Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Is Why I Learned How to Sew!


When I was a fresh-faced new teacher of 21, I was totally clueless about what teachers wore. I bought something like ten button-up shirts from Express because it was the only store that fit my wide shoulder/tiny waist combination, only to realize that 1) I never wore button-up shirts because I find them uncomfortable, and 2) there's no point in buying expensive teacher clothes because I will destroy them. Chalk dust, dry erase marker dust, chemicals, and general dirt can ruin a wardrobe pretty quickly, especially when you're as clumsy as I am. Eventually, I learned my lesson and turned to Ross for my teacher clothes. One of the first TNT pieces of clothing I bought there was a pair of brown, tweed-like, 100% polyester gauchos. I'm not proud of wearing these to death, but, well, I did, despite the questionable merit of artificial fibers that pilled like mad and the even more questionable ripply hem. Oh, and the ultimate questionability of a garment that makes one's legs look shorter and wider.

Ugh, look at that hem! When I first brought it home, I tried in vain to iron out the ripples. I know better now. 

Broken invisible zipper. One of the reasons why I
don't do invisible zipper anymore. 
Still, I loved those gauchos because they were comfortably loose while looking (relatively) put together. When its invisible zipper gave up the ghost after a year of nearly weekly wear, I seriously felt like grieving. What was I going to wear now?! I even went so far as to wear them with the broken zipper, and force the thing to zip past the broken area, which meant that I had to carefully ration my water intake so as to avoid having to unzip any more than absolutely necessary. Is that TMI? At any rate, it finally got to be so bad that I reluctantly retired these pants. Remarkably, I held onto them through five moves through three different cities, waiting, it seems, for the day when my sewing skills would enable me to reproduce them. Well, I was going through my old clothes the other day, trying to figure out what I could donate before our big move this summer, and I found these pants again. I realized that they were just three pattern pieces -- a yoke, front, and back -- and would thus be easy to make a rub-off of. Hello, second real pair of me-made pants!

Don't these pictures look like inspirational teaching photos or something? 
The lighting, the city background, it's like I'm advertising that you, too, can change the lives of children.
There's some slight drag line stuff going on in the back, but not enough to bother me. I am slightly bothered, though, by how they end at the largest part of my calf. Bothered enough to undo my hem and fix it, though? Nah, not that bothered. 

I knocked these out in an evening and a morning, and while they were definitely easy to pattern and easy to sew, they're also difficult to fit. Since I've gained some weight in the intervening years, the original pants weren't quite a perfect anymore, so I had to guess at modifications to my pattern pieces. Then, the fabric I chose for this (hopefully) wearable muslin was much stiffer than the original, so it didn't drape quite the same way or look quite so slimming; I ended up reducing the hem circumference by a few inches and it still feels a little too wide. I also ended up making my yoke much higher to accommodate the change in how I like to wear my pants now. I can't believe that I used to wear such incredibly low-cut pants! Especially since my torso is really long, I must have looked unnecessarily disproportionate.

I lined up the yoke seams here, so you can see how my new pair is a good two inches higher at the center front. Also about an inch bigger at the hips, but that's neither here nor there. 
I didn't have enough fabric left over for a facing, so I cut my yoke facings out of this linen blend fabric that I had leftover from the second "real" dress I ever sewed. It's a bit hard to tell in this light, but that's both cream-colored and pink seam binding that I used. 
My very invisible, non-ripply hem! Not that it's any real triumph, those, since this tweed is perfect for camouflaging even the clumsiest hand-stitches. Oh, and that's the third color of seam binding there: navy blue!
A better look at how the top of the pants fits on me. 

Lapped zipped on the left side...nearly invisible, thanks to the textured fabric.
Mr. Cation actually couldn't figure out where I had hidden the closure when
he was taking these pictures! 
Summary:
Fabric: A yard or so remnant of 54" wide, grey tweed-y looking mystery fabric from Happy Fabric in Oakland, part of my official stashbusting stash. I did a burn test and there's some kind of natural fiber in it, but it's not wool. Upon consulting the fiber burn chart, it seems to best match the result for hemp, and while the fabric certainly feels scratchy enough, I don't know that my results are really conclusive. Ideally, this style would have used a fabric with less body, but since it's a wearable muslin it's tolerable.
Notions: An eight inch black zipper, a hook and eye, three different colors of seam binding
Techniques used: A lapped zipper (I'd forgotten how to do one and messed up the first time; I had to refer back to my Reader's Digest book), rubbing off a pattern, a catch-stitched hem
Hours: Seven, but at least an hour of it was hand-sewing and another hour for the patterning
Will you make it again? I want to use this pattern as a base for making a pair of very wide-legged trousers, but I'm dubious about whether I can actually pull off that look.
Total cost: $4...the trade-off for mystery remnants is cheapness.
Final thoughts: I'm not sold on 21-year-old me's idea of a good look for work, as the internet seems pretty convinced that wearing gauchos = instant stumpiness, but these pants are certainly comfortable enough, if not terribly flattering. They go well with the numerous cardigans in my closet, and work equally well with heels and tall boots. I think. Like I said, not sold on the idea of gauchos. However, I am terribly pleased that I finally managed to carry out my plan of remaking and replacing this particular RTW garment! So often, I stash random things and save them for years, telling myself that one day I'll actually need/use this. Well, this time it was true! I won't go so far as to say that I learned how to sew in order to carry out this project, but it was always vaguely in the back of my mind. Even though I'm not sure about the advisability of wearing this style, I feel like I've reached some kind of milestone in being able to successfully reproduce the original garment. Hmmm, I think I still have my favorite pair of cargo pants from college (which developed an unfortunately situated hole) stashed somewhere...


