Some decades of the 20th century have been more accommodating than others when it comes to skinny or not-so-skinny guys who want their clothes to fit closely. The decade of the 1970’s was one of those eras where clothes fitted more like a second skin, or at least showed off the shape of the body, for both men and women alike. Think of some of the stereotypical popular fads of the times – super short “short shorts” and “hot pants”, knitwear, and chest baring tunics. What I will feature here, is also popular in the 70’s but unfortunately not as well-known as bell bottoms – men’s skinny pants in the straight “broomstick” style.
My hubby was in need of new jeans, and, being a seamstress, I understood this as an opportunity to take on a challenging project. Using an old Kwik-Sew pattern and some stretch denim, here is the happy success of my effort to fit my “thin man” with some pants that fit him better than anything a store can offer. These pants are full of “first times” for my sewing experience, but hubby is very happy with them and I do not feel like I could have done better.
FABRIC: A brown stretch denim, with a nice medium weight, smooth feel, and slight white “pebble” appearance from the weave underneath when you look at it closely. The fiber content is 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch. The inside bottom half of the pockets is made from a cotton/polyester broadcloth, in a dark brown color, which came from my stash on hand.
NOTIONS: I used white thread to make a fashionable contrast, and I always make sure to have plenty of white thread on hand. I also used interfacing and a sliding “waistband style” hook-and-eye from on hand, too. The only notion I did buy was the metal “jean zipper” for the front fly.
PATTERN: Kwik-Sew #322, year 1971
TIME TO COMPLETE: The jeans didn’t take me as long as I expected – a total of about 18 t0 20 hours. They were completed on July 16, 2015.
THE INSIDES: Left raw but evened up and stitched together cleanly. I didn’t want to overwhelm my machine with thick seams or my skills with too many new skills by doing lapped seams, like I would have liked. Each seam is double stitched, with the crouch seams triple stitched next to one another for stability.
TOTAL COST: The fabric was bought from Hancock fabrics, and cost (on clearance) about $7 in total for the 2 yards needed. The zipper cost an added $2.
From looking at 1970’s catalog advertisements and patterns, I see that the “broomstick” skinny straight leg style seems to keep to earlier in the decade (the ads I see are primarily from 1971). According to the blog “DressThatMan” they were a product of the Glen Oaks Company from New York City and ran quite expensive figuring prices with inflation calculator – about $140 in today’s money. The pattern used for hubby’s pants is not truly a “broomstick pants”, but they keep with the style. Broomsticks, like the Kwik-Sew pants, had a slightly higher waist than most pants from the 1970’s, and this is what my hubby is looking for in fit…no droopy drawer’s teen fashion here please! Broomstick pants were stretchy, again like hubby’s new pants, except for the fact that his are from a stretch denim, and the Broomsticks were almost always a polyester thick ponte-style knit. Bell bottom trousers usually swept the floor as they were meant to be worn with platform shoes, but the broomstick pants were higher hemmed, meant to be worn with flat dress or casual shoes for “the cool stud who wants to look experienced”…as I sum it up looking at the attitude of the old Broomstick ad models. I’m assuming my hubby doesn’t necessarily want to fill in “the cool stud” summary, but he does want some pants with a normal hem.
So many of the ads for Broomsticks terribly (and awkwardly) portray their product in a very obvious “girl magnet” or “sex appeal” direction (see this page for more 70’s bad adverts). I suppose direction of selling line is on account of the close-fitting knit, but I really wonder, as these pants aren’t heard of much, if their method of advertising failed the Glen Oaks Company before it started (like I could have told them). It’s a shame. The 1970’s could have actually had a fairly normal trend with the Broomstick pants, because after all, did bell bottoms actually look good on anyone?!
I love how hubby’s Kwik-Sew jean pants have subtle retro features that speak of attention to detail while remaining utilitarian. There is a long 9 inch front fly in the front for the closure, angular slant front pockets, a wide waistband, a duo of back welt pockets with darts above them under the waist. Vintage enough to be different, straightforward enough to still be in fashion, and stylish enough to make a great pair of pants on trend. As I see it, clothes that are personally sewn necessarily have to look good – when the person wearing it feels good in what they are wearing, confidence is like icing to a cake!
My correct surmise was that starting with a pattern from a decade and a style that caters to a close fit for skinny guys would give him the custom fit he and I like to see. Thus, I really did not make any tailoring changes to the pattern before cutting. Fitting the pattern around him beforehand seemed to indicate they would be his size exactly as they were with no adaptation…and that turned out completely correct! I did measure the pattern waistband piece to figure out what would be the finished size so that the correct size could be chosen for my man. I really didn’t want my efforts to end in a fail or require too much adjusting. My measuring revealed that the finished waistband ended up about 1 inch below the size chosen. For example, the size 32 (which I made for him) finished up as a measurement of 31 ¼ inches. This size verses finished measurement difference is probably because the pattern is designed for stretch fabrics but also achieves that ‘snug and skinny’ 1970’s look.
