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  • Writer's pictureCiéranne Kennedy Bell

1940s Waistcoat and Fishtail Trousers - Part 2

This is the second half of the blog on the 1940's Waistcoat and Fishtail Trousers. Read the first part here if you haven't yet!

Last week we covered the drafting and construction of the waistcoat from "The Ladies' Garment Cutting and Making" book by F. R Morris I found in the British Library. This time the pattern drafting guide comes from the "Cutter's Practical Guide Gentlemen's Garments" also by F.R Morris. This edition is from 1954 but the first was published in 1860.

The Pattern

I have made this pattern once before for my partner out a gorgeous Donegal wool tweed. I didn't make a toile and they fit like a glove straight out of the gate so fingers crossed they will do for me as well!

For those of you wondering what it means by "scale" in some of the diagrams. Scale is given at the beginning of the instructions - in this case it is half of the seat measurement and tailors had scale rulers so you could find 1/3 scale or 1/6 scale easily just by looking at the 1/3 portion of the ruler. I do not own one of these so I just use a calculator.

Here's a picture of my draft. It's in lots of colours to distinguish the front and back and the edits I made to it as I went. When making the pattern from the draft I removed the darts from the waistband to make it curved to fit my body better and added a hip pocket. I marked on where I would put back welt pockets but I think I might put and adjuster there instead.

These drafting instructions are so good so that once I'd made the toile the alterations I had to make were minimal. One of the changes I did make during the drafting process was to add a dart to the front and an extra dart in the back. These instructions are for men's trousers and one of the big differences in men's and women's is the waist to hip ratio. As it is my waist to hip measurements are quite exaggerated anyway, currently with a 29" waist and 42" hip, I needed to smooth the curve at the side seam - hence the extra darts. With trousers I think it looks better and the fit is nicer if the side seam is as straight as possible.

As you can see the waistband fits practically perfectly. The waistband is in the right location and is snug but not too tight. This style is usually worn with braces so they don't need to be skin tight. (I'm ignoring the drag lines on this as it is caused by the fact it is pinned)

The front - I have actually made a small alteration on this toile already and that was to scoop out the in-seam up to the crotch and take an inch off the width of the trouser leg. They were just sitting "too flat" at the front and looked weird. The other thing i will do is, starting at the waist gradually take in over the hip all the way down the outside leg. It's slightly too loose and will straighten up that hip curve even more.

The back - On this I have already scooped out the back crotch seam more than originally drawn and I maybe took it too high up (where the pen marks are on the back seam is where I'm going to take it back in) but it maybe could do with a small bit more taken out of the part of the curve. The darts on the back also need to be longer as they are releasing the fullness too high up (the other pen marks are where I am going to be lowering them to).

I'm going to transfer all these details to the toile and the pattern and then I am ready to cut out.

The Construction

As in the previous blog these are going to be made out of 100% fine wool suiting from Crescent Trading. I'm going to half line* them in cupro lining that I bought from Stone Fabrics (another great retailer. You can't order online but give them a phone call and they are so helpful) ages ago when I was making the trousers for The Comedy About A Bank Robbery Tour.

*Depending on the fabric I do like to line most of my fancy trousers.I usually only half line them, which means to the knee - front and back. I do it by flat lining, which means treating the two fabrics as one when constructing so doesn't make any difference when putting them together. To reduce bulk when half lining, use the selvage of the fabric as the hem then you don't need to overlock (potentially scratchy) or fold and stitch (you will definitely see this through the main fabric).

When cutting, the important places to make sure they match is across the side seam, across the front, the hip pocket and, across the back seam. These are all mostly straight lines so should be pretty simple.

I've learnt my mistake from the waistcoat and I am going to use fusible interfacing - I know how to use it and make it look good.

They have a button fly for a vintage touch as well as buttons on the inside and on the fishtail for button braces.

For the hems I added a two inch turn up machined in the ditch at the side seams and then herringbone stitched to keep in place. Ideally,before sewing the side seams I would have added a kick tape to the bottom to protect the fabric from shoes/the ground but I didn't have any at home.

Are these how high end trousers are made? No idea, but it is how I make trousers for the stage and I know they are durable and look good.

The Outcome

I'm really happy with the pattern and the design details. I like the belt details on both the back of the waistcoat and the trousers. My problem with them is, I think, the fabric. It is just too light, drapey and a bit too shiny when I prefer my suiting slightly heavier. I think the shine makes the suiting look too modern and it also is not the most forgiving for wrinkles. When lockdown is over, I'm going to remake this set in a tweed or a heavier windowpane. This set is perfectly wearable though and will happily join my work wardrobe.


Simplicity 5663

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