Back in September 2021, my friend Eve asked me if I ever did commissions – I never had (beyond making clothes for my family) but it was something I’ve been open to for a while! I’ve gained more confidence in the professional finish of my work since I got my overlocker which has made me more interersted in making things for other people. When I said yes, she asked if I would be interested in making a pair of trousers for her. The brief: Oxford bags (as inspired by the 2021 Great British Sewing Bee) meets Harry Styles. Sounded right up my street!
The first step was finding the right pattern. I’ve used wide leg vintage patterns before but none that Eve fancied. After I did some digging, I sent her some examples and she chose the By Hand London Jackie Trousers. These trousers are 90s in their inspiration and have the wide legs and pleats reminiscent of Oxford bags.
Next, we had to choose a fabric, which (due to my own lack of organisation) was a process we actually had to go through twice! Before Christmas, I sent off for samples and we found one that Eve liked, but then by the time I actually got round to buying the fabric in the new year it was sold out! So, we went back to the drawing board, and found a grey wool blend from Minerva. In the end we both preferred the fabric we ended up with anyway! It’s super soft and has a subtle herringbone grain which is just lovely. We also wanted to do contrast pockets, and I found a perfect grey tone floral cotton in a fabric shop in Holloway Road.
Before I could start cutting out the fabric, I had to print and assemble the pattern. This isn’t normally something I dwell on in blog posts but if anyone else decides to try and be clever like I did I want them to learn from my mistakes! The pattern wants you to cut out left and right front pieces, but the only difference is the shape around the fly, so I wanted to just cut out the one and save paper. I worked out which pages to print based on the assumption that they were on a rectangular grid running left to right – they are not. Be warned! I went through the document page by page to work out which ones I would need and printed those instead.
Before deciding which size to cut out and whether to make any preliminary adjustments, I had an in-depth discussion with Eve about how she likes her trousers and got measurements from similar styles of trousers she already owns – this is exactly what I do for my own clothes as it really helps to get an idea for how something will fit. We picked a size from the chart, anticipating that we would need to take them in. But this wasn’t a problem as more width and larger pleats would just add to the look! And I would always rather cut something too big than too small!
With the pieces cut out, I could get started. First things to work on were the pockets. I did have to adjust these to make them narrower because I didn’t quite have enough fabric but the pockets are absolutely massive to begin with so it wasn’t a loss at all. The assembly of the pockets is very straightforward: you assemble the pocket guard and pocket bag, sew the front pocket to the trousers, then sew the pocket bags together and topstitch the pocket edge.
With the pockets in, I made quick work of assembling the trouser shell, basically doing everything I could before I would need to do a fitting. As usual, I ignored the instructions and did it my own way: sewing up the inside leg seams, then the crotch seam, assembling the fly then sewing up the outer leg seams. I find this easier, as it means I can sew the crotch flat without having to manouevre around complete trousers legs.
With the shell complete, I invited Eve round for a fitting. As we anticipated, we ended up taking the front tucks in and the back darts for a closer fit around the waist. The trousers are designed to sit just below the waist but Eve wanted them to fit at the highwaist point. We also shortened the legs to make them the right length and tapered them in slightly. Armed with my new measurements, I could go and alter the trousers.
First I got to work on adjusting the waist so I could get the waistband on. However, once I sewed on the waistband, I sat with it for a couple of days because I felt that the waistband was too bulky. To fix this, I took apart the waistband and graded all the layers to make them lie a little more flat. There is a lot going on in the waistband between the tucks and the pockets. This worked really well and it’s far less bulky now!
Next, I moved on to the hems. At first, the construction of the cuffs didn’t work because, in shortening the trousers, I had actually cut off where the legs had been straightened out at the ends. So I fixed this in the side seams and carried on. The pattern does have notches to indicate where to fold the hems to form the turn up cuffs but I couldn’t make sense of them. In the end, I worked out my own measurements and used those instead. I secured the cuffs at the side seams, front and backs with tacks to keep them in place and pressed them well.
With the hems done, the last finishing touch was too add the belt loops and button closure. When Eve had come round for a fitting, I had collected a selection of buttons from my stash in the hope that she would find one she liked, and she did! And with that, the trousers were finished!
I was able to present the finished trousers to Eve about 9 months after our first conversation in the pub about oxford bags. My first commission was a great challenge and as always I really enjoyed sharing the whole creative process – from selecting a pattern and fabric, to fitting, to the finished garment! She’s really delighted with them and has already worn them loads – and they’ll be great for the colder months which are approaching as they’re nice and warm!