This summer, I’m determined to experiment with fun trousers styles. There has to be more to life than skinny jeans, right?
After a lively discussion on my blog, I decided to start with the Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet. I did some pattern testing for Helen this winter, so she sent me the pattern to try out, no strings attached. It’s a simple, elegant pattern that doesn’t need much fitting because the legs are so wide! If you get the waistband to fit nicely, everything else will fall into place. I like that the pattern can be made as shorts, knee-length, cropped of maxi, and that it gives the illusion of a skirt with the comfort of pants.
For my fabric, I wanted the swishy, drapey, yet sturdy characteristics of a rayon, but something more substantial than a challis. (Look, I’m afraid my butt will hulk out of challis pants when I sit, ok?) Tencel is the hot fabric for summer pants in the sewing world this year, but buying it locally costs $30/m. Instead, I used my most recent allowance from Cali Fabrics to buy 6 yards of this tencel denim. So far it’s been enough to muslin two pairs of pants, and I can squeeze some shorts from the remnants!
As you can see, this denim has a bit of a sheen that gives it a dressy look. It drapes beautifully, but also has a bit of body – the hand is more like a linen than a challis, I’d say. It was easy to sew, but a challenge to cut perfectly on grain!
The culottes themselves sewed up quickly, with 4 big pleats and a bunch of straight seams. My difficulty came in figuring out how to style them!
I wanted to keep the waist defined, and balance out the volume on the bottom. I had a look in my stash, and found the leftovers from my last Cali project – this black stretch lace! I made a simple cropped tee using the Jalie Dolman Tee pattern, hacked to have a tie front. Here’s how:
The back hem and bottom of the triangular points in finished with a folded band for strength, topstitched flat with a zigzag. The slit at centre front is serged then folded up and topstitched. It’s held up well to lots of tying and untying. It’s versatile, too: you’ll see in some pics I have the ties hanging out for a casual look, and sometimes I untie it and tuck them in for a more polished style. I could see layering the lace tee over a knit dress in summer, too!
In fact, I was so happy using fabric from multiple orders that I started wondering what other Cali projects I could throw in the mix – and voila! Remember this striped jacket from last fall?
BAM! I love how it gives the culottes a more casual vibe, and makes them work for cooler weather. I wonder what else I have in my closet that would work with culottes?
AND YET… I’ve given these pants away!
It started with asking ya’ll on Instagram about the length… this super-long length felt too formal, and in a fabric with this much body, the legs just felt overwhelming.
I cobbled together this collage of different possible lengths, and most people either liked the longest or shortest lengths. I was about to cut them off when my sister mentioned she’d be interested in trying them on to get a feel for this silhouette. Her mother-in-law happened to be passing through my city that day on the way to see Anne, so I sent the culottes with her!
Anne tried them on, and I said that if she liked them, she could keep them and I’d make more… then for kicks, her MIL tried them on too… and they looked so good, we all knew they belonged to her!
See? I love how on Lynda they look a bit more casual, and the length is perfect. I’m 5’2″, Anne is around 5’5″ish, and I think Lynda is about 5’11”, so it’s fun to see how they fit each of us differently. Lynda is a talented seamstress herself, but hasn’t sewn in decades… I’m hoping that now she is retiring, she’ll come back to it!
(BTW, my sister wore handmade every day in Me-Made May – either handknits or sewn tees she’s made, or clothes sewn by me! She’s my favourite model!)
I’ve got every intention of making these again, but this time I think I’ll go for the midi length in a drapier fabric. Meanwhile, I’m sewing from Jalie woven joggers in the same fabric!