Designing for men – finding patterns for Gus

Thank you for you feedback on the colour scheme I chose for Gus last week. This is what he said:

“Great stuff. I like it and would wear all of it. The bomber jacket you’ve put there is the exact one I have, from COS! Interesting to see how nice it looks with the other muted colours.”

Just to remind you this is what I am planning to make for him.

  1. Shirt
  2. Long sleeved T shirt
  3. High waisted jeans
  4. Corduroys
  5. Smart shorts
  6. Casual trousers
  7. Tailored jacket
  8. Bomber jacket
  9. Alpaca “Lore” jumper
  10. Polo neck jumper
  11. Coat

Let’s see what he says about the patterns!!

Choosing patterns

When I think about the Sewing with a Plan for myself I often assume that I am designing and cutting the patterns for myself. That is what I had thought when I planned my own casual, weekend collection. But when I think about an 11-piece wardrobe for my son Gus I find myself drawn to commercial patterns. That would make the process much easier and, so long as I can fit them (always easier on a client than on oneself) it takes alot of the work away. With self-drafted patterns much of the work comes from finding the best construction method. With a set of pattern instructions I kind of go into factory-production mode, if you know what I mean. I don’t have to think so much when I am actually cutting out and sewing.

So I started looking for suitable patterns. I need jeans, casual trousers, a jacket, a shirt, a T shirt, a bomber jacket and a coat. Shorts can come from trousers. I think I already have suitable knitting patterns although one needs me to adapt a ladies’ pattern.

If you want to do the same I suggest you have a look at this wonderful resource from Sewing Plums.

I did consider the modern Indies which everyone seemed to suggest, but I found them dull and middle of the road. I looked at modern Big4 which seem to be made for the larger, middle aged man. I considered the Japanese pattern books (thanks Lisanne!), but they appeared a bit droopy, and slightly weird. So what am I left with? Burda, which is my standard choice for modern, plus the possibility of some vintage in there, perhaps altered. But I am glad I have committed to commercial patterns. It will be such a relief not to be making it up as I go along.

Vintage and second hand patterns

I had a look at what was available on my old favourite eBay. The answer is

  • unlimited pyjama and dressing gown patterns from every era
  • a fair few casual trousers and jackets
  • some standard shirts
  • some wierd but wonderful “unisex” offers
  • lots of modern Cosplay, steam punk and Victoriana

Compared to women’s wear a fairly disappointing collection. Very little in the way of knits. Very little formal wear. Hardly any designer items (there was a Perry Ellis but the shoulders were ridiculous. Plus a boring 1980s Dior). But luckily the envelop art is spectacular. How I laughed.

What I bought on eBay for less than £20 (for the lot)

Once I stopped laughing I bought four patterns. I fear that Gus, or anyone without much knowledge of patterns, might have a canary at this point. But I bought these four items, and considered a few others, as they are the right size for Gus, ie 38″ chest, 30″ waist.

  1. The first, tatty old pattern, is for a young pipe-smoker. Who likes russet tweed. And wearing a tie at weekends. I think it is from the 1940s and I took a risk with the sizing which is 2″ too small. I feel confident about adding a couple of inches to the width (and at least that to the length as Gus is fairly tall). I also thought a slim fit might be good. I will toile this item to see how it goes.
  2. The shirt, on the other hand, is for a middle-aged cigarette smoker. He likes wearing his shirt untucked at weekends, but the combination of a sports shirt and a formal shirt in a medium size was too good to miss. This looks like a nice traditional shirt pattern and I can make the body slimmer if required.
  3. Simplicity 6593 is for men who like their casual wear to coordinate, almost like a suit. But at the same time delightfully casual. I bought this pattern because the slim fit (although flared) trousers may transition to jeans or casual trousers fairly easily. [By the way, Gus, flares are very easily removed. Most of the fullness comes below the knee, so it is simply a matter of redrawing the seams from the knee downwards. Simples.]  I did consider a modern Burda 6933 pattern with slim fit trousers, advertised as “hipster”. Actually used in the original sense of the word. But Gus wants a higher cut, and we are going to try that with my older pattern. If it is horrible I will come back to the Burda. also thought the jacket – sort of a jeans jacket – might work for Gus. He hasn’t asked for this type of cropped tapered jacket, but it would suit him. I am still looking for a suitable bomber jacket pattern. But no rush at the moment.
  4. Simplicity 7943 is a “Go Everywhere” pattern. Don’t you love the graphics? You have to wonder where “everywhere” is for this fellow. The golf club, the office, the weekend, and for bank robberies? A truly marvellous late 1970s casual suit!   I mainly got it for the tailored shorts. Of course most trouser patterns can be changed into shorts, but I thought these were rather nice (although not with the knee length socks). Soon after this pattern was designed men got into much more voluminous shapes for the 1980s – double breasted suits with the shoulders moved significantly beyond the shoulder. I didn’t want that look. Looking closely this jacket is very similar to the 1940s one. I shall examine it carefully, but for now this is my shorts pattern, with a possibility of adapting the trouser pattern for the cords.

