Fitting trousers (Simplicity 3688). Now we have a nice, pac-man ghost shape….

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February 11, 2011
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Fitting trousers (Simplicity 3688). Now we have a nice, pac-man ghost shape….

Sorry for the blogging blackout. I’ve literally spent every spare moment poking myself with pins in an effort to figure out this &(#^&)@ trouser fitting! Must teach Mr. Bug how to drape. I have lots and LOTS of photos of my failed experiments for you, but I’ll just jump to the end. With the help of the wise ones on Pattern Review, I now have a reasonably well fitting pair of trousers. Of course, they are lacking in shape, but we’ll get to that later. Here they are in their completely unpressed glory, with me holding a temporary waistband on to see if I like the look…

Simplicity 3688 – the first muslin

OK, now lets back up to the beginning. When I last left off blogging about the trouser adventure, I had gotten through a muslin for Simplicity 4044, the pleated, high waisted, wide legged trouser. I realized during fitting that it might work better to start over with Simplicity 3688 – also high waisted and wide legged, but the shaping is from darts rather than pleats. Here’s the front/side/back view of 3688 (size 28) pretty much out of the envelope.

Pretty large! The most pressing issue was the extremely long crotch depth – a problem I have in all trousers – RTW or patterns. I appear to have a short crotch depth – especially in the front – and a long crotch length. As a reminder – here’s the difference.

I took out a fold where all the extra fabric was in the front, tapering to nothing at the side seams. I thought it made the drape, especially from the side, much better. The back is still giant, though!

You can’t really see it in the photos, but the trousers are pretty large. In my never-ending trouser-fitting research of the last week, I read or heard somewhere that the trouser structure should keep them up – not the waistband. So next I deepened the the darts in the front and lowered the dart points so they ended over the full part of my tummy. I also lengthened the darts on the back a bit. Here’s some messy photos! First, just  a shot of the fold near the center so you can see how much I took out of the crotch depth.

Next you can see how much deeper and longer the front darts are – the pink stitch line on the inside (towards the left) is the original dart.
029_3688_m1_deepen dart

And finally I slightly deepened and lengthened the darts on the back.

Straighten out that side seam!

I tried them on again and realized the side seam was TOTALLY out of whack – not only a bad fit, but affecting that voluminous fabric in the back! Here’s a shot with the red line following the sideseam. I tightened up the front too much.

I loosened the darts in the front and pinched out in the back center until the side seam hung straight.

After I had determined the right balance between the front and back darts I distributed the extra width in the back amongst the back darts. This slightly improved the hang of the back of the trousers – compare the photo above with this one –

Trying to get rid of that baggy butt…

Then it was time to concentrate on the back. What a mess. First I just gathered up the side seam in my hand to see if taking in the sides would help. It helps a bit but is clearly not the right fix. I still have diagonal lines aiming towards the center back seam (the photo on the left.) I also tried tugging up on the side as well as pinning out some of the excess on the center back leg (right photo.) I wasn’t really happy with any of the fixes.


I spent a lot of time researching this weekend. Part of my problem is that I am aiming for a slightly more fitted look than what a lot of fitting resources are aimed towards. While I don’t want my trousers tight, I am not a huge fan of the hang-straight-from the rump look that seems to be the ideal trouser fit. When I have wide-legged trousers on that hang straight from my butt, there’s WAY too much fabric and I feel more like I’m wearing a split skirt. This is partially due to my shape – I have sort of a pointy butt with a lot of the width more in the center than towards the bottom.

In any case, I realized that what I really am looking for is more pattern drafting information – you know, what to do to the inseam and back crotch curve to affect fit. Of course, as you all know, pattern drafting texts are super expensive and not at the local Borders (or, I guess we should start saying Barnes and Noble, hmmm?) I relied heavily on this article on I also reviewed some of the stuff on, which is geared more towards jeans, but helpful in understanding the drafting process. I also found this threads article on the correct way to widen/narrow trouser legs which I found very helpful. Finally, I kept coming back to the fisheye dart, which seems to be a favorite from Pattern Review folks, but there was something about that fix that seemed that it wasn’t quite right for my trouble.

Muslin #2 – adjusting the pattern

I had gotten some wool suiting for $2 a yard at Hancock to use as a muslin material for fine-tuning. I decided to switch to that fabric – the cotton muslin fabric was really thick for working with this amount of wrinkles! First, I made a few adjustments to the pattern pieces. Originally, I was going to do the same wedge-tuck in the front and leave the back crotch depth alone. After looking at photos of the muslin I decided that the depth in the back was long enough that I could just do folds at the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern piece in the front AND the back. I’ll show you the back changes first.

