Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How-To: Turn Men's suit pants into Women's slacks

The jumpsuit-how-to post 1 is all about how I fitted the pants. You can use this tutorial by itself just to fit pants, or you continue on to the jacket post to make the whole overall (Link is at the bottom of this post)...

So I started out with a dull grey suit... You want to make sure that the collar still looks good enough for you to want to wear, as well as the sleeve cuffs... Generally, the whole suit still needs to be in pretty good condition.

1. Dyeing (optional)

The first thing I did was dye the whole thing and I was lucky that it came out really great. If a garment is sewn with polyester thread, the fabric itself might take the dye really well, but all the seams stay in the old color... It is hard to predict how a dyeing-job comes out, especially with fabric blends, which is why I dyed first to know if all the rest of the work will be worth it... In this case, even the buttons took on the dye a little bit and I didn't even have to replace those!

2. Trying it on as is

Uhm ja. This isn't only to make a fool of myself. Though I really had fun with it... But there is an actual point to this step ;-)
You have to make sure that the suit you are starting out with meets certain requirements.I used a belt to raise the pants up to my waist and tucked the jacket in to get a general overview:
  • It needs to be generally too big. Of course you can work with inserts, but then my tutorial won't help you much...
  • Pant legs and crotch should be long/low enough even if you pull the pants up to your waist
  • Pant legs should be wide enough at your thighs
  • sleeves need to be long enough even if you raise the shoulder point up to where it belongs on you.

3. Mark basic outline with Safety pins:

As you see in the picture, I used safety pins to mark
  • Point where jacket and pants will meet
  • width for bodice
  • shoulder point
  • width for waistband
  • approximate place for bottom armhole point
Always use the safety pins on BOTH SIDES. Otherwise you'll just pull the garment to one side. Be as symmetrical as you can at this point, and even out the differences when it comes to the actual sewing. Put the safety pins in at the waist on the side seams, but don't worry, it's only to take the measurement - we won't be sewing there, it would be most unflattering and unpractical!

In the very flattering picture above I am noting how much fabric I can take off around the hip, and I am noticing that it actually isn't very much...

In this even more flattering picture I am checking out the behind to notice that the back pockets should definitely be closer together for these pants to look decent on me. I have made the mistake to take pants in almost only by that back seam once, which brought the pockets together too close. That looks ridiculous too... So be sure to go a middle way!

4. Take it apart

This is quite fun, because you will learn a lot about how a garment is made! Be careful not to take apart too much. Detach the waistband, but keep the zipper attached. Take the sleeves off (and shoulder pads out):

Here's a closeup of the detached waistband. I almost went too far and had to re-hand-stitch parts of it. If I had known, I could have kept it attached all the way to the belt loops, which would have saved me some work.

5. Take in the waist-band:

Choose a place where it is easy to take in. I suggest you don't do it on the side seams. It will cause extra bulge where we least want it. Look at the belt-loop situation. I wanted to keep mine intact and decided to take out the width right between them, on each side on the back of the pant. Make sure you work symmetrically. Unfold the waistband and sew straight down on it. Then cut back the seam allowances if necessary, iron the seams open and fold the waist band again.

6. Take pants in at back seam:

As elaborated above, make sure you take in the right amount at that back seam. You don't want the pockets to end up too close together, or your butt will look cross-eyed :-)
Yet if you leave them too far apart, the pants will be unflattering from the back, making your behind look wider. If you don't have much room in the hip area, be careful to meet the original seam line again as soon as possible. In my case though, I pretty much took in an even amount all the way down to the crotch point.

Make sure you try the pants on after this step and hold them up as high as they will be in the end. It is not a big deal to open this seam again and do it over. It is a crucial seam and needs to be right. When you have it the way you want it, cut back the seam allowances, finish the edges and iron them apart.

7. Re-attach the back of the waistband to the pants:

Make sure you include all the belt loops in this step. Go past the side seams on the pant legs, leaving open only the bit in the front as pictured above.

Put the pants on AGAIN... Only continue if you are happy with the fit.

8. Making the front pleats:

Now turn around and see how much fabric you have left over to make pleats. You can make one or two or three, depending.
Play around with pins, placing the pleats where they look best. I thought it might look best to make the first pleat exactly in the elongation of the crease, but it actually didn't look so great. In the picture below, you see that on the right, but I went with the pleats placed as they are on the left...

