Are you curious about denim? It is a world unto itself, to be sure. I love nerding out on denim fits, washes, fabrics, and figuring out how to utilize each of those things in concert to make a great pair of denim. I’ve never sewn my own pair, however, only worked on it from a manufacturing standpoint — it’s definitely on my list of Wish to Makes!
This is the first in a three part mini-series, each divided into thirds, where we will explore some trivia, common fit issues, and things to watch out for when working with denim.
Common fit problem:
Waist gapping. Ugh!
Here’s a quickie sketch to show you waistband grainlines. They should be cut the same as the circumference of your leg panel, so the circumferences throughout the whole pant have the same shrinkage and the shapes of the pieces don’t get warped when washing.
And here’s an excellent tutorial from In the Folds on how to draft a contour waistband from a straight waistband!
Something to watch out for:
Stress points! When you construct a new pair of denim, you may wish to add reinforcements at your stress points. The most common of these are: front knees, inner thighs at the crotch, back beltloops where they are sewn onto the back yoke (from tugging the jeans on), and back pockets at the top corners.
To reinforce, you can purchase ready-made fusible patches to press in, or you can (in the case of beltloops), add a small self patch in the interior of the garment for extra stability when tacking the beltloop on. There’s also a product called Bondaweb that allows you to create your own fusible patches — it’s a double sided adhesive, commonly used for repairs and applique.
If you need to repair after the fact, hand-sewing patches is a tried and true method. Some denim-heads recommend *not* using denim as patches, because the weave is too abrasive rubbing on itself; you might try lighter weight cottons. And if you want to get really fancy, check out the work of the incredible Indigo Proof. They are located in Portland, Oregon in the US, and I hesitate to call what they offer “repair” — more like magically restoring the denim fibers itself. Check it out!
Have questions? @ me in the comments!
Gabby is a technical fashion designer, fit specialist, and prolific googler. She lives in Denver, raises tiny littles, reads, embroiders, makes, experiments, fails, learns, tries again. See her on instagram @ladygrift.
Gabby – your voice is so lovely! And I was there for the mom jeans the first time! I’m pretty sure I had GV jeans, with the swan logo, and I was young 🙂 I think she may have started up a junior line because mine were mega-skinny, in contrast to my actual body. Miraculously, back waist gapping ain’t my thing (I experience the gaping higher up :-)) Having said this – I never considered the idea of “centre back peak”. Also – how did I never consider that the contoured waistband is useful because it gives some bias stretch. Who can’t benefit from this! Thank you again for this series. I have been watching and learning with lots of interest. This is such an engaged convo about fit that it’s challenging to take it all in in one go, so I’ve been revisiting your posts one by one.
Oh thank you very kindly!! 🙂 And thanks for reading- I know there’s lots to digest. I think it’s challenging to break things down into solely one issue, when every part of a garment works together as a whole! I would love to get my hands on one of those Murjani jeans- GV at this point has been licensed to death, so I’m sure the fabrics are completely different than they were at the very beginning.
This is very interesting even though I haven’t caught the jeans-making bug yet. I’m wondering if you can help me understand something else about denim waistbands that I have seen on listings for RTW small batch/high quality raw denim selvedge jeans. Some of them say that the waistbands are cut in 2 pieces, and talk about how that construction method is better for fit.
This may not make sense to me because I haven’t actually made jeans, but I’ve been trying to puzzle it out. Does that just mean that the waistband isn’t folded down and it is cut in 2 pieces so that the pieces can be laid more accurately on the crossgrain? Or does it have something to do with the width of selvedge denim (to cut a 1 piece waistband you would have to cut it on the lengthwise grain because the crossgrain would be too narrow).
Looking forward to the rest of the series!
thanks for reading! 🙂 So, a two piece waistband, even if it’s straight, in my opinion, is much more stable than a one piece that’s folded at the top edge. A folded waistband has a tendency to stretch out and roll, even if there’s interfacing, whereas a two piece has the added stability of the seams, seam allowances, as well as any interior facings, fusible or otherwise. A two piece will look crisper after a lot of wear simply due to the added construction. Some men’s brands *do* do a two piece contour waistband, you might see it called a “curved” waistband. This allows for a bigger circumference at the bottom than the top, so it will fit your hips better, and it won’t stand away from your body at the back and gap open even when you’re standing. Additionally, a contour waistband is usually used when the pant sits lower than the natural waist. A folded waistband may be used when a garment sits at the natural waist, since it won’t need that much difference from top to bottom widths. Hope that helps!
Fun! I have a pair of denim jeans I made several years ago based on an pair that fit well, but it was before I learned all the dos and don’ts of pattern and garment making so I probably made many errors. Such as: using a non-stretch shirting to make the pocket stays for a stretch denim jean. Derp! Oh well, I still love the jeans and wear them a lot.
Even more importantly, I have an ancient pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with the straight leg and mom waist but they definitely do not fit like the skin of a grape. 😂 I don’t think they even fit that well back in the 80s, but my memory may be as worn out as the jeans. I only wear them now for gardening and housework but I can’t get rid of such an iconic piece of clothing.
Lol- that’s my favorite part of that commercial. What advertising exec heard that line and was like, “Skin of a grape, indeed!” That’s awesome though- many kudos for making your own denim!!