First I measured the fold in the front. It was a bit over an inch at the widest part. I took that fold (marked in green) out of the pattern piece at the lengthen/shorten line.

Next, based on some of the info regarding drafting, I decided to scoop out the back inseam and lengthen the back crotch point. Supposedly, this is closer to the drafting for jeans, which are closer to the body. It was my hope this would bring the back of the leg in a bit. I’m not sure how effective it was! The inseam scoop is on the left, the point extension is on the right.

The final changes I made to the back pattern piece were to slightly scoop out the back crotch curve to give my body some more space (left photo) and to lengthen the leg by 3 inches (right photo.)

For the front, I made the same fold to shorten the crotch depth. I also (obv) lengthened the leg 3”. The only other change I made was to add a bit to the inseam to ease pulling a bit – pictured here)

Muslin #2 – the reveal

For this muslin, I tried to stick with pin-fitting, right sides out, although by the end I started to machine baste – it’s SO hard to pin fit by yourself! I look like I was attacked by a rabid cat from all the pokes and scratches! Here’s the front/back/side view of the muslin. Ick.

Deflating the bubble in the front crotch curve

I focused on the front first. The folds right around the crotch area looked the most like a ‘bubble’ (from Pants for Real People) to me. This means the front crotch curve needs to be deepened. In the photo below the green line shows my original stitch line and the pink shows my new stitch line. Note the brown stitch line too! I had stitched the seam allowances on the muslin, and when I sewed the crotch curve, I deepened mine right away before even trying on. The crotch is to the right, waist to the left in this photo.

Here’s the results from the front and back. Much better!

Still not perfect, though. I went to sleep and the next morning when I got up I realized that I had deepened the crotch so much that the seam allowance was messing with the drape. I clipped the seam allowance in the widest spot. Much better!

Why do I need so much crotch curve?

Alright. What’s next? Ah yes, a very unflattering photo. And absolutely not to scale. But for anyone closer to my size, I was starting to feel odd about how deep my front crotch curve was. I mean, I’m THAT off from the pattern as drafted?

Well, yes. As I worked through the changes and got more accustomed to fitting this part of my body and the counter-intuitive nature of having to deepen a seam to loosen the fit (how odd!) I started to see how the crotch curves work with the body. Here’s a line drawing to illustrate –

So, Here we are. There’s me (and Lucy, with a super fast-motion tail!), in a side view wearing leggings so you can see my shape, which I’ve outline in yellow to accentuate. Yum. My tummy has a lot of width towards the bottom. I’ve sort of lined up outlines of pattern pieces as they wrap around our bodies. The front crotch curve is generally drafted much more shallow and less curved than the back pieces – which makes sense, as our butts are usually bigger than our tummies! On me, though, there’s actually not that much of a difference from front to back. My tummy is rounded and low, so my front crotch curve will probably be closer to my back curve than the pattern pieces allow!

The fix for the baggies from Pants for Real People

Back to tinkering with fit. I will spare you the literally hundreds of photos of my rear view with me trying a variety of methods of tugging, pinning and contorting to get rid of those darn slanted wrinkles. It seemed the back leg was WAY too full, but I couldn’t’ figure out where to take out the width. I finally gave in and tried the cure for the baggies from Pants for Real People. This cure involves tugging UP the pants until the wrinkles are gone, then redrafting the crotch curve for comfort. I really didn’t want to try this method, as I was happy with the front, sides, dart placement and the general fit of the butt and it seemed like tugging would put everything out of whack. I was right, but it seemed the only way. First, here’s two photos. The left is the trousers as they were fitting, the right is where I had yanked them up. It did a lot to smooth wrinkles and I thought perhaps a deeper crotch curve in the back would help with the last of it.

So now for the scoop. I did a GIANT scoop in the back, making the crotch curve more like the very-L-shaped curve of those Hot Patterns trouser patterns. Blue and pink are the first and second scoops. Green is the new one.

The results? Mediocre. The wrinkles are still there in the back, although not as bad. The side and front views were awful. I clearly needed help.

Rescue from Pattern Review and re-centering the back leg

I posted some photos on patternreview in the fitting forum (the thread is here.) Ultimately, I went with the suggestion from Sew 4 Fun. Basically I went back to the last crotch scoop, then I tugged down the trousers on the back on the sides until the wrinkles looked better. Then I let out JUST the back inseam the whole length on the inside and took in the back side seam the same amount – shifting the leg pieces like so (while using the original stitching lines.


