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Pants Rise: Shape versus Size

Quick post: Sometimes you can see what’s happening with garment fit by playing with the paper pattern. I came across this free Baby Bloomer pattern on Craftsy this evening:


There’s just about no shape/angle/curve/hook  to the front and back rises.   What happens when you wear a garment sewn from this pattern?   At first glance you might think “Well, looks like wedgie in back, crotch-bite in front”.  But it’s even more interesting to see what happens when you play with the paper. Pretend this is a garment you’re putting on a child:

  1. The rises will naturally pull apart to accommodate the body; this causes the inseam to rise up and buckle under the crotch:


2. As the shape widens to fit , stress lines form under the bum and belly:


3. From the back, the hem doesn’t hang horizontally, but instead pulls up and under the bum:


4. In the front, the fabric pulls down under the crotch with “whiskering” stress lines:


5. In the worst case, you end up with a wad of fabric called  “crotch bunch” :



Take a look at tester photos of shorts…even some very popular ones…if you notice:

  • hems that are not horizontal to the ground; inseams  rising up under the crotch
  • center back fabric  pulling  diagonally under the bum
  • center front fabric pulling diagonally under the belly with “whisker” lines
  • bunchy crotch in front

….chances are it’s because the rise needs :

  • more angle
  • more curve
  • more scoop
  • more hook

When shorts don’t fit, often it’s not because they are the wrong size; it’s because they are the wrong shape.  Here’s how to change the shape without changing the size (notice that the paper pattern at the waist and hip circumference will remain the same measurements).

Two basic rules of fitting:

  • pinch out excess fullness
  • relieve stress-lines where there’s not enough fullness

Here is the pattern with bunching in the front crotch, and stress going under the bum and belly:


Pinch out the excess bubble in the front rise, and trim that amount off of the top edge:


Relieve the crotch stress lines by clipping and adding more scoop and crotch-hook:


Look how much better already:


From there it’s just a matter of smoothing out the edges with a French curve. Voila!



  • Bunny

    Fabulous information! You explain so clearly. I totally believe sewing is fitting but reworking a pattern because someone didn’t know what they were doing? Ugh. I’ve found a lot of issues with Melly Sews, fwiw.

  • [email protected]

    Sad truth is, you don’t have to know anything about fitting to release a pattern. All you need is access to a computer (in the U.S. virtually everybody does, thanks to library and school programs). There are no “barriers to entry”, anybody can be a “designer”. Just like anybody can post a cooking recipe. And there are no repercussions, because all of the expense (fabric or food) is on the consumer’s budget. Ugh indeed.

  • Kelli McArthur

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I am a novice sewer and it has bugged me and bugged me why the shorts I made my daughter just don’t fit right, I thought I had sewn the hems unevenly even though I painstankingly measured and ironed the hems – I would hate to know how many times I have taken them off her and measured the hems because they don’t look straight- hallelujah I can sew, I may not know the difference between a good and bad pattern but I can sew! I am sorry that I might seem like I am rambling but I am just so excited to know that it is not me but a badly shaped pattern. I am so happy that I stumbled upon your blog, as Dr Seuss said “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

  • [email protected]

    Hi Kelli! Thanks for your sweet comment, usually when there’s a fit issue it comes from the pattern and NOT the sewing. There’s a reason why many sewists prefer to make quilts over apparel: no fit worries! But sewing apparel is fun….a challenge for sure, but it should be rewarding, not frustrating. I’ll be the first to admit that getting pants and shorts to fit is not simple, because there are so many factors involved….and with a growing child, those factors will change as she grows. On the bright side, you will learn from each garment you make (I know that I do!). PS: did you know that Dr. Seuss book gets on the Best Seller list every June, year after year? Such timeless advice for new graduates….and everybody!

  • Gail Williamson

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
    You have no idea how many blog posts and books I have scoured for this kind of explanation as to why my trousers are pulling at the crotch and … more importantly … how I can put it right!
    I am absolutely delighted to have found your post and will be following you closely from now on!
    I feel a renewed enthusiasm to finally tackle a pair of trousers for myself after years of making some wonderful pairs for my two grown up sons!

  • [email protected]

    Hi Gail! You are so welcome! Pants are tricky because there are so many forces at work: depth, shape, length, front versus back….it can take many muslins to get the fit right for each individual. I highly recommend the Palmer and Pletsch pants book for further delving into the challenge of pants drafting. Best of luck!

  • Linda Rees

    I just found your wonderfully informative posts when trying to learn more about drafting and fitting issues for trousers. You have explained all the issues I have brilliantly! Thank you very much. Your illustrations/examples and explanations are absolutely perfect and what I’ve been searching for for weeks.

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