Culottes. All the girls at the private school in the town where I went to school wore culottes, so naturally they were derided by me and my comp-attending friends as the last bastion of stuffy England. Now, in my grown up life, when I unveiled these beauties, there was a fleeting look of horror across my chap's face before he masked it quickly with a lot of 'well done you's'. And I'm pretty sure Leandra Medine was wearing culottes when she coined the term 'Man Repeller'. But no bother, I am loving the revival of culottes over the last couple of seasons.
I'm told by many that they're impossible to wear unless you're tall, but given the myriad culotte variations I'm sure there is a shape, style and fabric combination that could make them work on people of all shapes and sizes, in the same way different skirts work well on different people. I love that they can be tailored or floaty; that they can be relatively slim or ridiculously wide; and short or super long or anywhere in between.
That all said, despite being desperate for some culottes, I couldn't find a pattern that offered exactly what I wanted. This list included a fly front, small pleats at the front to add fullness, side pockets and rear welt pockets, a contoured waistband rather than a facing and exactly the right amount of width to the leg. So I decided I would draft some myself. Gulp.
But I did. I started drafting them in February, and then lost courage. Then last week, I realised it is getting so hot here that if I didn't make them soon, I'd have to wait until October for it to be cool enough to let them see the light of day.
I chose to make them in a bottle green medium-weight cotton sateen from Mood Fabrics that has the right amount of weight to hold a crease and structure to create the lovely wide hemline as well as a little bit of stretch(3%) to make them really comfortable to wear. I used Liberty lawn scraps for the pocket linings and waistband facing.
The verdict? Well, the fit is pretty good. I used the skirt sloper I drafted over the winter as the starting point. I can see there is some pulling and creasing across the front around the pleats - which could either be due to a lack of patient pressing or a few extra pounds gained whilst laid up over the past month.
Despite having previously said that fly fronts are a doddle, I made a bit of a hash of this one. I was trying to do it sans directions to see if I could come up with a preferred method, but that didn't really work and the fly pieces I drafted weren't quite the right width, but it works and it looks OK-ish, so I will just need to do more research to find my preferred method and tweak the pattern pieces.
The front pockets also need a bit of alteration. I like the look of the curve and the pocket bags are nice and deep but they're far too narrow so they're pretty much useless. Which explains why pocket pieces in other patterns always seem absurdly large until you actually insert them. The rear welt pockets however, I'm delighted with although let's just pretend the slight angle of them is an intentional design feature and not due to inexperienced drafting. I followed the excellent tutorial by Thread Theory which was clear, straightforward and very precise, which means these have turned out pretty crisp. I did a couple of test runs to practice and get the welt sizing right and am glad I went to the effort to do that (it's not a habit I'm prone to making ...). I'm pretty sure it's a no-no to have the dart tip appear under the welt, but clearly my darts were different lengths as one of them appears to be doing just that.
The waistband is contoured which makes the fit comfortable and I used some petersham ribbon as a waiststay as this fabric is pretty heavy and I don't want it to sag. It could be much more prettily applied. The hem is a two inch deep affair which I think suits wide legged trousers and I serged all the raw edges inside including the hem so it didn't create too much bulk. (I'm slowly learning about hems - see my Anna dress for a horrible example of when I turned everything up twice no matter what type of fabric.)
And that's all there is to say really. Other than I can't quite believe I had a vision, I kind of drew it and then I managed to translate it into something not perfect but definitely wearable. It's such a great feeling! It feels like being liberated from the shackles of chainstores. I'm so excited for the next vision.
So, even if the comeback of culottes only lasts two seasons before they are returned to the closet marked 'schoolgirl / frump' I will be wearing these for a long long long time.
What do you think about culottes? Would you wear them? And can anyone tell me if it is pattern 'drafting' or pattern 'draughting' or does the latter solely apply to the other game you play on a chessboard?
See you soon x