For the photos…on the left, the trousers after I let that back crotch curve back out getting rid of the giant L-shaped scoop. On the right I’ve tugged down the trousers on the back/sides to get the wrinkles looking better. Note that I added an elastic waistband to help everything stay in place.

Here’s an extremely confusing photo showing how I offset the side seams. I’ve folded the leg in half to show both sides. I’m not sure if this’ll be helpful for ANYone, but thought I’d include!

I just did my right leg first (starred in pink!) There’s the results! Wow!

I thought I’d benefit from a bit more scooping – shown in green with the prior seam line in pink. I also fixed the side seams and inseam on the left leg to match the right.

The fit, so far.

Results! Much, much better. There’s still a fold or two and some wrinkling in the back that I don’t like. Of course, for these last photos I turned the seams to the inside without pressing, so it’s not lying perfectly. As I said earlier, I’m not in love with how roomy they are in the back, but I figure I have to get the fit to work before trying to fine-tune it! I’d really like to see some butt-shape there! At least I have a base with which to work. Also, see how these are almost tapered looking on me? I hate that about wide-legged trousers and wide hips – they always lend up looking slightly tapered!

To face or not to face?

Testing the waistband. What’re your thoughts on waistbands? I love ‘em on skirts, but I don’t love the horizontal line on trousers quite as much. I’m thinking a faced waistband might be more flattering? I do sort of like how this looks – the band is a bit wider than the one that came with the pattern, though.

What’s next?

Whew! I’m exhausted, aren’t you? I debated splitting this up into two (or more) posts, but really just want to get it out there and move on! I’ll continue to tinker with the fit on these to get rid of those final wrinkles. Then I may try to get them more fitted to ease off the pac-man ghost look. I’ve been trying to find photos of the fit I want, but there’s an amazing dearth of G-rated, fashion/fitting-oriented photos of girls’ butts online. Although my searches are certainly yielding interesting results!

Also, I have one friend who has my measurements, but is shaped very differently (she’s got a flat tummy and more shapely hips, I’ve got more narrow hips and a rounded tummy) and she’s agreed to be a guinea pig and let me make trousers for her. I thought the fitting process might make more sense if I do it on someone else! I have another friend that I hope will also agree. I will figure out this trouser fitting!


  1. Sandy says:

    I too have the same problem I used the simplicity pattern 1552, this is a peg leg pant I increased the back crotch inseam 1/2″ ( large thighs) and also did the back scoop too (bum is lower than normal) and cut the legs down after the hip 2 sizes smaller. This made a world of difference I now have the top part of the pants better. I now just add what type of leg I would like if I want a larger leg width I just use another pattern and adjust to fit the top part of the pants. I still have some extra fabric behind my back side but not as bad.

  2. […] the pattern and lengthened the crotch curve and scooped it out a bit, like this, and like Patti did here. I sewed them up, with the fly and everything, and tried them on and… they were too small. […]

  3. Great fitting! Nice work and tips… I’ll try it myself too.

  4. kezia says:

    I managed to get pants that looked good standing up, fit well. HOWEVER, sitting down just didn’t work. That gut and fanny spread took up more fabric than was there. Anyone else have a similar problem that they managed to find a solution for? How about them straining across the thighs when you sit?

  5. Ngoc says:

    Hey, awesome job! Keep on keeping on, sister.

  6. Ngoc says:

    Awesome job! Keep on keeping on, sister.

  7. Wanda says:

    Fantastic information for someone who is much like me in body shape. I’m slim in the side large tummy and butt that is starting to lose it’s pout :) bordering on size 30. I have several fitting books one is Nancy Ziemans Fitting Finesse. I have highlighted one section on finding the right size for pants. She recommends never buying past a size 22 because larger pattern sizes create pant legs that are uncontrollably baggy.

    Have you thought of using a smaller size pattern and adjusting the waist and hip size?

  8. Kelley says:

    Wow, Patty! This post is fabulous! If only I’d read this before I embarked on my epic pants fitting journey. I feel like I’m trailing along in your footsteps. I think we even have a similar body shape.

    I’m in awe, though, that you are slicing up your original pattern. I’m always too scared that I’m going to mess up my alterations and ruin the pattern. I’m a trace-all-the-time girl.
    Kelley recently posted..Sure Fit Designs: Pants Kit – Part 3My Profile

  9. Brittany says:

    The finished pants are gorgeous! You did an amazing job on these. Ive been dying to make that whole simplicity ensemble for ages but I wasnt sure what the finished pants would look like. Well done!! X

  10. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with useful info to work on. You’ve performed a formidable job and our whole community can be thankful to you.
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  11. Toni Cordial says:

    This blog is fantastic. There’s continually all the correct info at the recommendations of my fingers. Thanks and maintain up the superior work!