Make them symmetrical, sew them to the waistband and you are done!

9. Adjust pant-leg length

I put on the kind of shoe that I think I'll be wearing most with this overall in the end, and the length was perfect. If yours isn't, you'll have to re-hem the legs, which is a quick and easy issue.

Admire your perfectly fitted pants in the mirror...

At this point, I wasn't even sure I wanted to continue with the overall project, as the pants turned out so great by themselves. But I did, and HERE is the post about how I fitted the bodice and put it all together.

Best to all of you!


  1. Hi Katja - your overall is really cool! I found you blog through re-fashion co-op where I became a contributor today. I see you live in VIenna - my favorite town at the moment, I have an austrian friend living there (who also loves crafting and sewing) and she took me to Textil-Müller in Klosterneuburg in november - I thought I had come to sewing heaven :-)).
    greetings from Sweden: maritta at mirkka

  2. Thank you so much Maritta! I look forward to seeing your projects, too! Yes, Textil-Müller - it's heaven and hell all in one... I spend HOURS in there and my fabric stash is getting huge... but it's so cheap I just can't resist...
    Greetings to Sweden! Katja

  3. That came out really nice!! Now I just have to keep my eyes out for my husband's unwanted suits (^_^)

  4. G*E*N*I*A*L - bin total begeistert! Sieht hammermäßig gut aus!!

    Grüße vom Bodensee

  5. oh wow, so utterly super cool! such a shame my man would rather be dead then wear a suit, so time to ring my brother!!

  6. hello!!!I've left you an award on my blog


  7. you are a genius. I've been wanting to figure out retooling mens suits for so long: so much beautiful light weight wool fabric!!!!

  8. Wow,This type of stylist cloth look so beautiful.This lady look so beautiful in this type of cloth.This colorful and professional look.

  9.  This type of cloths look so stylist and professional.This lady look so beautiful in this type of cloths.This cloths are so stylist and cool.

    men suit

  10. Wowww!! you have a lot of talent! thank you very much for the tutorial, is very elegant! I love the photo of before XDD is so funny!!! P.D. Excuse for my english, is not so well XD i´m from Spain. Kisses


  11. I've always been afraid to tackle such an intense tailoring job. My kind of tailoring relies a lot on elastic and safety pins. Thank you for posting such a detailed tute, I actually think I could do this. 

    On another topic - I'm one of the editors over at Refashion Co-op and I also manage a blog called Irish Attic which is all about "living green – reduce – reuse – recycle – refashion – remake". I would love it if you would be interested in posting as a guest over at IA. Please contact me at info (at) irishattic (dot) net if you're interested.

  12. This is one of the coolest outfits I think I've ever seen, no lie. Thank you for your blog. So encouraging to see someone pursuing their interest like this--in one of my favorite cities, Wien! Just seeing the wood floors, window shapes, and doors brings back great memories (yes, it's the little things. :). And your thoughts/quotes on fashion are very interesting. Anyway, don't mean to gush but just wanted to let you know I'm inspired, even if I lag far behind you in skill. Please keep sewing and posting.

  13. Awwww, thank you! I will, promise ;-) Inspiring others is super cool, so all the best for your own sewing!!!

  14. Wow, your project is amazing. To clarify: it looks like you didn't take in the side seams at all, just the centre-back seam and added pleats at the front. Is that correct?

  15. Oh, so sorry this answer comes so late, I only just saw your question! Yes, I left the side seams just the way they were, because of the way the pockets are sewn - it would have been very tricky to take them in. Depending on the pants you use, you might take them in, and maybe leave the center back seam intact. It really depends on what you are going from...

  16. This is MOST amazing + inspiring!

  17. Another "Wow!" This is amazing!! this is the only bit of your blog I have looked at so far but I will be looking at all the rest! I goggled turning men's trousers into women's as today I had bought a pair of men's chinos (in a charity shop where you can get good quality ones so cheap) to make into chinos for me. After seeing what you've done there's no stopping me!!

  18. looks cool experiment with mens clothing...keep posting...:)

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