#AllButtsWelcome: Pants Wearing Humans of Earth

Hello, Pants Wearing Humans of Earth! I rarely count myself among your membership—but was asked to jot down my thoughts on making & wearing pants. I almost never walk away from a chance to share my experiences—my ego won’t allow it—so here we are. Settle in for a short treatise on the pants making & wearing experiences of one Jenny Hassler.

I was photo shy from a young age, so there isn’t much evidence of my pants wearing, or lack thereof, from the Before Times (pre-pandemic). Please keep that in mind as you read ahead.

1978: A young, blonde in pigtails is wearing bell-bottoms with Holly Hobbie on the front bells. It’s accompanied by a Sean Cassidy scoop neck t-shirt in peach featuring the cover of his 1977 eponymous album. These are impractical pants—no skateboarding, no cycling can happen without risk as long as you’re wearing these. They tell a story of growing up, somewhere between playing with paper dolls and crushes on the latest teen heartthrob. I miss the t-shirt especially.

1980: I make what I did not know was a risky decision and climb on the airplane to fly across the country to visit my cousins for the summer. My stomach was a little off but everyone put that down to nerves. My crisp, white denim pants look amazing. I’ve paired them with a terry cloth top trimmed with white bias binding. I am adorable. I’m carrying my Judy Blume to read because I am so grown up. As my body changed, both Deenie and Blubber were constant companions. By the time I left the airplane, it was clear my stomach problem was a herald of what would become a 30+ year disagreement with my uterus. The timing of my first period put me off pants for a while.

1986: My first job! I grew up as the oldest daughter in a privileged family. I had—please don’t think less of me—a clothing allowance. My mother helped me land my first summer job, which later turned into my regular summer job, and later still into my job during my first semesters at college. I was bigger than my friends—generally—and I struggled to find self-acceptance. I wore dresses & skirts regularly as pants seemed to me to reveal all of my worst shames about my body. But those high-waisted Z Cavaricci jeans, the ones with the wide quilted waistband, the interesting front zipper, the pleated front that meant my soft belly would be hidden or at least attributed to the pleats by the many people I was sure were looking & judging my hips & stomach. These pants were more than my clothing allowance could provide—it took me weeks of earning $3.35 an hour to save up to buy them. Once I did, I wore them incessantly. They were followed by skinny jeans I made into stirrup pants by adding elastic to go under my foot to each hem. I wore big shirts to camouflage and hide. I still miss those jeans.

Two white humans sit with a baby between them. The human on the right is fat. She is wearing an oversized red top with black & white striped pants.
Two white humans sit with a baby between them. The human on the right is fat. She is wearing an oversized red top with black & white striped pants.

1987: I was a freshman in college & pregnant. The Motherhood store in the mall didn’t sell anything at all that would fit my body pre-pregnancy. Post-pregnancy, I was out of luck unless I made it myself. I reverted entirely to dresses at this time as they were easier to self-draft to cover my bulk. My hip-waist ratio was forever changed. Finding ready-to-wear pants wasn’t an option any longer.

2006: I discovered FLAX brand clothing—and just like that, I was in pants again. Everything was linen & I loved it. Boxy shapes & bright colors—I couldn’t have been happier. Better still, it was like Garanimals for adults! Each season’s offering was built like a capsule wardrobe and I could match without thinking it through myself. Dry cleaning wasn’t an option for me, so my FLAX went through the washer and dryer like everything else. The results weren’t always kind to my bottom, my soft hanging belly, and my hips. I just barely fit in the largest sizing, and wasn’t visible at all in advertising for FLAX. It was several years before I lost my love of boxy linens and moved on again, into dresses for the most part.

2008: I graduated from college (again) with my accounting degree, ready to sit for the CPA exam. My dream company hired me straight out of college, and I was thrilled to find myself a Business Professional in an office that preferred suits for day-to-day business wear. My suits were all dark solid pants with matching jackets & crazy tops I knit or sewed for myself. I felt powerful.

2019: I returned to sewing for myself in a big way. Here’s where the meat of this article begins. Let’s examine my tentative steps toward making my own pants.

Glebe by Muna & Broad, maximum hip 71.5 inches

One day I found a pattern for pants that looked so charming on the designer, I had to try them myself. My first pair was a brightly patterned print with elephants. It tickled me so to be a fat woman in elephant pants. I hadn’t sewn pants in many a moon but these were easy to stitch up and looked cute as heck on me. The issues I’d imagined I’d have—wrong crotch depth, poor fit from waist-to-hip—didn’t materialize. As it happens, I don’t care for a fully elasticized waist—and these pants, which I loved, taught me that. I wore them a few times but ultimately gave them away. These were not the pants that would make me a Pants Wearing Human of Earth.

Calder by Cashmerette, maximum hip 62 inches

I stan for Cashmerette so it’s no surprise that I had to make these as soon as they were released. This is a wide-leg pant with an elasticized back waist. The back waistband elastic is top stitched several times in rows. I didn’t know it then, but I’d found my favorite way to add back waistband elastic. I’ve adapted this for skirts many times since. I’ve made these in black (I wear these two or three times a year), railroad denim (one and done), IKEA canvas (two or three wears so far), linen (too flowy for me), and a couple of other denims & rayons (just not for me). Once I made them in a stretch zebra print denim…as SHORTS. The crotch depth was spot on, the legs just wide enough, and the back waistband was to die for. If I could figure out what made the black pair so comfortable—what type of material I used from the depths of my stash—I’d make these again and again in all the colors of the rainbow.