  12. Ash says:

    Hey, Snug Bug. I would be absolutely thrilled to sew a pant that looks as good as yours. Sincere thank you for sharing your fitting solutions of what worked and what did not work. Patricia, the owner of the web site is helping me learn to fit patterns to my wonky shape. Like you, I need the wide, wide space between the inner legs. Did you extend the top edge of the inseam point on the Front or the Back only?

  13. TracyKM says:

    When I saw the very first photo, I immediately added the pattern number to my list of "must try"….then I kept reading, and reading….I have a copy of Pants for Real People from the library, and on one hand, it seems so easy–pull up here, pinch out there, etc. But on the other hand, it seems like you can go on forever with trying to get a 'perfect' fit. Makes me want to stick with dresses, LOL. But I may still try pants one day…

  14. Lola Skw says:

    My hubby just added that the trousers have to be one size up because if he makes darts, he needs the extra fabric at the sides to balance it out – I hope you understand what he means? That would apply to a sewing pattern, too; if you don't go up a size, the darts you have to create to adjust the pattern to your body shape take away fabric from the sides, and so this creates curved seams where no curve lines where intended. ugh – I'm just the translator here, I don't pretend I understand what I'm translating!

  15. Lola Skw says:

    Wow – really enlightening! Same problem here – very long crotch curve…. My hubby (retired master taylor) always insists that I buy pants with a bit of elastic in the fabric, one size too big, and then he simply opens the back seam (I hope all of this makes sense to you, sorry, I am a native german)and takes some fabric in – in a dart shape. This is problematic when it is a jeans with back pockets – sometimes they are too close afterwards, so he has to resituate them (then he is very gruffy!). When I buy trousers without elastic fabric (he always grumbles when I do! – and again, I have to go up a size), he disassembles the waistband, makes two darts from the rear waistline right and rear waistline left to the center of each butt half, takes away part of the waistband in the back and reassembles everything. He never touches the front part, because he says that would destroy the side seams. Makes any sense to you? Sorry for my english!

  16. Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood says:

    BTW: I once read something where they modeled their own crotch shape using a coat hanger. just molded it to the curve, then just traced the damn thing right down on paper, and used it to modify all pant patterns. cool huh?

  17. Joy says:

    Re: the book. Yes, I like it. It's not cheap, but I've seen many of the other fitting books and they don't even compare.(Hubby bought it used from Amazon). My personal nemesis is the shoulder area, and other fitting books don't really address it, but this book was quite enlightening. Besides sections on fitting theory and different methods of altering a pattern, it illustrates 85 different alterations, some of them shown in more than one pattern type (i.e. set-in sleeve, raglan, and princess bodice).

    It IS rather technical. I have to sit and ponder over the text, but it's doable when combined with the illustrations. Each alteration has several sections: fitting theory (1. an analysis of the body area that's causing the problem; 2. what that's doing to the garment; 3. what the fabric requires for a proper fit); garment and pattern alterations (altering either the actual garment or the pattern piece); illustrations of the techniques described; and sometimes illustrations with extra pattern variations.

  18. Valerie says:

    Wow! You've inspired me to go more in depth with fitting muslins. Usually, I say, 'good enough,' but of course, it isn't. The last shot is fabulous. Great work, and thanks for sharing your journey!

  19. Laurwyn says:

    I really admire your attention to details! I LOVE these pants fitting posts! You made me learn so much in just a few pages!

    I agree with everyone. The darts are so much better than the pleats! It is such a huge difference! And the waistband looks nice too. I wonder if it wouldn't also look interesting a little be lower, where the hips are slightly larger? But that is mainly the opinion of someone that likes low waisted trousers…

    I must just say that "because of you", I want to go and try trousers in every shop and take pictures, I check all the pretty plus sized pants I can find online, and I have made a list of all the patterns I have! The problem with that is that I have started 3 other projects and that I MUST finish them!

  20. Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood says:

    i vote for the wide waistband like you have there. It's UBER flattering on you and somehow it balances out your hip curves and such..

  21. [patty the snug bug] says:

    Hey all! I'm glad the photos are helpful – I LOVE seeing pictures, so I try to take as many as possible!

