Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Desperately Seeking Sizin’


What a fab weekend I’ve had! Flew out to London on Friday morning, straight to Liberty’s where I met the devastatingly beautiful Marianna, debuting her StyleArc Mara dress (on blog now!). We shopped the fabric shops and we both bought: Marianna completed her haberdashery supplies and I bought 2m navy pinstripe wool from The Cloth House. I had to fight off another shopper for the same fabric – she’s going to make trousers and I was going to make Gabriola skirt.


Mostly navy with a random strip of brown/black/grey throughout


Distressed sections with frayed edges. Colour not accurate in these photos; the grey/brown strip is much more subtle in real life

My conference finished earlier than expected on Saturday afternoon which permitted another couple of hours browsing along Regent Street before catching the last flight home and my bank balance well exercised and exhausted!

While I was away the postman brought a little parcel all the way from USA (Pattern Hoarder) and inside was this little beauty – Vintage Vogue 2807, Montana proper culottes.


“Proper” culottes are actually a split skirt: should have pleats and look like a skirt when the wearer is standing upright. In other words, you shouldn’t see the trousers at all, rather an inverted pleat at centre front and back.

Wide legged trousers that have been shortened are NOT culottes, they’re wide legged trousers that have been shortened!


Not culottes


Proper culottes

I have 3m of a navy rayon which was earmarked for the Vogue Montana culottes; 2m of my London purchase, earmarked for Gabriola skirt because of the pinstripes to maximise the pockets, seen here at OzzyBlackbeard. However, the Gabriola skirt needs 3m and the culottes only 2m, so the decision had been made for me – swap the fabrics and patterns.

There is, however, another problem; the vintage pattern (uncut) was available only in sizes 6-10 and I’m a 14! Still, too good not to get my hands on it.

Vogue sizing for 10 – waist= 25″, hips= 341/2″

Ease= 4″

For me – waist=30″, hips-40″

So, adjusting for fit, I need at least 5″ all round

So…..I’m crowdsourcing advice from you: you lovely, kind, helpful, educated, experienced and skilled people.

Here is the main pattern piece and an intriguing piece it is. The front and back are all one one, so centre front and back seams only. There are pleats at front and back and the mock fly at centre front.


I have to keep the centres at centre front and back, I have to keep the not-side seams (and pockets) at the sides and I have to keep the pleats in proportion and in position.

So how do I add approximately 4 – 5″ keeping everything in place?

Can I just cut bigger at the edges? What happens to the not-side seams, pleats and what-have-you?

Do I need to do cut/slash to keep the proportions? And where do I do this on this pattern keeping pleats and everything else in place?

Do I totally abandon and make a simple A-Line skirt instead?

Looking forward to your very welcome advice. Thank you in advance, Ruth.

28 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Sizin’

  1. What a great culottes pattern. What to do? Unless I were in the mood for a head-crushing puzzle, and really liked the ideal of lots of wool fabric weight hanging from the waist band, in a garment that will probably look dated by next winter…I’d go for an edge skirt. You and your gorgeous pins really look good in skirts. How about a wrap pencil skirt with frayed fringe trimming. Or a bias treatment. Ignore this if your heart’s desire is already elsewhere.

  2. An edgy. Not edge. Gaah.

    • Hi Anon, I’m gently moving towards edgy, little baby steps…
      You don’t think culottes will be on trend next year? I thought if they looked like a skirt I could get away with them for at least a couple of seasons – LOL!
      Rhonda just posted a lot of inspirational skirts and that has got me thinking –

      Thanks for dropping by.

      • I do think they’ll be around another year or two… hyperbole is my vice…but compared to a skirt like one of the beauties on Rhonda’s page, I do fear culottes may have a shorter shelf life. As someone who likes to wear her handiwork for many years I find it hard to make styles like this. But that’s just me. (You’re braver and more prolific, and quite willing to go for edgy actually.) The pattern is refined, which extends the wearability also.

        My other concern was whether that volume of wool fabric would feel heavy or bulky around the legs. That too is a personal choice.

        Now if I could just figure out how to make my wordpress sign-in register correctly, you’d recognize me a regular visitor and not a stranger at all. It seems to just erase the post, bam, gone. Sigh.

  3. Ruth I will scan the pages in my Winnie regarding pattern grading and email them to you. I hope that will help a bit because they are gorgeous culottes.

  4. I’m only guessing but thinking that you would need to add on each side of the front and back pleats and add to the crotch curve. If I see it correctly , on the Montana pattern the pleats are centred over the front of the thighs, instead of closer to the vertical centre of the body, because of the fly zipper. Good luck.

