Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please! It’s time for a Pattern Throwdown. Three pants patterns will enter the ring, but only one will emerge victorious!
Your referee tonight is Jennifer W. from We Bought a Manor. Weighing in at “none of your business,” she is a rectangle from the front, an apple from the side and all party in the back. Her measurements are:
- Bust: 48 inches
- Waist: 43 inches
- Hips: 53 inches
- Bra Size: 42DD
- RTW: Size 20-22
- Usual Sewing Size: 20-24
Our contenders tonight are:
- Style Arc Barb’s Stretch Pants, sewn at size 24 ($13 PDF, free if you join the Style Arc mailing list)
- Love Notions Sabrina Slims Pants, sewn at size 24 ($10, PDF)
- Jalie Eleonore Pull-On Jeans, sewn at size FF (CAD $12, PDF)
A few important notes from the referee before we begin:
- Confidence Level: While I’m a fairly accomplished garment sewist, I had never tackled pants before this throwdown. I was extremely nervous about sewing pants – I have a hard time finding well-fitting pants in RTW due to my shape – I have a “shelf” on my high butt that forms my biggest hip measurement (4-5 inches above where most patterns’ hip measurements hit) and a sagging lower belly that is my fitting nemesis. Add that to relatively skinny (but short) legs and I often feel like a lollipop on a stick.
- Fabric Choices: I made the Barb from a thick ponte with nice 4-way stretch. The Sabrina Slims were made from a stretch cotton twill, with moderate 2-way stretch. (Because it’s incredibly hard to photograph black pants, I’ve overexposed the photos to make it easier to see the wrinkles.) And the Eleonore Jeans were made with stretch denim with moderate 2-way stretch. Theoretically, you could make all three patterns with a stable knit (like ponte), although you might want to size down. I would not make the Barb pant from a stretch woven – it doesn’t have the shaping to support a closer fit.
- Pickiness — while I was super satisfied with all three pants when I made them, I have to admit that seeing these photos gave me serious “dramatic pause” — look at that belly! Look at those wrinkles! How on earth can I post this review and call any of them a winner?! But you know what? These pants all fit better than RTW, they are comfortable and practical, and I’m pretty sure no one except for another sewist would notice that they are less-than-perfect. So I’m going with it.
- Fitting/Adjustments: I did a couple of “on the fly” adjustments while sewing these pants – primarily adjusting the crotch curve on both the Barb pants and the Sabrina Slims (more on that adjustment below). I also skipped the welt pockets on the Sabrina Slims – if I can’t fit my iPhone in that back pocket, I’m not interested. I also adjusted the length of all three pants legs – on the Barb and Sabrina Slims, I took off 2-3 inches from the bottom, whereas I got smart and removed the same length on the Eleonore pants from the middle of the leg pattern piece before I began.
- Goal: For this round of Pattern Throwdown, I focused on finding the best dressy casual “pull-on” pattern – something I can make and wear 100 times over the next few years. I can play with the details (pockets, cuffs, pant leg width) indefinitely – what I wanted to find here is the basic block that fits the best through my waist, crotch, butt and legs.
Let the throwdown commence!
Round 1: Pattern Quality and Instructions
Winner: Sabrina Slims
There are several criteria I use to judge the value of a pattern’s quality and instructions, so let’s get to it:
Does the pattern come with more than one look?
The Barb pants are a 1-and-done pattern with no frills.
The Sabrina Slims is a cigarette style pants pattern with two looks – one basic pattern and one with front and back seams for visual interest. It has petite, regular, and tall inseam lengths marked on the pattern, and a maternity version.
The Eleonore Jeans have one look, but two lengths (full and capri), along with a pictorial guide to turning them into skinnies. One huge positive for the Eleonore – it comes in 27 sizes (from little girl to curvy lady). If you sew for little ones, this pattern can be great for them from kid to grown-up. This is standard for Jalie, and makes me love them, even if I’m irritated about their lack of large-format printing.
Does it have a large-format printing option, so I don’t waste time assembling a PDF from a billion sheets of paper?
The Barb and Sabrina Slims both come in wide-format printing, but the Eleonore pants only come in standard A4 letter size, which adds time for assembly that I’d rather skip over.
Somewhat problematically, the Barb comes in 3 separate files, one for each size. Once you know your size in the Style Arc block, this likely won’t be an issue, but since it was my first experience with them, it was hard to choose which file to print – I wanted nested sizes, dammit! Ultimately, I went with 24 (which most closely matched my measurements) and it worked okay, but if you need to grade significantly between sizes, you will likely find yourself screaming into the night at the Style Arc pattern approach.
Are the instructions clear and accurate?
The Barb pants, per usual Style Arc approach, have minimal directions. In fact, there is no separate directions booklet – just a handful of written directions on the pattern itself. For such a simple pattern, that’s not a problem – but something to consider if you are a sewing newbie.