    Andrea and Karen (and anyone else…) do you know how many times I thought to myself during this process "I wish the blogger girls lived in Mpls!" We should arrange pants-fitting meetups. It really is a bear to pin fit on your own! And husbands arent' that good at pinning (at least, mine isn't although he has new super foxy glasses and is distracting me with his clark kent vibe!)

    Joy – my married name is danish, I think – could that be it? Weird!! Also – do you like your new book? If I had a debit card (lost, new one in the mail) I'd probably have ordered it from amazon after reading your comment!! Also, also – the thin leg adjustment, I thought of doing something LIKE that, but I'd end up removing more width from the bottom (where I want it) than from the top (where it's annoying me!!) I like the FBA/SBA idea – it's sort of like that threads article I linked to!

    waikikimum – Good point! At a couple points during the fitting I sewed myself in and lounged a bit to test the fit 'in action' And I am a TOTAL overfitter! I just can't help myself!!

  22. waikikimum says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your pants fitting process. I have been through it a couple of times but still not happy with where I am. I think I have learnt a lot though and my next go round will be better again. The last time I over fitted and ended up with a pair of pants that where too tight around my waist when I sat down. (I must remember that bigger girls spread lol). You have done so well and ended up with a great fit. I will be bookmarking your post for my next try. Kathy

  23. Joy says:

    Ha! My Google Toolbar is telling me your page is in Danish and should it translate? Very strange.

    I'm impressed at all the hard-earned improvements you've done. Your well-documented process will be helpful to many, I'm sure.

    I've been flipping through my copy of "Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach" (a Christmas gift, yay). It has a section on your crotch curve alteration – they call the fit issue a "cylindrical-shaped torso (hip area)". I think you've done a similar alteration to what I see in the book. The side-effect of that extra crotch length is that there is now more fabric hanging down the legs, which you don't want. The book mentions a slim leg alteration, which is splitting the back leg down the middle and overlapping, tapering to nothing near the seat. One thought I have – and this sounds pretty silly – is to essentially do a small bust alteration under the seat area. Make slashes similar to what you'd do with an SBA or an FBA and overlap to remove some of that excess. But really, that's a style preference; I think you've made great progress in fit.

  24. tanitisis says:

    Wowza, what an improvement! I am even liking the wide waistband (I, too, have a horror of waistbands at my waist).

    I wonder, would a closer fit come just from narrowing the legs (both inseam and outseam)? This might introduce some below-butt wrinkles but I think those may be inevitable in narrower-fitting pants. At least now you have a block to work from (and I like the darts better than the pleats, too) :)

  25. Elle says:

    Your perseverance is impressive and inspirational! I hope that when I get around to making trousers for myself, I'll have the patience you do.

  26. Karen in VA says:

    Oh I wish you lived near DC…..We could so help each other with draping and pattern adjusting…I like the waistband and think you did a GREAT job of working through all the fitting issues….

  27. Virginia says:

    You have provided me with tips on fitting my pants. I have a somewhat poochy tummy a curved backside. I'm excited to use what you posted to see if that corrects some of my fitting issues. Thanks for all the pics – your pin pricks have not been in vain.

  28. Kjersti says:

    Wow! What an impressive piece of work. I have tried some runs of trousers myself, but haven´t come nearly as far along as you have already. Inspirational! :-)

  29. K.Line says:

    This post is fantastic. I had a similar week of cutting 5 pairs of pants to find out more about my crotch depth etc. SO many factors influence pants fit – but I think stomach is a primary one. I too have a full lower abdomen and a short front crotch depth. And I agree, it's crazily counterintuitive that one subtracts from the curve to add room. I had so many issues with that conceptually.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, MrsBug, for this detailed post. I have similar fitting challenges & thought I was alone :) Have you investigated the results of an angled center back seam? It puts the CB on a bias, so there's much more give, allowing for a closer fit; it also provides more room for the body & acts as a dart. (I discovered this by examining a pair of Gap skinny leg trousers—the CB seam on the Gap pants had an extreme angle compared to my pants pattern back pieces) Thanks again for all photos & detail—-it's terrific

  31. bluemooney says:

    Good for you! Sew4fun knows her stuff.

  32. jaimesews says:

    You've persevered FAR better than I did on my Anita Jeans. But you're inspiring me to pick up where I left off and make them better…definitely after the baby is born…or a year after that. lol. Way to go and thanks for documenting. I didn't have the patience for documentation, but it really helps me to see what you did!

  33. Andrea says:

    I wish I lived near you so you could fit me! This whole post explains why I've only made 3 pairs of pants in my whole sewing career and 2 of them sit in my closet unworn.

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