I really could not be happier with the pattern. This is the first Kwik-Sew pattern I’ve used, so I have no idea if the modern ones are different or the same, but this one was wonderful. The construction methods were ingenious and great, working out very well for a nice final product. There wasn’t a fabric layout on the instruction sheet, which was mystifying, but not exactly needed, but I did have to think clearly as to what grain and quantity were directed on the pattern pieces. I also felt like they did not make things any harder than they had to be when doing things as tricky as the zipper fly and welt pockets. But they were very clear and thorough nonetheless. Using the pattern was different, but that’s not a bad thing.
A whole page of the instruction leaflet was dedicated to how to sew with knits, as in “what presser feet to use” and “what seams to use”. I never seen a “roller presser foot” like to one recommended and shown, nor have I seen one such thing shown in a pattern’s instructions before now. Do any of you my readers know about such a thing or happen to have and use one, so that you can tell me how well it works and if it would be worth my investment to buy such a sewing aid? I’d like to know if it is good for gripping fabric or is it good for going over thick seams…maybe both.
Sewing the front zipper fly and the welt pockets was an interesting experience. The way of constructing both amazes me. In my head, I can’t help but think, “Who came up with this intelligent design?!” I can say now that I definitely want to do a zipper fly again, and can also feel confident, too, as to how it will turn out after having the good luck to get it right the first time. As for the welt pockets, I have no inclination to do these again as I found them tiring, but I will sew them in a jacket or bottoms if called for because they did turn out in the end. Fold in, sew down, fold up, pull down is a short incomplete summary of the silliness to welt pockets. There was a lot of self-induced pressure on myself to get everything right on this project, which I didn’t need, but it gave me the drive to sit down and to both the zipper fly and the welt pocket duo each in their own solid cut of solid, focused time of clear-headed thinking. I spent a two hour slot of just working on the zipper fly, and on the next day, another two hours solid were spent on the welt pockets.
One of my friends at the local Hancock Fabric store once encouraged me to try a zipper fly, telling me it’s really not as hard as it seems. She was definitely right. It might seem convoluted and non-sensical the way the zipper goes in, but if I thought long and hard enough it kind of did make some sense enough to follow instructions according to the letter…and you know, it did work out! I had read through other directions for zipper fly insertion, but for some reason, even though Kwik-Sew’s flyer wasn’t picture heavy, I understood it this time. I will refer back to this pants pattern’s instruction sheet for the next zipper fly I sew.
Crouch inseam construction for hubby’s pants was different, as well. Each of the four sections was sewn separately. I can see that this would make it easy to adjust the fit, however adjusting was not needed for my guy fit in them as they were.
These pants were made really long – and I mean that in the extreme! Hubby is on the taller side of the norm, and, as it was I folded out 3 inches from the height at the pattern stage, with another 3 inches hemmed up after the pants were done. Anyone with a height that tall and a waist as skinny as the pattern’s proportion is not the norm, I believe. The un-altered pants leg length is the one curious part of the pattern.
Just like for the perfect knit wrap dress, keeping certain parts stable and preventing them from stretching was necessary for these 1971 pants. Firstly, I added stay tape netting strips into the seams around all the pockets. These spots are the primary place for the chance of being pulled out of shape from much use, but the last place you want that to happen. The stay tape didn’t add any bulk either.
The pattern called for interfacing the waistband, which leads me to talk about how these pants were made to accommodate his personal taste. I let hubby pick which weight he wanted, and he chose the lightweight over the medium. These pants needed a stable waist for them to stay up in place. Men don’t have hips like women, remember. Belts or braces (that is suspenders) seem to help them keep their pants from drooping. I might be the one doing the sewing, but I realize how things are different when sewing for someone else – my taste might not make someone else happy to wear as much as catering to the preferences of the wearer. Everyone has their own personal style that needs to be respected – what the ready-to-wear stores have to offer you doesn’t honor individuality.
Thus, as much as I loved the clean and bold plain waistband on him, he really wanted to wear a belt on the trousers. Even an interfaced waistband wasn’t enough to keep them up…the bane of skinny men is droopy drawers, I suppose. To start, I made small ½ inch piping tubes, and stitching them flat (this was hard working with the denim, actually). Belt loops were sewn down in four places, at the two spots in the back where the darts (above the welt pockets) join into the waistband and at the two spots in the front where the pocket joins up to the waistband. So that the loops wouldn’t jar with the appearance of the waistband they were sewn down with the stitching flush horizontally with the stitching on the waistband. If he has to have belt loops, these aren’t too bad in my opinion – but he’s quite happy with them. That’s good.
Now that I’ve mastered pants for myself (see here and here), and now for my man, you might think I might rest with that…but no…I thrive on a challenge. I have a vintage corduroy and an old 1940’s pattern for some overall pants to make for our 3 year old son. Growing boys are their own sort of challenge! Look for his bottoms coming this winter. Pants sewn by me for the whole family!