Casual wardrobe planning No 1 #The pants

Introduction

Recently I wrote about putting together and making a casual wardrobe. I decided to take up Joyce’s exciting challenge of creating a capsule collection that would be inspired by, and suit, my “Lakeside Lifestyle”. I was very interested in, and grateful for your feedback. I think my neutral – inspired by the landscape – colour scheme left some of you unimpressed. And there were a few votes for a skirt. But, for now, I am going to go large on pants. This is because I don’t really wear skirts at the weekend as I associated them (and structured jackets) with my working wardrobe.

I haven’t decided yet what I will put in my collection, but I have started to think about what sort of garment will be required. I am also thinking that I will draft all the patterns myself. I have been doing Intermediate pattern cutting so I think I should be able to create any of the patterns I need before the SWAP starts in January. In fact, although SWAP has got a reputation recently for concentrating on complex, challenging patterns, there are a group of contestants who emphasise the value of the “tried and tested” pattern being used to create wearable basics. I think I will join them next year.

Trouser types

For many of us trousers are the mainstay of a casual wardrobe.

I think that there are four main types of pants that we would might want to wear when dressing down: trousers that are comfortable, easy to wear, easy to care for, but also stylish and individual. Trousers that make us look like we are going somewhere nice, not doing the housework or mowing the lawn. I am trying to identify trouser types that we might like to wear every day for comfort, ease and elegance.

Let’s start with the truth (for me). For an off-duty wardrobe I don’t want anything tailored, fitted or in need of ironing or other maintenance. At weekends I wear jeans. And I wear Pyjamas.

Here I am in PJs.

Hand made Pyjama pants
My Pyjamas

What can I say. Embarrassing, right? These pyjamas are made by me. I printed the fabric with a block of lino that I patiently carved to resemble a Dianne Von Furstenberg print. The fabric is a nice, soft cotton lawn. The pattern is a 1960s trouser pattern, with just two pieces (no outer leg seam). The waist is elasticated, but there is a flat bit across the middle of the tummy so that the fullness is slightly more flattering. The sit comfortably on my actual waist – they don’t slide down.The trousers are loose fitting: they don’t constrict at the waist, hips, thighs or lower legs. They can be rolled or folded up too. When I am sewing or doing work at home this is often how I dress, confident that I will seen only by members of my own family.

Inspiration

Is it possible to create a stylish version of these pants, fit to be worn not only outside the house, but also nice enough looking to turn heads – in a good way?

Here is an inspiration picture.

Top shop jogging pants and bomber jacket
Top shop joggers

This high street outfit includes a pair of soft, elasticated trousers with nice pockets and a zip up bomber jacket. In better quality fabric (Topshop uses polyester/viscose) could this be what I am looking for?  Incidentally, according to the Financial Times last weekend;

“The uniform beloved of sportsmen and slobs has become fashion’s most extravagant status symbol”.

Which seems a bit strange. Lagerfeld (in 2011) said “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweat-pants”. However, according to Chloe’s creative director “I think feminine athleticism has come to be a new signifier for luxury and status.” What do you think?

Financial Times Tracksuit Takeover
Financial Times Tracksuit Takeover

You might think I am completely nuts but I love Uma Thurman in her Kill Bill fighting outfit. Maybe it is the gorgeous yellow colour. Or the stripe. But there is something about tracksuits – a zip front top with sporty pants – that is talking to me.  Of course both Uma and the Topshop model are tall and thin and would look amazing in anything. But the matching jacket and pants create a  “pulled together”, streamlined silhouette that somehow negates the fact that we are talking about elasticated waist pants and zip front jersey.  I will enjoy the challenge of drafting my own tracksuit.

The plan

Casual Trousers #1; “joggers” with pockets, in a plain, darker coloured, sweatshirt type fabric so that they are warm on colder days.

Casual Trousers #2; lighter weight pair drapey pants for warmer days, with elasticated waist and pockets.  Ideally I would like an oriental floral fabric (as shown on the right) so I will start looking. If you see something similar do please let me know – in the comments or by email.

Casual Trousers #3:  leggings! I don’t have any leggings, but many commentators have mentioned them. I am thinking of just making plain ones – in navy, or dark brown say – but maybe I should consider a patterned fabric. I like the blue floral ones (of course). It may depend on the availability of the right type of fabric. I wear pants like this for yoga and ballet classes, and therefore do go out in them on my way to the gym (usually under my skirt). I am not sure about wearing these as actual outwear, but even as footless tights they can be quite useful. What do you think? Are these a useful item in a casual wardrobe?

Leggings
Patterned leggings

Casual Trousers #4;  jeans. I already have the Birkin flares pattern, which I have made up before. Nothing wrong with the pattern. In fact it fits brilliantly, so there is probably no point making my own pattern for jeans. I will use stretch denim I think, for its hardwearing but comfortable qualities. My next version will have navy top stitching, but otherwise I just want to make one or two tweaks (mainly to do with the zip and the pocket lining). Totally wearable under almost all circumstances, and being indigo dyed they should soften and fade with age. And while these don’t have an elasticated waist, made from stretch denim they are a different proposition to the traditional jeans of the past.

Birkin jeans
Birkin Jeans

24 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    I love these ideas so much you are making me want to make casual clothes. My favourite of the things I have made in the last two years is my floral skinny pants so I am on board with those and my current favourites are a swishy pair of pants in navy silk with pockets and an elasticized waist, so I love the Asian silk pair too. They feel great on.

    The sweatpants version is trickier to imagine for those of us who have spent a lot of years in athletic gear but the stripe makes the suit more interesting. I once had a striped, zipped sweat top that I picked up at a second hand shop. It was Dolce and Gabbana and I remember being shocked at how nicely it fit and how chic I felt in it even though I am not a sweatshirt kind of a dresser most of the time. I am looking forward to seeing how you work your magic on this idea. Maybe skip Uma’s blood stains though!