At this stage I feel like a contestant in a cooking contest who has been given four odd looking ingredients and told to make a wonderful meal. I have confidence in these four patterns and I believe that I can make a modern, young men’s, 11 piece wardrobe from them. I have a T shirt pattern that I can adapt, and I will find a coat pattern in due course.

What do you think?


28 Responses

  1. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    Brilliant! Do you ever read ‘Male Pattern Boldness’? Peter Lappin is brilliant, and mainly uses vintage patterns, but interprets them in a very up to date way.
    Those 70s pattern drawings crack me up- they all look like Jason King!

  2. Jenny

    I made a suit just like Simplicity 6593 in a dirty-coloured mauve stretch fabric for my husband in 1971. It was his safari suit, not for actual safaris you understand. It was actually a great suit and he loved it.

  3. Naomi

    I think you’ve done super well Kate and those patterns will be very useful and easily adapted. Papercut Patterns do a good bomber – for women but the shape is very unisex (I’ve made it) and I think the neck line could be very easily adapted. However your denim jacked on pattern 3 would also make a good bomber base or substitute. Really looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  4. Anne

    A great start. I’m trying to find a suitable pattern for a particular type of jacket for my husband but no joy. I really don’t want to draft it! At least he doesn’t have fitting issues so it wouldn’t be the end of the world – but then, it’s one piece not eleven.

  5. Chris

    I was about to suggest looking at Male pattern boldness too – he mainly uses vintage mens patterns. Also if it’s a close fitting t-shirt, have you considered making a clingfilm wrap of Gus? If not to draft from, then to use the pieces as a comparison to the paper patterns pieces. It would help with getting shoulder slope etc.

    • Fabrickated

      Thanks for the suggestion Chris. That is such a great idea. If I can get him to stand still long enough it is something I would like to do.

  6. Esme

    Glad to see that we are now communicating as a family through this blog, rather than in the more traditional manner, e.g. over the dinner table.

    I am here to let you know (and I’m sure you’ll be greatly reassured) that Kate does not use the term ‘simples’ in real life. Now we’ve cleared that worrying detail up, I would also like to have a good old giggle at the 70’s men. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha. Gus – stick with the flare, they are wonderful and highly amusing. That is it really. Please wear clothes that make me laugh. Goodbye. XX

  7. Stephanie

    Great picks! I think they should be fairly straightforward to adjust, as you expect. Great picks! By the way, if you don’t like the shirt pattern you have found, you could take a look at this Burda one: I’ve made it for Gianni and he liked it. It’s a little bit slimmer than what he would usually buy for himself, which is good. There’s also a pair of cargo pants (patterns for men and women) that I might make up sometime, in the same issue:

  8. Annieloveslinen

    Good thinking, the patterns look versatile and you’ll be able to alter the styling to suit. The most challenging aspect will be sourcing fabric that replicates rtw.

    Have you introduced Gus to Pintrest? It would be a good way for you to get some indications of what he likes.

    On another note, what’s wrong with ‘simples’?

  9. Mary

    Design lines for these seem pretty close to what you are looking for. These all have such versatility. I think Gus will like the fit of the 70’s flares once you deflare them. It looks like the slim fit of today. I am looking forward to which fabrics he chooses. There is a pretty great men’s bomber jacket available as a pdf on the Burda Style website. Ruth from the blog corecouture made one for her son and it looked great.

  10. Martina

    Kate, you are brave, and Gus is a lucky man! Those patterns look like they’re going to make up into a really nice wardrobe. The only thing I’ve ever made for a man was a gray terry full length caftan for my dad. He wore it on a family vacation. It was good for a LOT of laughs!

  11. Jay

    The menswear I have reluctantly made has been fairly classic, and although pattern illustrations reflect the era, my impression is that most menswear hasn’t changed much in decades. I found it helpful to take careful measurements from existing favourite garments, also good for construction methods. The tailored man’s jacket (I’ve done precisely one!) might be where you most depart from an envelope pattern. You did pretty well to find those patterns, menswear is thin on the ground. Good luck!

  12. mrsmole

    I’m with Jay on this one. Men have changed more than their fashions or patterns. The key is to making the insides look like RTW to get the outsides to look professional. It helps to tear apart old vintage stuff to get an idea.

  13. tamsinwp

    I think you will get a great looking wardrobe for your son out of this lot! I love your description of the patterns – made me smile on my early morning train!

  14. Gill

    I can’t wait to see a picture of Gus looking dapper in his new shorts with long socks (hand knitted, of course) an orange tweed jacket and a Hawaiian shirt.
    Should be enough to drive him to take up pipe smoking – with or without the leopard skin boxers.

  15. Wendt

    Kate, you crack me up! “Bank Robbery” has me laughing at 7AM (quietly, as the whole family is sleeping.) I cannot wait to see what you do with this SWAP.

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