Let’s Make Pants THAT FIT!

I remember the first time I made a pair of structured shorts for myself. Alina had asked me to help test her first pattern– the Chi-town Chinos. I had never sewn something like that before. I usually strayed from anything that looked hard, and didn’t do zippers very often either. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it out though, especially knowing I’d have Alina to help me out if I stumbled through any of the directions! (By the way her directions are STELLAR and help newbies out so much!!) I am A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and as such I dress pretty “modestly”— as in– shorts to my knees and shoulders covered (unless I’m working out, swimming, etc). Do you know how hard it is to find cute knee-length shorts??? Sure, they make shorts in lots of fun colors , just not to your knee. Then if you want them to your knee, you also want them to be flattering and not make you look frumpy right?!? Basically all I could ever find were ill-fitting shorts, or well-fitting shorts in realllllly “fun” colors like khaki and black. BOO. When I learned how to make them, and make them fit well, it opened up a whole new world to me of how sewing could better my LIFE!! My hot summer-shorts needing LIFE!

These aren’t great images, but they are all I have from that time (when I wasn’t blogging or posting them anywhere public). I was seriously going crazy making colorful shorts.

My measurements are : Waist 28 in, Hips 36 in. So this means that my waist generally falls into a totally different (bigger )size than my hips. Many women have the opposite issue, with a smaller waist size than hips. The beauty of making your own pants is that you never have to go to the store and feel frustrated or mad at your body for NOT FITTING into the pants you thought were cute! Now that I’ve been making my own pants for a year I can’t figure out how they even decide what the “right” size/fit is for RTW clothing because everyone’s bodies are so different!

OKay, I know I posted these (again old and not so great—) photos on the last post, but this time I want to talk more about the fit. Those first pairs of shorts I made, I didn’t totally understand how to grade a pattern from one size down to another, so I just sewed straight sizes (I believe a 2 because that was my hip size). So they fit, but maybe not quite as well as they could’ve up top. A couple years later I finally sewed some more (the time gap was partly to do with getting pregnant and having a baby and also a big move back to the USA). The next time I went to make this pattern (and I think making the same pattern multiple times is a great idea when you first make pants), I carefully took my measurements and cut the pattern to my actual size, drafting from a 6 at the waist to a 2 from the hip down.

My Personal Alterations:

You can see above what I did for my chinos. I have done this exact pattern alteration on all the pants (and some skirts) that I have made as well. On the Persephone Pants I do this to each side of the one big leg piece.

I don’t have special tools (and to be honest I didn’t even use a ruler– I like to live dangerously), I just carefully, gradually, tapered the pants inward. I had made a muslin in the past (plus all those early pairs), so I knew I only needed the very top of the pants to be a little larger.

When you make your waist size different than your hip, you need to make sure to cut the right pattern pieces that correspond to that waist size. The waist band, fly shields, and other fly pieces, all need to be the same size as the waist size because that also determines the rise of the pant (and length of those pieces). The smaller the waist size, the shorter the rise.

If you want to lengthen the rise most pants have a line (as seen in those photos above) that shows you where to do that. I did this with my second pair of chi-town chino knee-length shorts and loved the result ( I lengthened the rise by 1 inch). You do need to again, lengthen all the fly pieces as well when you lengthen the rise.

This being said, I found in my later pairs that I didn’t need to lengthen the rise when I just cut the right waist size instead of trying to squeeze into the size that fit my hips. (I used to be swayed by wanting to fit the smaller size, so I disregarded my waist measurement and went for the smaller number that my hips fell into– but why? Whats the point of making your own pants if you don’t make them fit well?)

Now I feel like a seasoned pants-maker and I understand how FABRIC affects the fit, as well as how to use my actual measurements to fit the pants to MY shape. There are loads of places that teach you how to make all sorts of pant pattern alterations.

Some of the common fit adjustments are: Fully belly adjustment, knock-knee, full seat adjustment (big booty!!!haha), low seat, flat seat (somehow I haven’t needed this one), sway back (usually just taking in back darts or putting darts in the back), and round/flat pubis adjustments.

Here are some great places to learn more about fitting pants!

Sew Altered Style

Closet Case Patterns


I know that the fitting of pants seems like the biggest road block to just starting, but I promise if you are willing to make some muslins and just TRY you will eventually find success! Don’t be afraid of failure! We all must have failures as part of LEARNING. You will have a better understanding of your body and hopefully feel more love for it, rather than angry at it shopping for pants that don’t seem to fit. I know that sewing for myself has made me care less about size, have less frustration with my particular shape, and has made me realize our bodies are all different and THAT’S OKAY!

8 thoughts on “Let’s Make Pants THAT FIT!

  1. Katie says:

    I’m also bigger in the waist than hips, and sewing for myself / learning a bit more about fit with each project has been wonderful! I will never buy myself a pair of pants again

  2. Naomi says:

    I’m also a straight waister. I also have a low round but that I accommodate by either scooping out the crotch OR adding lenght to the rear crotch only above the curve (depending on the pattern). I have also drafted my own very slightly curved wiastband pieces, as waistbands that are too curved make my perfectly fitting pants turn into tummy pinchers. That was 2018’s discovery and boy has it made a difference!

  3. katiekortman says:

    That’s so cool you figured out how to make all your pants fit well with those adjustments!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Katie, thanks so much for your article and encouragement! I’m the same as you – smaller in the hips (37″) than the waist (31″). My usual equilibrium between babies are the same as your measurements – 28″ waist and 36″ hip. As I type this, I’m sitting in my first Persephone Pants muslin. I’m so keen to finally make these fancy pants! I’ve made a straight size 8 muslin. I planned to grade but then read lots of people saying its really tricky to do so, You’ve inspired me! This muslin seems too big everywhere except my backside. I think I will follow your guidance and grade from the waist to a smaller size in the hip by at least one size. I might even be brave, trust my non-stretch denim will grow and size down everywhere with grading. I’ll sleep on it first.

    One quick question though – do you adjust any other Persephone Pants pattern pieces or just the main panels? Do you just run with the waist size for all the fly pieces or cut a rise somewhere in between? Thanks!

  5. katiekortman says:

    I do the waist size for all pieces yes!!! It works to grade each side of the pattern down to your hips, I promise!! I’ve done it 5 times!

  6. katiekortman says:

    I thought I replied to this!! I’m sorry! I use the waist piece size for anything that attaches to the waist and the hip size for anything from the hip down (which is nothin on this pant). I use the rise of the bigger size (4) and I just taper the size down the two sides of the pant piece into the smaller size (2) about 6 inches from the waist!

  7. Elizabeth Browne says:

    Thanks Katie! You did reply above but I missed it too. Thanks for the tips. I’m going to attach the waistband tonight. Our nearly five year old daughter said they are “too high”. I’m looking forward to expanding her mind about how pants should look!

  8. Pauline says:

    Thank you for this post!! My waist puts me at a size 10, hips put me at a size 4. Everyone else seems to be the other way around. I could not find any other posts about this unique issue, and you’ve totally given me reassurance and the permission to try the solution I was trying to do on my own. So now I’m off to make a muslin for this magical Persephone Pants everyone is so wild about…..wish me luck!!

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