    I would say no to the leggings personally but a lot of people like them.

  2. I speak as someone who wears “casual” for work and play. I don’t know about “status symbol”, but sweat pants definitely have their advantages. Ignore Lagerfeld.
    And leggings. Yes, yes, yes. In winter I wear Tessuti’s Anita Ponti Pants A LOT. Much more comfortable than jeans, and easy to dress up or down.

  3. I can’t work up any enthusiasm for the sporty luxe trend and have the mantra “Leggings are not pants” in my head, but perhaps it’s just creeping fuddy-duddyism on my part. Jeans seem handy and comfortable and can look a bit upscale with a fancy blouse and a wrap.The silky pants look both comfy and elegant. Have you looked at Spoonflower for fabric? You can design your own patterns or pick one of theirs (including lots of Oriental-themed) and choose among many types of fabric. I think your overall theme is inspiring. I liked the idea of looking to the waterfowl for flashes of color too, e.g. a double collar on a blouse with one of the collars bright and silky.

  4. I like your inspiration pieces and enjoy reading on your creative process. I am learning a lot. You have reminded me how I spent months trying to find a yellow tracksuit eons ago after watching Kill Bill – now I know I can make myself one so I see a bright yellow future make.

    • Well you could certainly get away with a Kill Bill jumpsuit or tracksuit. I saw the actual suit from the film at the V&A Hollywood exhibition. I am thinking of something a bit more restrained, like green.

  5. StyleArc have some lovely, interesting casual patterns, including loads for stretch trousers, zip up jackets etc. Highly recommended. Scruffy Badger makes plenty of running gear, and uses some great fabrics and patterns… I’m enjoying this!

    • Thanks DF! I agree that Style Arc seem to have done the casual wardrobe really well – maybe it’s an Australian thing? Brits can either do occasion dressing or slob.

  6. Joyce Latham

    No time for a thoughtful comment this morning…but this is exciting to me!
    Later kiddo!
    Joyce

  7. Bulky tracksuits can overwhelm any figure, but Thurman’s looks good because hers is very figure hugging and the stripes streamline it even more. Instead of leggings I prefer a floor length straight jersey skirt which is very comfortable, and in cold weather can be worn with leggings. I find it more flattering than leggings and it showcases floral fabrics better than leggings. I am as always curious about what you will come up with. I am still struggling with my blouse block and will tackle the stash of tweeds for the winter, no summer here anyway.

  8. How exciting! I LOVE your PJ’s and why not wear them around the house when they look so stylish? You have described the pants so well that I can visualise them and Uma’s fighting outfit would certainly suit you, especially in that gorgeous yellow. Finally why not have some of those lovely navy floral leggings under a skirt or a pinafore? So comfy.

  9. I’m trying to plan a casual wardrobe too, only I keep getting sidetracked by pretty dresses, which is always the way with me! Love your thoughts on trousers and agree with dementedfairy that Style arc are really good for casual/interesting. Also Burdastyle magazine, of course. Finding the fabric is key too. I’ve had limited success finding so called French terry, girlcharlee has it but not many others. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

    • I am hoping to draft my own patterns but I use Burda quite alot for trousers as I think they have the best styles. But you are right that the most important thing is getting the right fabric Karen.

  10. Well, since I wear nothing but elastic waist pants (which before “sporty lux” had a very bad reputation) I am all for this idea. My sister wears modified pajama pants a lot, which she dresses up with beautiful fabric like yours. She calls them Japanese inspired mompei pants–so maybe just a name change is in order.

    • This is a very encouraging response Lynn. There is a thin line between PJ pants and light weight comfortable summer trousers. I am on the case and appreciate your feedback.

  11. One type of trouser/pants that are very retro (to my memory at least). are palazzo pants, or as we used to call them in my youth, elephant pants. Depending on the fabric, these can be elegant, comfortable, and stylish. Your figure would look good in them with a form fitting top. I wouldn’t do yard work in them, but great for home or outings. I have seen some diy patterns online or you tube, but was not impressed with the diy youngsters’ idea of what constituted a good pattern draft. If you do decide to make them, please do a tutorial (especially with the guidelines behind the pattern draft), as I would like to make some myself!

    • I hadn’t really considered the Palazzo pants as I thought my behind was a bit too wide for them. But I did buy a pair of pleated trousers and found them a lot better than I expected. So I may go for a pair. If I do I will certainly write it up and hope it helps.

  12. I don’t like athletic wear as casual wear. Maybe it’s an age thing, being screamingly obvious that I’m not on the way to the track or gym. I like the casual print ones.

  13. This is fun, I love the planning stage. I’m wading in with another vote for StyleArc, their casual patterns are edgy and modern. Like Jay I’d run a mile from a trackie but the essential components are incorporated into many casual looks now and it seems to me that by using a contempary pattern line you could achieve a more up to date look yet have the functionality too.

    Love your jammies.

  14. I think a nicely made pair of athleisure trousers would be a great weekend staple. You should check out Simplicity #2061. I’ve made several pairs for my daughters in gorgeous french terry and think the girls look casual yet like they care about their appearance. Sloppy track suit bottoms are so yucky but small details like a flat front, topstitching, and well turned pockets can really elevate your comfy wardrobe.

  15. I like the slim fitting tracksuit idea with a pocket. Cant think of any suitable patterns for it though sadly.

  16. Capri-length leggings can also be nice – they always seem to be a lot more flattering on me than the longer ones. Those patterned ones where the horizontal lines don’t match up make me want to bang my head against a wall, though. Not that hurting myself would do anything to staunch the flow of mismatched-pattern leggings into the world.

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