I have been curvy since I was about 13. While I was tall and lanky at that age, I already had a large chest, big ribcage and broad shoulders. Even then, I found it hard to get clothes that fit well and I never really wore dresses as a staple of my wardrobe, for that reason. Fast forward many years and, with a love of sewing clothes only found in my late twenties, I can now do what I want! Well, nearly. 🙂 Sewing to fit is a journey and a long one, at that!
When the Tania Culottes pattern came out, every blogger out there was sewing up fantastic versions. I decided against buying the pattern, initially, as the sizes run from XS (34-26-36) to XL (42-34-44). I am 46-39-44, so way out of the size range and with a different body type. I also lived in Hobart, Tasmania at that time, which can be a bit chilly! I didn’t think the resulting garment would be a wardrobe staple, nor worth the effort to size it up. However, I now live in Sydney and have all too few summery clothes, so I took the Tania plunge and dived in. This pattern is cool. It’s basically a not-quite-circle-skirt pair of culottes. This means a drapey, flirty, swishy outcome which makes you feel pretty girly, all the while you are in fact WEARING SHORTS. Gold.
I cut the XL size and then adjusted, as I recount below. This leads me to warning #1: this pattern takes a lot of fabric. Circular skirts are notorious fabric hogs, so this isn’t surprising. With that amount of fabric, however, I do wonder whether this would suit if you were more bottom-heavy. My body is the opposite proportion, so it’s hard for me to judge, but keep that in mind.
I made three basic adjustments to this pattern, as follows:
Adjustment 1: Massively increasing the length of the culottes
Here, we come to warning #2: these culottes are extremely short. This is well covered by the pattern and the other reviews I have seen, but it’s still worth talking about. If you don’t add any length to these, you may not be able to go out in public! When you are 6 foot tall, as I am, and you know most patterns are drafted for about the 5’6″ – 5’7″ mark, this is always a factor. With this pattern, I suspect most people should consider this. I added just over 7” to the bottom of this pattern, though that included some length to accommodate for lowering the waist area to make it larger. The pattern itself covers this adjustment in detail, so I won’t give the how-to here.
Adjustment 2: Making the inner circle bigger, to accommodate a larger waist size
This adjustment was way easier than I expected. A standard circle skirt is like a doughnut, where the inner circle is your waist and the outer circle is your hem. There are lots of tutorials – like this one from Dana-Made-It, which explains the maths, and even an app from By Hand London which does the maths for you here. Awesome work.
BUT…these are not quite a circle. So how to adjust? I did it a little by trial and error, but it was fairly simple. First I checked the finished length of the waistband. It’s a curved waistband, so I measured both top and bottom along the seamline, not the edge of the pattern piece, and subtracted seam allowances at each side. Then, I added evenly to each waistband side to upsize for my measurements. I measured on the front and back piece, to see how much extra was needed to match my new waistband. I suspect I could have added nothing because there is so much ease in this pattern, but the result would presumably have been less full/drapey/amazing! I worked out how much I needed to add to each piece – take the amount added and divide it by 4, as there are two pattern pieces and you cut two of each. Using the tape measure, I roughly worked out how much bigger the inner circle needed to be to add the additional width.
I redrew the lines, checked it all, then adjusted the pattern.
Then, I lowered the crotch by the amount I had taken out vertically. This was probably unnecessary but I wanted to preserve that length in case it was needed.
Finally, I added the length I wanted to the culottes. Doing this at the end means you end up with the length you want regardless of all previous adjustments.
Adjustment 3: Making the culottes out of stretch fabric instead of a woven
I chose to do this for comfort and because I had a slinky knit interlock I wanted to use in my stash. Now, we reach warning #3: You need significantly less ease with a knit than with a woven, plus not all waist-hip ratios are created equal. I had to take quite a lot of the additional waist/hip adjustment back out because the culottes wanted to fall off me. I suspect this was due to the nature of the fabric, added to the fact that I am not as “hippy” as the dimensions the pattern was designed for. Annoyingly, I realised they were too large after I inserted the invisible zip, so my culottes are slightly uneven as I took the excess out from one side only. It’s not visible, but I can feel it when I walk (one side is more swishy than the other!), so it’s worth considering a basting fit. If you are using knit fabric, as I did, eliminating the zip and doing an elastic-back waistband would be a winner. Why make life harder than it needs to be?! My waistband looks a bit shady for this reason. 🙁
All up, I think I will make this pattern again, probably in a woven to see how it compares, though I will need to pick one which has sufficient drape to achieve that lovely, flouncy look.
- Size range: 2.5/5 — I am just into plus size, depending on the RTW shop, and I had significant adjustments to make here. So, I am not impressed with the range. Plus, these patterns generally expect a more pear shape, which I am not.
- Instructions: 2.5/5 — Somewhat sparse. Particularly “insert invisible zip using your preferred method.” Ha! Though, there is help on the website for this…
- Construction Process: 3.5/5 –Seemed sensible and there was an explanation as to why a particular order of construction was used, which I liked.
- Final Fit: ?/5 — Perhaps not fair to comment, as I adjusted it significantly.
- Overall Rating: 3/5 — Well worth making, flattering and a very quick sew. Downsides are the small size range and the instructions, which are very sparse at times.