February 25, 2015

Inside my trousers...

or, not to worry, waistband considerations. 
I was just finishing up my new pair of trousers and realized some of my issues and choices about the waistband treatment might be worth sharing. I have to apologize for the pictures though: Each and every garment that was photographed for this post was either black or dark grey and you know what that means.
It's not very common for me to discuss construction details here but you may have noticed that I don't have a single style of trousers and/or waistbands and/or closures. I may make trousers with any kind of legs shapes, variety of rises, straight or shaped waistbands or faced edges above or below the waist. 

This time, I was making a pair of trousers to go with a jacket which has been waiting in my wardrobe for longer than I dare to admit. The fabric is a lovely mid-weight black wool suiting in a slight twill weave (as in, it has a twill weave but it doesn't stand out). The chosen shape is has a easy fit, tapered legs to the ankle and a narrow straight waistband at the natural waist. 
Because I hate that little fold you often get at the top of the zipper, I cut the fly shield with a bit of an extension which can close on the inside of the waistband. I think that's what you do to take care of that issue because it takes the pressure off at the top of the zipper and the button. 
It's a feature you sometimes see in RTW and I've used it before although usually on trousers without a waistband.

To get to grips with the industry standard, I took a look at E's only pair of formal trousers:

Here we get the extended fly shield with a button just under the waistband, a trouser hook and a small waistband extension with a button. It seems a bit much but of course, this type of treatment may have been developed for and by a group of people who don't have to undo all of that for a bathroom break... Or do they? I'm not sure.
Anyway, I think there's a lot of stuff going on at this waistband. The folded layers of the inner waistband itself, all that closure-stuff, lining at the front, pocket bags sewn into the waistband at the back (I tried that for E once and found he was more likely to tear those. I wouldn't do this for myself because there's a great big dart in that area) and that extra material at center back which allows you to make adjustments. 
I don't think I would do it like this if I were making E a pair of formal trousers but on the other hand, it's nice to see such a great deal of finishing and detail in RTW. At least they will do that for men's formal wear...

The inside of my trousers is more quiet. I used a straight waistband cut in one piece and a full lining. My fly shield extension, which was drafted, cut and sewn before I thought about looking inside E's trousers, has a very similar shape. 
I didn't really think about the fasteners themselves until after I had finished the waistband. Which was a mistake. I've had these hammer-in trouser hooks in my stash for a year and I've never used them even though I bought them because I suspected their performance might be superior to that of their sew-on relatives. 

I wanted these trousers to be really nice and they will go with a jacket which has fabric-covered buttons, so now was the time. Which meant I had to unpick part of the waistband to be able to prick those little prongs through one side only, slide on the back plate and hammer the prongs down to fix the whole thing in place. A bit nerve-wrecking because when you poke a hole in your brand-new, nearly finished piece of clothing, there's really no going back. 
I'm glad I did it though. It looks and feels a lot better than the alternative.

I had another issue when it came to the fly shield extension. I'm using that as a sort of secondary closure so it has to attach to the inner waistband in some way.

When I made these before, I've always put a buttonhole in the fly shield extension and a flat button on the inside of the waistband or facing. It works but I'm not that keen on the button gets pressed into my skin when I don't tuck anything in those trousers.
E's trouser have the button facing away from the body. And now I know why it's placed lower: They couldn't put a buttonhole in that waistband material. 
In my case, I could, if I had thought about it earlier, have come up with a way to put a buttonhole in, on or just below the inside of the waistband. But I didn't think of it earlier and I didn't want to unpick even more of a perfectly finished waistband for a solution I wasn't that sure about.
So, I compromised. I made a thread loop at the very end of the waistband at the fly extension and attached a small flat button to the inside of the waistband. At least this button will not sit on the thickest pile of fabric in the whole waistband. 

