With the amount of attention paid to the state of our bodies in the media, it seems very little is paid—and therefore, few of us know much about—how to fit clothes to the body we have. This is something my partner has understood long before me. He favors the slim styles of the 1960s, which, without proper fit, simply look sloppy.
Granted, there are many a style that favors a baggy fit, but what I like about fitting your clothes to the body you have is that it provides you with an instant measure of elegance. Clothes fall in the right way. Our assets are on display while all those trouble areas are neatly disguised. No more tugging at the bottom of your skirt. No more worrying about the flab on your arms. It’s an invitation into confidence. And confidence is sexy.
Now I’ve got a long way to go to understanding which clothes fit my body best, though Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine’s What Not To Wear (the book, not the television show) and Sam Saboura’s Real Style: Style Secrets for Women with Real Bodies have been wonderful resources. I’m 5’4”, though I lack the sometime-willowy frame that other petites have (read: booty). I also don’t like to wear heels, so what I’m going for is the illusion of height.
Before these books, I hadn’t realized how much pant length and cut have to do with making you look shorter or taller and balanced or pear-shaped. I used to buy bootleg pants because they were popular. What a bootleg seems to do is balance a larger hip, whereas a skinny leg pronounces it. A straight leg is a wonderful cut because it flatters most body types while also giving you the look of longer, leaner legs.
In terms of length, a capri- or ankle-length cut can make you look shorter, especially if the pant is loose in the calf. For my height, petite always seems too short and regular too long so length is constantly an issue.
Since I sew (badly, but more on that later), I decided to take an old pair of thrifted, bootleg Gap pants that hit at the ankle and alter them to flatter my body. These are work pants, so they’re much looser than the newer, much slimmer straight leg pants Gap now has in stores that I’m coveting, but I can always do this all over with a slimmer fit.
So, ladies, if you’re looking for a leaner leg, don’t want to or can’t go out and buy a whole new set of pants and have got a sewing machine handy, here’s what you can do.
1. Turn your bootleg pants inside out. Let out the hem.
2. Try them on. Note where the fabric on the leg begins to flare. This should occur around your knee, up or down a few inches. Mark the spot on the inner and outer seams on both legs. Take the pants off. Sew naked if you want to (but please watch out for the iron!).
3. Since consistency is key, make sure you’ve got the same measurement on both legs from the bottom hem to the marks you’ve made. I drew a line between them for my own ease. Then, from that line, use a yardstick to follow the seam from above the line to the bottom hem and mark it with a pencil or chalk. On my pants, I gained about 1 1/2 inches on each leg between my knee and bottom hem.
4. Trim your pants with a seam allowance of at least 5/8 inch.
5. Sew along this line and press, inside and out.
6. Finish the seams.
7. Re-stitch the hem. Here's your chance to lengthen or shorten it.
Voila! You’ve made straight-leg pants out of bootleg ones and all it cost was a bit of thread and some time.
Here are my before and after photos. Forgive the lighting, I’m still working on it. Even though it’s a loose pant, you can tell the legs look less stumpy in the after photo.