  5. Oh you’re too kind, but I so loved our meeting on what’s probably the most manic time of the week in central London and wish we could do this again!

    Your fabric is beautiful (I keep dreaming of those colours and the lovely texture) and if you succeed in making something fab, I pledge to go straight to the Cloth House to get a metre or two for me too! I think you suit trousers (and straightish skirts). Culottes? Probably. Do you need as much ease as in the original? Why not just adapt the waist band and widen the rest along the straight grains… In any case, make a muslin first – this is too good to ruin 🙂

    • It was chaotic wasn’t it? Next time I’ll ask Edexcel to arrange their training/conferences on a quiet day!
      I think the ivory with glass beads from the Silk Shop has your name all over it………

      Straight skirt? I’m beginning to consider other options now. Thanks Marianna and I owe you a glass of wine!

  6. Superimpose a basic pattern that fits you on top of your new vintage pattern. You will end up with a hybrid, but a hybrid that fits!!! [I’m a size 22 and just finished doing this with a vintage size 14 dress that I loved and it worked really well.

  7. well I am no expert but my approach would be identical to susew above, if you were to only alter the side seams the pleats would not be centred. Obvously there would need to be adjustment at the crotch seam as well, as already noted, but my guess is you already have some TNT pants patterns based on your many great blogs about trousers. Look forward to seeing where this takes you.

    • Thanks Cejay. I was concerned about just adding to the side seams for all your reasons and I’m so glad I haven’t cut into the fabric yet. Sometimes the easiest option isn’t the best.

  8. Hi Ruth,

    I actually have the pattern in size 12, 14, 16. If you like, I can trace off the size you need and pop it in the post. Let me know 🙂

  9. Using a pattern that fits well already and using it as a master will help you visualize where it can be slashed and spread. Leave the side seam/dart where it is and add to front and back equally and graduate down to nothing below the hip level. You may want to keep the pleat fold where it is and add from the folded edge to the front and back seams or after you use the master, you may want to move the pleats more toward center front or back depending on where the master darts are placed for the best most flattering fit. Good luck, Ruth! They will be stunning on you!

    • You think? The pattern reminds me so much of a A-Line skirt and I love and suit those. I like the idea of using a TNT pattern – just have to find one now…..Thanks Mrs Mole

  10. totally agree about culottes versus cut off wide legs. I was thinking that I would slash and spread rather than add overly to the side seams. Follow the grain on front and back and then redraw the pleats as per the pattern. Leave the centre fronts and back alone. But this is the completely self taught perspective and I think there are a lot more experienced voices here.

  11. I’m looking forward to seeing how you do this. I won’t add my tuppence worth as you have other more knowledgeable replies. I love proper culottes and agree with your definition. I was in London on Friday past for my daughter’s engagement party but no time for any fabric shopping at all, regrettably!

    • Anne, I’m looking forward to seeing how I do this myself!
      The streets in London were mad – so many people but shame about the fabric shopping – next time huh?

  12. Love the culottes! As to pattern grading, you can use a business card or any other cardboard piece and mark the distance from the line of one size to the next and then add a new contour to the pattern(in your case two sizes) and all the darts etc. I learned this in a craftsy class and it works really well. Just follow the outline of the pattern with your self-made markling tool and make dots, connect them. In some places you need to adjust the tool again, when the distance between lines widens or narrows. Voilà the original Montana culotte in your size.

  13. I’m with Susan Snow and others above… I’ve put a pattern that fits over an unsure fit all the time, just to see how far out I am! And I don’t care if something is in style or not, if I like it I wear it and call it “vintage”!

  14. I would have loved to see you on your flying visit but I was at an event in Berkhamsted.

    On the alteration I agree with SueSew. I would add the inches either side of the pleats. I wouldn’t mess with the crotch as it will probably be OK, but a toile makes sense.

    In terms of wearing culottes I do think they are quite a different matter to short, wide trousers, and look like a pleated skirt (when you stand with your legs together). So if you suit an A line skirt with a box pleat at the CF this will be a great look. The Montana has a much lower waist line than the vintage pattern.

  15. I completely agree with you about culottes vs. cropped wide-legged pants. Culottes are a different creature altogether! And I have no alterations advice to add to what’s been said already, so I’ll not say anything on that score. Can’t wait to see them on you!

  16. I think this is a technical challenge for you, isn’t it? I am not really good with winging it when the proper pattern/size is not available, though! But I hope you don’t give up on this project! I hope that you can share this article when you figured it all out!

  17. Pingback: Culottes and Tops and etc | corecouture

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