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Sunday, February 19, 2006

It’s not you, it’s the pants

By Bridgette Raes

Expanding on the ever-challenging topic of trying to find pants that fit.

Trying on pants is the easiest and quickest way that I know of to get down on yourself and start developing a negative body image. It makes sense; if it is hard to find a pant that fits you properly then the only obvious answer is that there is something wrong with your body, right? Wrong.

As I tell many of my frustrated clients, “It’s not you, it’s the pants. All we have to do is find a pair of pants that flatters your body shape.” If you still aren’t convinced that it isn’t you but the pants, keep in mind that I have worked with all body types from a slim size two to a curvier size twenty-two. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, the wrong pant on the wrong body simply isn’t flattering. So here are some suggestions on how to find the right pant for your body, along with some tailoring suggestions to make the not-so-perfect pant fit perfectly.

“Ready to wear” isn’t so ready to wear

It is becoming more and more accepted that pants off the rack rarely work for anyone. From needing something as minor as a hem to requiring some major tweaks, few women can grab a pair of pants and go. Even I, at 5’7”, often need at least a hem. So if you are someone who can’t seem to find a pair of pants that fit, consider tailoring as your additional step.

When I recommended tailoring in the past I got an irate email from a reader. This reader felt that it was unrealistic to suggest tailoring as a necessary step. Living in the Midwest, she felt that it wasn’t as easy to tailor as it is in a more metropolitan area. Now, I am not the savviest when it comes to knowing much about the lifestyle in the Midwest, but I do know that there must be a local dry cleaner in most towns. Most dry cleaners offer tailoring services which are usually fine for your needs. In addition, if you need something as minor as a hem, a store like Banana Republic will offer hemming for free. If you feel that the pants cost enough and the last thing you want to do is pay more for tailoring, consider changing your thinking; if you ARE paying for a well made pair of pants, doesn’t it make sense to have them look as though they fit you well?

When it comes to the fit of pants there are small improvements you can make to enhance the fit, and then there are more extensive things you can consider. Here are some examples:

Remove pocket bags from flat front pants and stitch the pockets closed. When it comes to flat front pants like this one,187705&clink=187705, no matter how slim you are the pockets are going to bag open. In some cases you may find that these pockets lay flat on first wearing, but after several wears they start to bag open. Bagged open pockets at your hip area makes your hips look bigger, and nobody wants that. The solution is to have them stitched shut, and while getting the pockets stitched have the pocket bags removed. If you have any extra on your thigh, the line of the pocket bag will show through the pant.

Forget the waist. When I started writing this article I called on my dear friend Jerry Dellova who is the head designer at Barry Bricken, a company famous for the fit of their pants. My early days of being a designer were with Barry Bricken under Jerry’s fine tutelage. Not having actively designed for several years now my knowledge of pant fit isn’t what it used to be, so I wanted to get a seasoned expert involved to ensure that my memory was correct. The first bit of advice Jerry gave me was that unlike men, who fit their pants at the waist, women need to fit their pants at the hip because for most women, it is the widest part of our bodies. When fitting pants ladies, think first about your hip size and worry about the waist later. Taking a pant in at the waist is an easy correction for a tailor to do. So the next time you try on a pair of pants, focus on the fit through the hips and thighs.

If you are someone who carries their weight at their waist always look inside a pair of pants to see if there is what is referred to as a center back outlet in the pant. A center back outlet is an excess of seam allowance fabric at the back seam of a pant, which gives you the ability to let the pant out if need be. Most well made pants have this center back outlet. If the pants are lined and you can’t see if there is a center back outlet on the pants you are trying on, pull the lining up and out from the hem of the pant and put your hand up the pant leg with the lining removed to find the center back seam of the pant. You should be able to look through the pant leg and see. Any tailor should be able to let the pant out at the waist if you need it.

