When I think about menswear, I automatically picture very structured garments in neutral colors and striking patterns. Historically, menswear existed more out of necessity than fashion. A lot of the clothes were used as a uniform or workwear, and often denoted what line of work someone was in. This was in contrast to the more delicate fabrics used for womenswear. Durable fabric was used for menswear as the garments were required to withstand harsh outdoor conditions and manual labor. That durability is part of the appeal for use in a variety of clothing options today.
Some of the traditional options that come to mind include denim, shirting, tweed, wool, and pinstripes. In general, woven fabrics have been used to create the characteristic structured silhouettes found in menswear. Many of these fabrics are readily available to the home sewist and can add a menswear vibe to garments.
Denim comes in a variety of weights, colors, and fiber content ranging from 100% cotton to tencel/spandex blends. A classic chambray button up shirt or pair of jeans can be reminiscent of work uniforms worn in factories or on farms. Rigid denim jackets are also an option to layer over flowy garments as a menswear-inspired contrast.
Shirting can be used in structured garments as a nod to the tailored styles seen in menswear. You can use it for a shirtdress, tank, or a pleated skirt to give the garment a crisp feel. Using this fabric gives a tailored look to anything you make.
Tweed can be seen in vests, blazers, and a variety of winter wear. It’s a hearty weave, usually wool, that provides some warmth and a bit of vintage style. It can have a heathered appearance or full on plaid pattern. Tweed is a versatile fabric that evokes a classic menswear silhouette in jackets and other layering pieces.
Pinstripes can be found in suits, shirts, and trousers. The size of the pinstripes vary as well as the fiber content. A pair of wide leg trousers in pinstripes reminds me of the suits men wore in the 1920s.
Wool has been used for outwerwear and trousers in menswear. Today you can find an assortment of weights, colors, and blends to suit your wool needs. Wool suiting in particular can add a touch of menswear to any garment. Heavier wool can give a boxy silhouette that is similar to peacoats worn by members of the Dutch navy in the 1800s.
There are so many beautiful fabric options available that can add an element of menswear to your garments. What fabric will you use during this theme month? Do you already use any of these fabrics in your current sewing practice? I can’t wait to see what you create!
Note: 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.
Sierra is a guest editor for the Sewcialists. She is a veterinarian by day and avid sewist by night. In addition to sewing, she enjoys listening to podcasts, spending time with her family, and learning how to knit. She currently lives in Massachusetts and shares her makes on Instagram @sierraburrell and her blog Seams Like Sierra.