn’t find any that were for a beginner and most were too complicated, these are perfect and so cute. I like that your patterns have timeless style and are simple enough that adjustments can be made to fit my body with out throwing off the whole project. I am not good enough yet with my sewing to know what adjustments to make and how to counter balance a complicated pattern. Your directions are clear, illustrations are awesome, the sizes are made for real people and actually work! I am learning how to sew better, so much better! Thank you !


May 29, 2012 #



June 27, 2012 #

Really, only by mailing them back and forth and having the recipient take them to a competent seamstress for fitting. Or have them take lots of photos and measurements of where they lifted or pinched for a particular photo. But for that to work you’d need some experience understanding what your doing and seeing.

Deana Ford

August 21, 2012 #

I have a good pants pattern that fits good but when I sit down the inside seams pulls to the back and the side seam pulls to the front. What do I need to do to this pattern. It does not seem to be too tight overall but I don’t know how to adjust the pattern.


November 28, 2012 #

I am having a fit issue creating some “skinny” pants. I have horizontal lines running across the back of the legs, and nothing in the front. They aren’t “tight” lines, but since the front is sitting well I’m not sure if it needs to be taken in. When I bend forward, the lines disappear.

Any ideas ? :)


February 16, 2014 #

Could anybody please tell me why the one leg of pants sometimes seems to turn to the inside of the leg when you wear it? Should I allways try to cut both back and front in the same direction of the thread instead of fitting the pattern so that one of the legs fits from the one side and the other from the other side of the fabric? (“Head” to toe)