Saddle up. I explained a tricky fit situation that I recently experienced with a client to my friend Jerry. This client was petite but she also carried the majority of her weight in her stomach and had very narrow hips. As a result, we kept finding that any pant we tried on her pulled and bit at the bottom of her butt. The reason there was pulling like this was because the fabric was pulling forward to compensate for her stomach see this image for an example of what the pant looked like Normally in a situation like this I would find a pant with a more relaxed and wider thigh area to give her more fabric in the thigh and lower butt area. But because this client was petite, I also had to be careful about how full a leg I put on her. A fuller leg on a petite woman can make her look shorter. After trying on many pants we finally found one that was flattering and didn’t bite at her butt. But there is another solution to this problem.

If you have ever tried on a pair of pants that feel like they are too tight or pulling in the crotch, or you look at yourself from behind in the mirror and see that the pant is cutting or biting you in the butt area, you may find that you need more of what is called saddle. The saddle of a pant, as Jerry reminded me, is the seam of the crotch that runs perpendicular to the rise. For those of you who don’t know what rise is, the front rise of a pant is the seam that runs from your bellybutton to the base of your crotch, the back rise is what runs from your crotch to the top of the back of a pair of pants. The saddle seam runs perpendicular to that. Take a pair of pants and look at the crotch area. You will see seams that run in the opposite direction to the rise that intercept right at base of your crotch. A well made pair of pants will give you some excess fabric allowance in the saddle seam that allows you to increase the width. Increasing the saddle width will ultimately give you more room in this area which is great for women with a tummy, larger thighs or a fuller bottom.

Extra fabric at a saddle isn’t commonly found on pants and it is usually only well made pants that have this feature. But it is an important one, and a reason why it is also important to spend a little more on pants. To see if a pair of pants have extra in the saddle for letting out, check inside the pant if it is unlined, or pull the lining away as suggested above. Jeans will not have excess fabric in the saddle. Upon checking a pair of Banana Republic pants in my closet I found that there is a small amount of seam allowance that would allow the saddle to be let out, but note that it isn’t a tremendous amount.

I don’t want to tailor, I want ready to wear!

So you have read about what you can do with a pair of pants from a tailoring standpoint and decided that it is too much work. The last thing you want to be bothered with is construction technology; you just want pants that fit. Okay, I hear you. Here are some fit solutions for a variety of women’s body issues:

Large Thighs

•Go for the boot cut pant which counterbalances a large thigh, or choose a straighter leg that hangs straight from the largest part of your thigh. Throw the peg-legged pants away!
•Tops that have a wider neck have the same effect as a boot cut pant by counterbalancing a large thigh. Instead of wearing tops that cut in, choose a wider neckline which will optically make your thighs look smaller. Halter tops are no-no’s for large-thighed gals.


•Choose a side zip pant over a front closure pant. You don’t need to add excess to a place that already has fullness.
•Choose a pant with a wider waistband (even if it is a low rise pant.) The large band sucks you in and gives you support. Just make sure that it isn’t sucking you in so much that it causes your stomach to spill over.

Big Butt

•Avoid high rise pants. The excess fabric makes your butt look big.
•Choose a wider leg pant which won’t cup the butt and will give you more room.

If there is anything that I would like you to remember from this article, it is that there are pants out there for every fit and figure. Yes, it takes time, but I have yet to have a client finish working with me without finding a pair of pants that is flattering for her figure. Don’t give up if it takes a few stores or brands to find your well-fitting pant, it happens to everyone. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up that you aren’t thin enough or don’t have the perfect body. Is there really a perfect body out there? The most empowered attitudes about pant fit come from my clients who are African American. Knowing that pants are seldom made to fit with their body shape in mind (which is usually fuller in the thigh and butt area) they don’t blame their bodies; they blame the negligence of the pant manufacturers for overlooking their needs.

Many of these clients have learned to be persistent, understand that tweaking and tailoring is a necessity, and never have they considered that it is their body that is the problem. This is the way they are built, they tell me, and they make no apologies for that. I think we can all learn something from this positive attitude. The next time you have a hard time finding a pair of pants that fit you, remember that instead of mapping out your next crash diet.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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