The Sabrina Slims have the most detailed instructions, with a mix of photo and line drawings. The pattern also includes a multi-page fit guide that walks through common pants fitting problems (with photos from real testers). Bonus: I love how Love Notions’s website shows a wide variety of people wearing the Sabrina Slims – skinny, fat, curvy, short, young, old, etc. It’s so refreshing to be able to scroll through the patterns store page and find someone who looks like you to consider before you purchase the pattern.
The Eleonore Jeans have solid instructions with clear and detailed line drawings – just the right amount of hand-holding for a confident beginner.
I chose the Sabrina Slims as the winner because…
I like that it had the large format printing, two looks, detailed instructions, and a fit guide with common alterations.
Round 2: Waist and Hips
Winner: Eleonore Jeans
The waist and hips of all three patterns were pretty spot on – with a pull-on pant there is necessarily a little bit of give which helps with fitting. I found the Barb pants had the most curve through the hips, so it might work best of a pear-shaped booty. I found the Sabrina Slims to have moderate curve through the hips, and the Eleonore had the straightest fit through the hip – the best for my apple-shaped belly with rapidly diminishing hips.
On the topic of rise – I often find that I need to add length to the front and back rise of my pants. With an apple belly and a top-curvy (but no lower hip) butt, the best defense against sagging pants is to have the waistband hit high at my natural waist. I did raise the Sabrina Slims an inch, but probably didn’t need to – the waistband for the larger end of the plus sizes uses a 3-inch waistband instead of the regular 2-inch waistband and that gives an extra level of confidence. You can see that all three of the pants hit about 1-2 inches above my belly button – right where I like them.
Round 3: Crotch (front)
Winner: Eleonore Jeans
Ugh – crotch fit. It is surely the nemesis of most pants sewists. I find that I have an L-shaped crotch, which I’m guessing may be common for other ladies with a sagging belly. Basically, since the belly hangs over the top of the pubis, pants have extra fabric right at the crotch point that needs to be removed. But remove too much and you draw the fabric snug across the lower belly – highlighting the line of the lower belly. It’s a no-win situation. In practice, that means I often need to scoop out the front crotch piece, aiming for a sharper L-shaped angle from the pubis up to the stomach area. I did a DRAMATIC alteration on the Sabrina Slims – removing a full 4 inches of fabric from the crotch curve (2 inches on each side). I did a more modest adjustment on the Barb pants, removing about 2 inches total from the front crotch curve. The Eleonore Jeans were perfect as is, which is why I’m declaring them the winner for this round. While the Barb probably looks the smoothest in the photos, I think this has a LOT to do with fabric choice.
Note: if you have a rounded public (e.g. camel toe), you will likely find that you have the direct opposite problems and may prefer the Barb the best!
Round 4: Butt/Crotch (back)
Winner: Eleonore Jeans
Here is where I should have taken photos of my derriere during the original sewing process – until I saw these photos below, I had no idea that I had crazy pulling at the back crotch point in the Barb and Sabrina Slims. My trusty pants-diagnostics guide from Closet Case Files indicates this pulling is because I need a large inner thigh adjustment. We’ll see if that works in future iterations. Clearly, the winner here is the Eleonore Jeans, although I will note that after wearing both the Sabrina Slims and the Eleonore Jeans for a couple of hours, they gently stretched out and all pulling at the front and back disappeared.
And the Champion is…
Duh, it’s the Eleonore Jeans! I made them straight out of the envelope (except for shortening the legs for my dwarf-like appendages) and they fit the best across all categories. I love that they have phone-worthy back pockets, and I was delighted to discover during the writing of this review that there are two tutorials (1, 2) for turning the faux pockets into real pockets. Huzzah!
To be honest, all three pairs of pants are in regular rotation here at The Manor, although I do give the Barb pants a little stretch through the thighs before I put them on to preempt the back crotch pulling. I may try to mash the back welt pockets from the Sabrina Slims onto the Eleonore Jeans to make them a little more business-casual, but I think the Eleonore can be dressed up or down a lot depending on fabric choice. And it feels great to know that I can churn out multiple pairs without fussing over alterations. The holy grail of pants!
I’m still on the lookout for a good woven pencil skirt pattern, but I’ve lost confidence in that process. The one I tried – the Colette Selene – was a horrible disaster. Instead, I’m turning my attention this spring to trying my hand at a Capsule Wardrobe – a small collection of clothes that all work together. It promises to make getting dressed in the morning faster, and results in a more “put together” look. We’ll see. Once I get it underway, I may share my results on the CSC blog.
In the meantime, tell me: what are your favorite pants patterns? And have you tried a capsule wardrobe? Was it all it’s cracked up to be?