June 16, 2011

To answer a question

In her comment to my latest post, Barbara asked if I could explain how I did the swayback adjustment on those trousers. And well, that's not such a difficult question to answer...

Before I start, however, I need to come up with a little disclaimer: I have often complained about how the 'swayback adjustment' is the most over-exposed pattern alteration in the sewing blogosphere. In most cases, this was about bloggers adjusting dresses or coats on which they might have done well to check the pattern's waist length. And yet, I've gone and used this term myself.
So, to avoid any confusion, I'll explain what I think my alteration on trousers is: a flat-butt-adjustment. I like high-waisted trousers, which made this adjustment needed. With a lower rise, the only 'issue' you would have, would be that the back waistband would sit a bit higher on your body than the front. Which, with a lower rise is not such a bad thing...

To show you what I did and why I did it, I will have to show you some close-ups of my behind...

This is it in my new trousers.

And this in my side-buttoned ones.

The light wasn't great and the focus is a bit off, so I'll add a side view to display the problem: There's a horizontal fold just below the waistband. Even when I'm not wearing heels.

I started to be aware of this fitting issue a while ago, so I was determined to fix is for my next pair of trousers. To alter it, I simply pinned the excess fabric on the side-buttoned trousers (for this, you would have to make a muslin if you're dealing with a new-to-you commercial pattern), took them off, measured what I had pinned and substracted that amount from the top of my trouser sloper.
In my case, the excess was at center back and tapered to nothing at the side seam. If you have a similar problem, you can use this type of flat-butt-adjustment. If the excess also exists at the side seam and/or at the front, you are dealing with a pattern in which the waist-to-hip distance (vertically) is larger than yours, and you should take out some of the overall height.

And finally, to answer a question nobody asked: both these pairs of trousers have straight waistbands. In my personal experience, straight waistbands work well on high-waisted trousers, when placed from the natural waist upwards. That's what you see here. I would never use a straight waistband on trousers with a lower rise. The vast majority of women, myself included, has curves in the waist-to-hip-area. And curves are not served well with a straight piece of fabric.


  1. Yes, that's it! Thank you! I did the same on the last pair of pants I made and found it was a better adjustment than the flat bottom adjustment I used to do. I just pulled the back of the pants up and eliminated the excess fabric below the waistband. This eliminated the horizontal fold at the waist and the sagging below the butt.
    Thanks again for your answer! :-)

  2. You are absolutely right, most of us have curves yet so many of the lower rise jeans patterns that are popular have a straight waistband.

  3. I was hoping that someone would ask you that question and you would answer! Thanks so much for your explaination! It's really helpful.


  4. Yes, looking at your side-on photo, you do not have a sway-back, and so such an adjustment would not be necessary for you. For those of us who do have a sway back, this is when your back curves in to the waist a little more than normal and gives the opposite visual effect than a flat-butt; effectively your behind appears to jut out further than normal. I say appears, because it only looks that way in relation to where your waist is sitting. This results in "normal" jeans, pants and dresses standing out away from your waist, instead of following the natural curve of your back. For me, fortunately, it is only a slight one.

  5. Oh so you do it to give the appearance of a more swayed back not for people with an actual sway back (dancers spine)?

    1. It's an alteration which works for me personally. I don't have a sway back but I do have a fairly flat bottom. In all the trousers in the picture, there is simply too much material in the back body part of the trousers. And it ends up pooling at the small of the back (in the same place where sway back wrinkles would be).