Simplicity 8447… again: 1940s orange summer trousers

I make no secret of the fact that Simplicity 8447 might just be my favourite pattern of all time – I wrote a whole blog post about it! So when I saw this orange viscose/linen blend in my local fabric shop, my mind immediately jumped to what a beautiful pair of 8447 trousers they would make. The warm orange is perfect for summer and the perfect excuse to use my favourite pattern again. Although I have used this pattern many times, I’ve never written about how to make the trousers – so I thought now would be a good time to fix that.

The pattern and fabric.

I cut out a size 14 in this pattern, which I find fits my measurements of a 30″ waist and 40″ hips. I only make one alteration to the pattern which is to cut the crotch length a size 8. As far as I know, it was part of 1940s style to have a slightly lower crotch but when I made my 8447 dungarees I didn’t like how they fit. Raising the crotch by about an inch makes the fit much better. I also knew I wanted to add a pocket to my trousers so I stole the pattern piece from the In The Folds Wide Leg Pants.

Having used this pattern many times, and being familiar with trouser construction, I barely have to look at the instructions for most of the process. I sewed up the front and back darts, and inner leg seams in no time at all. The only thing I did differently on these trousers as opposed to other times I’ve used this pattern was use my new overlocker to finish the inner leg seams.

Next I pinned the trousers pieces together at along the crotch, right sides together, sewed them together and finished with the overlocker. Before proceeding, I overlocked both front and back pairs of outer legs seams for a neat finish.

I always need to refer back to the pattern for this next bit as it’s slightly more complicated. The trousers are fastened with buttons at the side seam which requires a placket to be sewn in. Before sewing the placket, I sewed the left outer leg seam up to the notch marked on the pattern.

Before attaching the front facing to the trousers, I interfaced the facing piece, pressed in the outer seam allowance and overlocked the bottom edge. Then I pinned the facing to the front trouser piece and sewed from the top of the trousers down to the notch. I also understitched the seam allowance for a neat finish.

Similarly to the front facing, before attaching the underlap I overlocked the bottom edge and pressed in the seam allowance. I didn’t interface the underlap and in hindsight I probably should’ve done because the linen blend material is quite light. I pinned the underlap to back of the trousers and sewed it from the top of the trousers down to the notch. Rather than finishing the facing and underlap by hand at this point, I decided to get a bit more sewing done on the machine and move on to the pocket.

Before making these trousers, I had made my Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers and I wasn’t completely happy with the way I had drafted and inserted my pocket. Whilst functional, the pocket was a little more narrow than I would’ve liked and I felt like my construction could’ve been neater.

To fix the first problem, I stole the pattern piece from the In The Folds Wide Leg Pants. I made these in a tartan in 2019 and the pocket is huge, like the biggest pocket I’ve ever seen in a pair of women’s trousers. I figured that it was worth a try and this pattern piece could potentially be my go to pocket in future. I had to make a couple of minor alterations to the pattern: matching the curve of the side seam to the 8447 trousers and folding back the inner edge of the pocket which curves up to meet the fly on the Wide Leg Pants.

To fix the second problem, I decided to overlock all the pattern pieces involved in making the pocket before sewing them together – this included the outer leg seams. This way, I wouldn’t have to do any complicated forward thinking to figure out which pieces to overlock when to make sure they all fit together correctly. Once I had overlocked the pocket pieces separately, I pinned them together and sewed around the edge, leaving a 1.5 cm gap at the edge that would meet the side seam of the trousers.

At first, I had planned to sew both edges of the pocket to the trousers then sew the side seam. It was only after I had sewn down the first edge that I realised it would be easier to sew the side first so I could make sure all the seams matched more easily. I sewed the side seam then finished sewing in the pocket.

Sewing in the pocket.

Once I had sewn in the pocket, I noticed that there was a stress point at the top and bottom of the pocket opening where all the seams connect. As it’s the intersection of three seams, the loose weave of the linen couldn’t take the pressure. To fix this issue, I sewed in from the top and bottom of the pocket opening by about an inch on each side.

The finished pocket.

Now that I had finished the pocket, I went back the the placket to finish it off. I hand-sewed the edges of the front facing and underlap to the trousers using a whip stitch then sewed the bottom edges together using a running back-stitch.

Finishing the placket.

Next, I put on the waistband. Here I ran into a similar issue that I had with my Smooth Sailing trousers in that I wanted the to press open the seam allowances of the outer leg seams but couldn’t because it would make the pocket not sit right. After having issues with this construction on two pairs of trousers I decided I would just press the seam allowances forward instead on both the placket and pocket. I attached the waistband in the same way I normally do: interfacing the waistband and sewed it right sides together to the top of the trousers, overlockering the edge, sewing the ends closed then folding the waistband over and finishing it by hand. I press the inner seam allowance of the waistband in before sewing the waistband to the trousers because then it’s already pressed in place when I come to hand-sew it.

The pattern instructs you to use four buttons to close the trousers but, as my buttons are slightly smaller than the size recommended by the pattern, I thought five would look better. As I was going out for the day, I left a poll on Instagram to see which was more popular. The buttons I found are from vintagebuttons4u on Etsy and are perfect for this project, the contrast white bands break up the orange really nicely.

Sewing on the waistband.

As you can see, five buttons was the clear winner and that was the number I thought looked better anyway!

The verdict.

Ever since I learned how to use my buttonhole foot on my sewing machine, I’ve always sewn buttonholes by machine – before that I found button closures very intimidating and avoided them full stop! However, I learned how to sew hand-worked buttonholes for my 1910s project and really liked the finish; handworked buttonholes look far more delicate than the angular buttonholes I get on my machine. I decided to use the trousers as an opportunity to try hand-worked buttonholes on a everyday wardrobe garment to see if I might prefer them to my machine for my regular projects. It turns out that I definitely do. I found that as well as having a nicer finish, I had more control over the size of the buttonhole, which is difficult to keep an eye on with the large buttonhole attachment. I also just found the whole process relaxing and meditiative. I will not completely renounce my buttonhole foot but I will definitely be doing more handworked buttonholes in the future.

Once I had finished all the buttonholes and tried out the closure, I did find that the whip stitching on the front placket was pulling the loose weave of the linen at the bottom stitch. I ended up restitching it from just above the last buttonhole so that the stress on the outer trouser piece would be distributed across the buttonhole rather than a single stitch at the edge of the facing.

Now I could move on to the hems, I sewed cuffs on to my Smooth Sailing trousers and I really love how they look so I was excited to use the same technique on these 8447 trousers. When I sewed my dungarees I omitted the cuffs and now it is something I regret! To make the cuffs, I first pressed in a 1/2″ seam allowance then folded the trousers up to create a 3″ deep hem. I finished the hem by hand. Next, I marked the 2″ cuff and pressed it up. Then I tried on the trousers to make sure I was happy with the length.

To finish the cuffs, I secured them at the front, back and sides with a few small hand-stitches.

Tiny hand-stitches.

I thought I could call the trousers done at this point and did wear them out on a day trip to Kensington Palace. However, I realised pretty quickly that the waist was too big. I played around with the idea of just moving the buttons but I decided it would be better to just take off the waistband and adjust the waist properly. I took off the waistband and increased the darts on the back so that the trousers would fit properly. I sewed the waistband back on and then they were good to go!

It’s no surprise that I absolutely love these trousers. The Simplicity 8447 pattern is an old faithful and the colour of this linen is so bright and perfect for summer. I also really love the turn up cuffs! I had enough fabric left over to make a matching top, stay tuned to see how it turned out!

2 thoughts on “Simplicity 8447… again: 1940s orange summer trousers

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