Zadie Jumpsuit by Paper Theory, maximum hip 57.5 inches

I’m so often left out when the latest pattern sensation sweeps Instagram due to my bounteous hips. I was delighted to find I could almost fit into the Zadie…at least in theory. I ended up making three versions, but I don’t think I ever wore them outside of taking photos. The wrap front wouldn’t lay properly closed, but I would have been able to work with that. The issue was the ease of the hips/waist. It wasn’t designed to fit my body when seated. This lovely, loose-but-structured jumpsuit became the worst kind of sausage casing when I’d sit. I’d done the math and enlarge the pattern by 4 inches for my hips and a bit more for ease, but it wasn’t enough. I don’t know that I’ve admitted that anywhere else on the internet before now—it made me sad, I felt I’d failed the pattern. It couldn’t be the pattern failing me, after all, it worked for everyone else flawlessly (well, unless some sewists were also hiding their fails on this pattern).

An unhappy fat white lady is looking at the camera while wearing a jumpsuit that is close fitting at the stomach and hips. It is made from a rainbow plaid seersucker material. Text on the photo states "Gone but not forgotten" and "version 2".
An unhappy fat white lady is looking at the camera while wearing a jumpsuit that is close fitting at the stomach and hips. It is made from a rainbow plaid seersucker material.

Avenir Jumpsuit by Friday Pattern Company, maximum hip 57 inches

This one was an unmitigated disaster, another reminder that I don’t want to grade up a pattern to fit, it’s too fidgety, too prone to failure for me. The style just didn’t work on me – too tight, too much belly & second belly for my comfort. Sitting was a nightmare. I’d used my best fabric for my toile which meant I had to come up with another solution. It next became a dress where I’d just unstitched the inseam and sliced it off to become a straight skirt. This was still unsatisfying, so I cut it all apart and made a Made By Rae Trillium dress. I loved it very much, though it has now moved on to a new home.

Noice by Muna & Broad, maximum hip 71.5 inches

Rigid Denim Jeans. Leila says she designed these because someone said it couldn’t be done for a fat body. She proved them wrong. I wear these about once a month and it’s love every time. This in spite of the errors I can see (I cut the buttonhole on the wrong placket, and so my button is off-center until I take the time to mend the error—hold and move the button, my zipper is rough, my topstitching is imperfect), I love these each time I pull them on. Taking the time to follow the incredible instructions and videos for this make was worth every minute. I keep threatening to make another pair but haven’t yet found the right material. I know I’ll revisit this one in the future.

Kapunda Undies by Muna & Broad, maximum hip 71.5 inches

Oh, boy. This pair of underwear started my addiction to self-made undies. I have them in every possible color. I need a less high-waisted pattern but I’m determined to find one that works perfectly for me so that I can own only me-made undies. I’m not sure these count as pants—but my goodness—I made a dozen pairs the first weekend after I discovered the pattern. I’m completely smitten. The fit is beyond perfect, the feel of whatever materials I prefer (knits only!) against my skin is divine. If you aren’t a member of the Team Pants Wearing Humans of Earth, consider making your own unmentionables. It’s so worth it.

A fat white person is wearing rainbow jumpsuit. Pictures from behind, with near miraculous matching of stripes.
A fat white person is wearing rainbow jumpsuit. Pictures from behind, with near miraculous matching of stripes.

Caladium Jumpsuit by Caramiya, maximum hip 60 inches

This jumpsuit has also been all the rage on Instagram of late. When DivineDita posted her version, I knew I had to make one too. It wasn’t an unqualified success—I’d make the straps longer next time, perhaps upsize a bit. The crotch depth wasn’t quite right but wasn’t really fully wrong either. Sitting is a little too sausagey for my tastes. I love the idea, but the execution on my first version was a bit off. I have plans to try again—even though it’ll mean drafting some width. Or maybe I won’t—who knows?

Leo Dungarees by By Hand London, maximum hip 69 inches

If only I knew how to wear dungarees, I’d make a dozen of these. I feel a bit weird in these with a tank top, a t-shirt, a scoop neck top, and a cropped Sagebrush Top by Friday Pattern Company. It’s a darn shame too, as these are nearly perfect. The crotch depth is okay (I’ll add a few inches on the next pair), the legs are too long (By Hand London seems to draft for someone with much longer legs than I have), but it’s adorable. I’ve worn it only once – but everyone who saw me loved it & wasn’t afraid to tell me so.

2021: I wear pants infrequently enough that people who know me comment when I do. My favorite comment is: “Oh! You have LEGS!” I love it because, well, how could you not notice that I have legs when I’m wearing a dress or a skirt? They’re actually visible in those garments, where they’re nearly completely hidden beneath fabric in pants. It’s such a silly joyous comment to make. Until I’m a bigger fan of pants, my new plan is this: make all my own underwear so that I can match it with dresses that are perhaps shorter than should be worn in windy conditions.

So, Pants Wearing Humans of Earth: I will maintain my guest membership in your club for now. It’s always interesting to try out the latest look…but I remain firmly committed to a skirt of any stripe (fitted, full, long, short, or anything in between).  

Jenny Hassler is a wife, mother, grandmother, CPA, and artist, living and working in western North Carolina. Her artistic endeavors include graphic design and fiber-related crafting. She works closely with other artists to design patterns that illustrate her world. You can find the designs she helped to create exclusively at KickAshe. She posts regularly on Instagram as @johassler. She occasionally writes at SewJenny.com. Jo is also 1/2 of the Punk Frockers Podcast, which you can find at https://punkfrockers.com/ and @PunkFrockers.