Pants, amirite? On the one hand, they carry with them a long and storied history of signifying independence and queer identity, from Rosa Bonheur’s permit to work in men’s clothes to Marlene Dietrich’s iconic tuxedos to the working wardrobe of many women during World War II. On the other, modern ready-to-wear trousers and jeans are often plagued by flimsy fabrics, incomprehensible sizing, and an unfortunate tendency toward heterosexual gender roles (no, I did not borrow these jeans from my boyfriend).
Luckily, sewing your own trousers is a great way to get pants that fit both your body and your gender expression, in a wide range of fabrics and with just about any detail you can dream up!
For Beginners: Slouchy Slacks
If you’re new to sewing, look for patterns with drawstring or elastic waists and looser fits — think joggers, culottes, and secret pajamas. They’ll give you the chance to play with different fabrics and learn how each work on your body before trying a pattern that uses a bit more tailoring. For tie-waist pants, try the Blank Slate Forsyth (XXS-3X) or the Seamwork Moji (0-26). For joggers, try the Hot Patterns Sunday Morning Sweatpants (6-26) or the Patterns for Pirates Bear Joggers (men’s and women’s XXS-3X). For culottes, try Butterick 6223 (XS-6X).
For The Somewhat-Experienced Sewist: Super Duper Fly(s)
If you’ve sewn once or twice before and feel ready to tackle a zipper, the world of trousers opens up to you! High-waisted, wide-legged pants feel very vintage dapper; try the Helen’s Closet Winslows (0-20), Simplicty 8092 (6-22), or Simplicity 8447 (6-24, with bonus overalls!).
Ankle pants with interesting details work great whether you’re a sporty queer or a dandy. Check out cargo pants like the Hot Patterns Weekender Utility Cargo Pants (6-26) or dapper trousers like Thread Theory’s Lazlo Trousers (0-18).
One awesome thing about making your own clothes? Workwear no longer has to be boring! Try out a pair of classic trousers like the Alina Chi-Town Chinos (0-18), Simplicty 8056 (10-28), or the Make My Pattern Textbook Trousers (sized to your measurements). For business casual with a vintage flair, try the ’40s menswear look of Butterick 6503 (hip measurements 39-53″). The True Bias Lander Pants (0-18) have a great ’70s vibe, while slim-cut trousers like Butterick 6327 (8-24) feel both ’60s retro and modern.
Constructing a fly-front might be intimidating at first, but with a good step-by-step guide, it’s totally doable! I like the one from Closet Case Files. Many of the patterns featured have shorts options, or can be cropped to any length you prefer – a godsend for battling chub rub.
For The Pros: The Denim of Your Dreams
With some patience and a little research, custom handmade jeans are well within the reach of any sewist with some garments already under their belt; by picking out just the right shade of denim, fine-tuning the fit, and working your DIY skills with well-placed distressing, you’re the master of your own perfect pair. Want a sky-high waist? Try the Closet Case Pattern Skinny Jeans (0-20). What about a classic fit with an easily customizable leg shape? The Seamwork Tessa (0-26) or Butterick 5682 (6-22) are great options. Want a relaxed fit that you don’t have to call “boyfriend jeans” (even if the pattern does)? Try the Closet Case Patterns Morgan Jeans (0-20) or the Hot Patterns Weekend Jeans (6-26).
So, what kind of pants will you make? And perhaps more importantly, will they have big, functional pockets?
For more of Shannon’s sewing tips, check out 4 Dapper Plus-Size Sewing Projects for Beginners and Pros and Summer Project: Sew Your Own Gender-Affirming Swimwear.
Ugh I love this column so so much. Can you recommend a good jumpsuit pattern? I’ve been feeling like I want my pants attached to my tops this summer!
Yes! A DIY jumpsuit post would be awesome (wink, wink)
BLESS THIS COMMENT. I almost put jumpsuits in here, too, but I thought it might be a little too much. I’ve made three almost-identical jumpsuits now by pairing the Winslow Culotte pattern with a fitted bodice (https://withararedevice.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/a-pair-of-jumpsuits/), but I also have McCalls 7366 in my stash waiting to be made (https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m7366).
I also really want a utility jumpsuit like McCalls 7330 (https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m7330), 7539 (https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m7539), or the ’40s air raid suit from Wearing History (http://wearinghistory.clothing/phyllis-wwii-1940s-air-raid-suit-or-coverall-pattern/).
And maybe because winter is impending, I want to make a cozy drawstring romper in a soft french terry, like Mccalls 7296 (https://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m7296) or Butterick 6298 (https://butterick.mccall.com/b6298) — the hooded, cropped one is leaving me a tiny bit aflutter.
There’s probably another dozen options from McCalls, a couple of fancy-lady versions from Vogue, and for secret-pajamas versions in jersey you could try the Sallie from Closet Case Patterns (https://store.closetcasepatterns.com/products/sallie-jumpsuit-pattern-maxi-dress-sewing-pattern) or the Seamwork Layton (https://www.seamwork.com/catalog/layton).
These are amazing! I love the idea of a jumpsuit with a fitted bodice–the ones I have now kind of billows up top (the Sallie and the cozy rompers are super cute too, btw). Thanks!
Thanks for all the ideas! I love your floral version so much – I’m going to have to search out some good flowers for something similar!
Gem, the floral is from the Rifle Paper Co.-designed line for Cotton & Steel, in the most lovely-to-sew rayon! The exact one I used is still be available, and they have since introduced a bunch more gorgeous florals, too (https://riflepaperco.com/collections/cotton-and-steel-fabric/)
That Air Raid suit is giving me LIFE. (Brb, robbing a bank.)
Thank you for this article- I do a lot of sewing, but pants have typically eluded me. I might try some of these patterns :)
Thank you for this! I’ve been wanting to make my own joggers/comfy pants for ages. I love the look of the tie waist pants in the first photo.
Joggers or slouchy pants are on my list, too, and I also love those tie-waist ones! Good luck!
Also, I would read more posts on sewing your own clothes and pattern links for days.
Hi, Joost here. Just a quick note to point out that makemypattern.com has been discontinued in favour of my new site: freesewing.org
Not to worry, all patterns are available on the new site, including 2 trousers pattern (and I’m working on more of them).
Thanks for the shout-out!