One more random anecdote about my early teaching years and the original pair of gauchos: I was wearing them one time and another science teacher said something to the effect of gauchos never look good on anyone. At the time, I didn't know that this type of pants even had a specific name, so I went ahead and agreed with her that yes, they looked terrible. I was such a people-pleaser back then. She gave me a withering look that said well then why are you wearing them? It wasn't until I availed myself of Google that I realized what she was saying, and what I had agreed to.

But enough about naive young me and that first pair -- what about this pair? To take a page from Peter's book, gauchos, yay or nay?

43 comments:

  1. Beautiful job! The fit around your waist is very lovely, and the wide legs imho make your legs look quite slender! As for that teachers comment, what a bitch!!

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  2. Check you and your mad RTW conversion skills out! I've never seen a pair of gauchos before- I must google this trend!
    I so did the exact same thing when I started teaching- I had 5 cotton collared shirts I wore on rotation and three pairs of trousers. It took me a good three years and a dear colleague to sort out my work wardrobe ;)

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  3. I don't know about that teacher, but you looked great in this! Awesome tailoring!

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  4. Gauchos, definitely yay! I think they're as flattering as an A-line skirt (which in my book is pretty damn flattering), but more practical. I reckon gauchos just have a bad reputation because they're from the Seventies - I have an old 'Golden Hands Encyclopaedia of Dressmaking' that has an illustration of gauchos worn with a psychedelic bishop sleeve shirt and a floppy brim hat!

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  5. I like them! They look great on you and you have fitted them perfectly. Beautiful work.

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  6. I think they look good! And obviously your version is better quality :) And yeah, what a bitch!

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  7. Your gauchos look fabulous! What incredible patterning and tailoring!

    I have been trying to figure out what to do instead of these fragile invisible zippers.
    Your lapped zipper looks great!

    What a mean teacher. I think the gauchos are very flattering.

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  8. I actually think they're really cute -- a nice compromise when you can't wear shorts to work.

    (I have a RTW pair of sweatpant gauchos, and I know that sounds like the most horrible thing ever, but they're so comfortable!)

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  9. You make gauchos look good! I'm certain they wouldn't have the same effect on me!

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  10. Congratulations on a great pair of gauchos, with no pattern! I would be very proud, and I will be if I ever pull this off. I don't think gauchos are a fantastic look for anyone, BUT you pull it off well. Those of us who are heavier could not get away with it like you can. That said, we all wear things that are not our best look all the time. I think you look cute and comfortable. If you like them, it's a yay.

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  11. Maybe if they were just a little longer, so they didn't hit at the widest part of you calves, but I think they still look nice. Your pattern for this pair would make a really cool pair of wide leg trousers if you made it longer I bet!

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  12. YOUR gauchos on YOU: YAYYYYY!! nix to the black shell, however. a twinset in the lovely blue would be great. i didn't like the fabric until i saw the closeup. i think these will be a great work garment and forget the mean-girl from the past. you look professional and competent.

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  13. I want a pair of those! They look really nice and fit you so well. As a fellow teacher, I like that they are not quite a skirt, and more dressy than pants. Do you have any good pattern recommendations?

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  14. You look fabulous. What a great job! I beg to differ with a certain science teacher from your past. You are the except to her 'rule'. Shall I hunt her down and make her understand the errors of her ways? :)

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  15. I think they look comfortable and very well made! If you are worried about stumpiness, just remember the "law of thirds" when dividing your body horizontally. If you hemmed them just slightly shorter (maybe 2.5"-3" higher from the line I imagine on your photo), that would make all the difference in making your calves look longer. =)

    Yes to the wide-legged pants with that pattern! You would look very tall - just wear shoes that are appropriately chunky or peek out enough with a pointed toe so you don't look like you don't have feet under them when you walk.

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  16. I think that, if anything, they show off the tone of your legs, making you look skinny but fit. I am very jealous of these gauchos, they look fantastic!

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  17. I wouldn't have thought I would like "gauchos" but I love these! I think it's your styling and the crisp crease that sells it. It vaguely reminds me of this pattern I own, in the way that it deceptively make you think it's a skirt (tailored in this case) at first glance. I also agree with Emily, they show off your excellent calves so I'd say the length is great.

