Call me crazy but I have this idea. This idea is that ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes will never fit me. I have good evidence supporting this hypothesis; evidence beyond the entire lived experience of my adult years. I have numbers. You see, I’m very long-waisted and notably square-shouldered. I make routine pattern alterations before any testing or measuring: I add 1.5″ (yes, one and one-half inches) in length at the waist and 3/8″ on the front and back of each outside shoulder edge. These two unalterable features of my anatomy have collaborated with remarkable success to convert every single dress I’ve ever bought into an empire waist with a gaping neckline and a collar that stands off my neck. It doesn’t take much to do better than that.
But that’s not the crazy part. The crazy part is that I want to make breeches.
Breeches? Like this?
And the craziest part of all is that I think I can do it better than the major manufacturers of the pony industrial complex.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Hang on, what’ve a long waist and square shoulders got to do with breeches?’ You’re probably right about the square shoulders: likely nothing at all. I suspect, though, that my long waist is the lead villain in this saga of perennial pantslessness.
I ride a lot (for an amateur). I ride every day (well… six days a week, because the ponies deserve a day off, too).
I’m not too surprised that my breeches wear out quickly but they seem to do it in different places than most of my friends’ breeches, and they seem to do it sooner. I’ll save you a good long stare at the business end of my best-loved pairs but the first thing to go is always the points at the top of the knee patches, followed quickly by a split up the centre back seam. Yes, the ass-crack seam. These key seams give way long before the fabric anywhere else is worn out and, if you sew much, you know that this is opposite of what should happen. In almost all clothing except what’s made in the cheapest sweatshops, seams are stronger than the bits of fabric they join together. If seams are the first thing to give way, it means they’re under more-than-usual stress. (I should mention this still happens when I buy breeches that are a size too big for me.) My best guess is that, even though RTW breeches might be sized correctly for the circumference of my body, there’s just nowhere near enough fabric lengthwise.
So my goal is two-fold:
- I want to make breeches that feel better and last longer.
- I want to use the process of making them to get a more sophisticated idea of just what, exactly, I need to do to make bottoms fit correctly.
This is probably the most intimidating part of Goodbye Valentino’s 2018 RTW Fast, in which I’m taking part. I’ve never sewn athletic wear, I’ve barely got my TNT trouser pattern fitting correctly, and there’s almost no information available on how to sew horseback riding gear (more on resources later). My combination of a long waist, sway back, high, rounded bum, and long thighs means that imaginary line up the inseam from the knee, then pivoting around and up the centre back to the waistband is just much much longer than the ‘average’ fit model’s. In short, I need a lot more sitting room. Buying longer sizes doesn’t usually help, either, because they add length in the leg, not through the seat, hip, and waist.
But that’s also what makes it so exciting! Now! Let’s boldly go!