I can’t tell you how happy I am to be a part of the Sewcialists #sewmenswearforeveryone month! As a male sewist it can be hard to find inspiration and guidance online, so I’m hoping this month will raise awareness and shine a spotlight on sewing menswear for all!
There have been some pretty exciting highlights for menswear-sewing in the month running up to now, with the launch of Bartack Magazine and a menswear focused podcast from Love-To-Sew, to name just a few. As well as the thought provoking and informative posts we’ve come to expect from The Sewcialists. Myself, I’m looking forward to February as a chance to really revel and celebrate in my chosen hobby — I’m finding new inspiration through pattern recommendations, sew-a-longs and Sewists-to-follow. And I hope you are too.
I’ve been sewing around 4 years now, mostly menswear but also a few dresses for my nieces and the occasional dress or top for a friend; but yes, mostly menswear, mostly for me. Over the years I’ve found some incredibly inspiring menswear makers… but not that many! I grew up gay in a small town and I was a professional dancer before I became a hairdresser — and I find it interesting that I’ve never really felt like I was in any minority until I started sewing. Trust me, I have thick enough skin to handle it, but it does smart a little when someone starts their Instagram post with ‘Hey ladies, what’s on your sewing machine today?!’ Or ‘What do all you dressmakers think about…?’
There are many posts which will tell you the differences between sewing menswear and womenswear. And, yes, if you’re getting into tailoring, pad-stitching and horse-hair-canvas, then you’re talking about a whole other bunch of skills. But if you’re making a women’s tailored jacket or formal wear then you’re going to need all those same skills. Likewise, the skills you use for making ‘women’s’ dresses, blouses, trousers, pants, jeans, joggers & jackets are exactly the same as those needed to make their ‘male’ counterparts. Sewing menswear doesn’t necessarily mean tailoring. For anyone pushing their skills, on a progressive sewing journey, things like welt pockets, French seams and zip flys are definitely going to come up! So don’t think you need to move to Savile Row to make menswear… although that would be nice!
If you’re trying to fit menswear for the first time, go easy on yourself. If you get a good fit on the shoulders/chest for a shirt and the waist/ hip on trousers then you’ll be on to a winner. Most men are used to wearing S/M/L/XL, etc., in set lengths, so any adjustments you need to do between sizes will pay dividends. Remember that men like to do their clothes up left over right (from the wearer’s perspective) so if you’re following a tutorial, read all the way through first in case you need to reverse the instructions.
There are a few (great) resources for menswear sewing patterns like this Sewcialists Blog Post. You can find both vintage and modern patterns at Thread Theory, a wide library at Bartack Magazine and even print your own to size with Freesewing.org. Some of the European sewing magazines include menswear (& boyswear) patterns too, like Ottobre and La Maison Victor. The ‘Big 4’ have a concise range as well, but I should warn you to look beyond the cover images! This was on the cover of my current shirt…
However, I visualised it more like this…
Much like womenswear patterns, you sometimes have to look beyond the images to the style lines.
If you haven’t made shirts before, it is possible to make a simple shirt; short-sleeved, so no cuffs, leave out the yoke and pockets, fold over the button bands, and use a nehru or camp collar. But I wanted all the bells and whistles on this one, with contrast yokes and collars, and all the topstitching. For a Sewing Menswear theme, I don’t suppose you could get much more literal than a Western/ Frontier/ Cowboy-girl Shirt! I’m using Simplicity 1327 and a cotton print fabric from Misan West (in London’s Goldhawk Road). The chambray is from Crescent Trading (off Brick Lane) and is left over from another shirt.
Precision was going to be key to finishing this shirt. I used starch on the yokes, pockets and button bands to get a sharp press and topstitched with a 3mm stitch length. I used the foot as my guide for the second row of stitching and tried to keep it as even as I could.
I didn’t use my overlocker at all on this shirt — you can usually tell I’ve made something myself if you get to see the rainbow overlocking thread I use on everything. But it’s french seams all the way for me today! The pattern comes with 1.5cm seam allowance included. So, if you cut out carefully and align your seams well, you can sew once at 5mm with the right sides facing out, turn and press the seam so the right sides are now facing in, and sew it again at 1cm. This french-seam can now be pressed to one side, or topstitched down for a decorative finish.
My machine does a decent buttonhole on light to medium weight projects. Problems only seem to come up when I’m close to a bumpy seam: so trim your allowances neatly on the collar, cuffs and plackets.
I even sew the buttons on at the machine. Using a button foot, I set a zigzag stitch to the shortest length (You could use a darning plate or lower the feed dogs), the width needs to match the gap between the buttonholes, so start slowly by hand cranking if you’re unsure. My machine has an automatic lock stitch function but you could leave your thread tails long enough to pull through and tie off instead. I use a dab of washaway glue to hold the button in place. (Clear tape works well too!)
I’m really pleased with the finished shirt — it’ll earn its place fully in the summer, but I managed to find a day bright enough to get outside for a photo. (What you can’t see is my coat, gloves, scarf and hat just behind the bandstand!)
As I mentioned, there are some great sewalongs and tutorials on line. Of course, I’ve done a few posts on shirt-making myself if you wanted a bit of further reading…
… So please check out the hashtag #sewmenswearforeveryone and use it on your menswear (or menswear inspired) makes. If you’re looking to follow more menswear sewists, try searching these hashtags too…
#menwhosew #mendosew #dopemensew #mansewing #mensew #mensewtoo #broswhosew #sewmenswear #makemenswear #makedoandmen
Thanks for reading and have a happy Menswear-For-Everyone month!
Note: The Sewcialists is a hyper-inclusive editorial site. We recognize that “Menswear” as we use it in our theme month is a very loaded term, and we use any gendered reference in these discussions to denote the most broadly accepted “traditional” categories only, without wishing to prescribe or proscribe what any person can wear. We recognize all gender identities and the choice to dress how one pleases.
Andrew is a 46 year old ex-dancer turned hairdresser and (in any spare time) home sewist. Living in the heart of London UK with his partner of 25 years (now husband), both dreaming of one day owning a dog. Andrew is a man, and he can sew! You can follow him on Instagram @sewandrew or on his blog sewandrew.com.