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  18. I happen to like gauchos...I think they look super-cute on you.

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  19. It's so great to be able to reproduce favorite things like this! I think they suit you pretty well and they are good pants for teaching. You really nailed the teacher propaganda look in that side photo. You look inspirational! : ) I was a new music teacher at 22 and had always been a jeans sort of girl, so I bought three pairs of the most mediocre work pants in different colors. I guess they were kind of practical, but ugh, they made me feel so dumpy. By the end of the year I had bought my first sewing machine and it was skirts and dresses all the time!

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  20. These are really cute and flattering on you! I *never* thought I would say this about gauchos. But you look very tall and graceful in them.

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  21. These look great on you! You have great legs and this highlights them beautifully and the fit at the yoke is superb. Wear them with pride because you look beautiful and very graceful.

    Also, what that teacher said was rude, unprofessional and snarky. You may have been a people pleaser but she was a people hurter and I know who I'd rather be around.

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  22. I think they look great on you! The construction is outstanding and I admire your ability to do a remake of a well loved garment.

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  23. That is the same reason my grandmother learned to sew. She was tall and slender and in the era there was very little she could find in stores to wear.

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  24. I really like them! I must confess I didn't really know "gauchos" were this item of clothing either, so I would also have fallen into the rude teacher's trap (but seriously, who says something like that?) I agree that they're actually just as flattering as a similar length skirt, and perfect in tweedy mystery fabric!

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  25. What a rude fellow teacher! You're proof they can look good on people.

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  26. Ok, so I rather like gauchos on other people. Tyo, in particular, rocked them until the skinny jeans took over :(. I think they look great on you---professional yet not boring. :)

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  27. Yay all the way! I love fun garments like these!

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  28. Wow! Good job! These look absolutely work-appropriate and fit you like a glove. You look like you are "one" with the gaucho pants.

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  29. I like gauchos as you call them. They are great to wear since you can't wear shorts and you are slim enough to wear them. I don't think I could get away with them though.

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  30. OOh great job knocking off the RTW!!! YES YES YES to making these into wide legged trousers. What I've learned with wide leg pants is the heaver the fabric weight the wider they look/feel. I try to make sure the bottom width is no wider than my hips when I am doing a straight wide leg pant. You would look like you have long legs if you did that!

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  31. they look really nice : ) i think the facing is great and now want to do this with all my facings. i had a pair of perfect pants i wished i'd kept to make a pattern.

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  32. i actually think the style is fabulous, because it is casual, elegant, wearable, comfortable. i wouldn't disagree if you decided to either lengthen them or shorten them, but i would not feel self-conscious when you look that great :-)

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  33. Absolutely beautiful job!!! I love this style, it's professional and somewhat casual all at once, but has such a lovely tailored look - super super awesome!!!! :)

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  34. I think these look great - I'm even okay with the length...but maybe they'd look even better a tad shorter? Dunno. I've only ever owned one pair that I liked, which are now too big. I think the trick is for them to fit really well at the waist/hip. I always paired mine with a fitted shirt and heels. To me they're no different than a tea length skirt.

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  35. The quality of the finished product looks great!

    I'm afraid I'm not 100% in love with the design - I think a little bit shorter (like just below the knee) would be more flattering. Also, a minor point: with the waistline higher than the original, the waistband/yoke looks a *leetle* out of proportion. The waistband seam could maybe stand to come up an inch or two.

    That said, I think the fit on top is excellent and that's the hardest part. I second (third?) the motion to use this as a trouser block. Nice job!

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  36. I think you did a great job reproducing your favorite pair of gauchos, I for one like them, but I do agree with the comment someone else made, that they could be a little shorter, I think it would be more "age appropriate", not that I know how old you are, but you could go shorter and still be appropriate attire for work. That being said, I think you did a great job.

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  37. Yes you are one of the few who looks good in gauchos! They look so well made.

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  38. I have to agree with everyone that these look so good on you. I know you said the fabric was stiffer than the original, but this fabric looks fantastic in gauchos!!! I have been contemplating making a pair but alas I have no great fitting ones to copy. Can you please share how wide each pant leg is? I like the width of the leg and would really love to alter my pattern's leg width to get this look.

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  39. Lovely! I like your fabric choice, this piece will be a true workhorse.

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  40. I think you look fantastic. I think they're flattering, and professional, and they fit your figure very well. To that other teacher: get over yourself; you're probably jealous because gauchos don't look on you. Stop hatin'!

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Thank you for taking the time to tell me your thoughts! I appreciate reading them and I try to reply to most, if not all, comments, especially when they are questions. I ask that you keep your comments polite, and if you're a spammer, don't bother because your comment will just be deleted! Also, if you're commenting on a post that's more than two weeks old, it will be moderated.