Oh, and I did, for a split second, consider using commercial waistband material. But the stuff I have has these plastic threads on the inside. I suppose those are meant to keep your shirt tucked in but if, like me, you wear your trousers without tucked-in things half the time, those get really, really scratchy and annoying. 
And on this skirt (I've used that stuff twice, on a pair of trousers and on a skirt and they were both hanging on the line to dry when I wanted to take these pictures, so that explains the wrinkles) you can also see a sewn-on trouser hook in situ. 

I think I'll take pictures of the finished trousers this weekend. In the mean time, I hope you like this bit of technical sewing geekiness.


  1. I'm glad you posted this. It's helpful to see how others finish the insides. I have David Paige Coffin's book on pants construction and I started making a variation of his waistband finish with Petersham ribbon as my waist finish. I mostly use a straight waistband and like you don't tuck in tops. I like this finish especially on wool since I don't always like how it feels against my skin. While I interface the outer band the petersham works nicely as added interfacing. I used to use an all rayon petersham but I've found that the cotton rayon kind is stiffer and works really well. I find it at a millinery supply online, https://www.judithm.com/. It gives a very nice inside finish and a thin flexible waistband. I tried using the metal hooks you've got, it's what Coffen uses but I didn't have good luck with getting them installed. I do like how they look and I should try again now that make a longer fold over of the outer fabric to hold them in place better. I don't usually make a fly shield since I try to keep down the thickness over the stomach. I do make a cb seam as you appear to do. There I make it wider for alterations, like a mans. I've spent a lot of time figuring out a waistband finish that works for me. I love seeing details like this.

    1. Hi Nancy...I'm as glad to hear you've personalized my ideas to suit yourself, as that you found them useful in the first place; thanks! I love judithm, too; best prices anywhere for petersham, that I know of.

    2. I always read about Petersham waistbands but Petersham ribbon is one of those supplies that doesn't seem to be very popular here in the Netherlands. I know where to get it but the quality they sell isn't great (and it's fully synthetic).
      I didn't really have any trouble with the hooks and eyes but it is really one of those things you have to try on a scrap first to find a method that works for you.
      Oh, and I don't make the men's style center back seam for myself. Because I draft my own patterns, I know that the shape of the center back line is right so I won't have to tweak the fit there and if my weight fluctuates, it's usually at the hips and thighs so extra material at the top of my trousers isn't going to help.
      I think it's one of the advantages of sewing that we can adjust all these details to our own bodies and preferences.

  2. Thanks, very interesting...and I DO like this sort of tech-sewing geekiness; best part IMO! Those hooks and eyes are actually NOT for hammering, but for squeezing with pliers, much more precise and less dangerous to the fabric, I'd say:) I found a neat pair of open-jawed dental pliers that lets you do this without also squeezing the fabric nearby, called Extracting Forceps #150 (grim name I know, but really cool to have around) http://goo.gl/QeG6iC.
    Plus there's a very good video demo by a tailor on how to clamp these things on here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgE7oPIZf7k
    I slip a little piece of folded up business card under the hook and inside the eye when clamping so they don't get smushed closed in the process.

    1. Wow, this is an honor ;) I loved your shirt making book!
      To precise about those hooks and eyes, I didn't randomly hammer them. I used pliers (the only ones I had around the house, which were from the toolkit) to bend the teeth in the right direction but those didn't allow me to close them properly so, then I carefully hammered them down. I've set enough snaps and eyelets to be able to do so with damaging the fabric. And I tried it on a scrap first.
      I like your tip about dental pliers (even though I don't expect the scary name will help me find good ones here. Oceans, borders and language barriers) If I'm going to use these hooks and eyes more often (and I think I might) I'd better get the right tools. I'll have a look at the video and try to put your advice to use next time.

    2. I'm honored to hear it, thank you! And I was quite sure YOU didn't randomly hammer away:) Your work is beautiful.

      Re: petersham, or millinery grosgrain as it's sometimes called, I bet it's easy to find in Paris...and here it is in London:

      And here's a link to some possibly useful distinctions and terms: