Wardrobe essentials: bottoms

This is the fourth article in the Wardrobe Essentials series.

Bottoms include pants and skirts of all different lengths, widths, and shapes. Shorts, capris, and jeans all fall in this category. I would start with a few neutral pieces and then add some more adventurous colors. (Actually, I would most likely start with a few neutral pieces and then continue making neutral pieces so this is really a reminder to myself to venture outside of neutrals in the near future.)

Fit is paramount, as always, so no pulling, puddling, or weird wrinkles, please. Beyond fit, the other important considerations are length, width, and a few details.

Wardrobe essentials – bottoms

Find your most flattering skirt lengths. These tend to be where the legs are narrow, usually somewhere around the kneecap – a little bit above, a little bit below, or right across it, depending on the shape of the knees. The hem creates a strong horizontal line so it is important to maximize its positive effect.

Long pants should cover the heel. Whether they break in the front or not is personal preference. If the hem drags on the floor, the pants are too long. It’s not just that the hem will fray before you can say oops, but they always make me wonder if the pants are on loan from a taller friend. With ankle length pants and shorter, it’s similar to skirts – find your most flattering lengths and stick to them. Reevaluate periodically.

For skirts, hem circumference is important. Too narrow and it’s a stand-up-only skirt. Too straight and it can look dowdy. Too wide and every time the wind blows is a potential Marilyn-over-the-subway-grate moment. Also, consider that you may prefer different hem widths at different lengths. For instance, I like my pegged pencil skirts to end just above the knee and A-line skirts at mid-thigh.

Pant widths range from skinny to extra wide, and just because something is “in”, doesn’t make it flattering on everyone. Most people’s best width is somewhere between the two extremes. Find yours.

Pockets – yes or no? If you’re with me in the no pocket camp, omit them from the pattern or sew them shut on RTW. If you prefer to have pockets, make sure the garment fits well through the hips so your hips don’t borrow fabric from the pocket – that’s how pockets get those awful gaps.

Belt loops – yes or no? Are you going to tuck in your tops? If so, the look tends to be better with a belt (and belt loops to hold it in place). If you’re planning to wear your tops untucked with these pants (or this skirt), consider if you need any belt loops at all, or would they just be unnecessary fabric adding bulk at the waist?

Zipper – where will it go? For the smoothest line under tops, I prefer to put the zipper in the center back seam. For tucked-in tops, my skirts keep the back zipper and pants get a fly front. I am not a fan of the side zipper but it’s a matter of personal preference.

Waistband – what kind? Do you like a wide waistband or a narrow one? Or do you prefer a facing instead of a regular waistband? Elastic or not? If this is a high-waisted garment, will it need boning to keep its shape?

Considering all these things before starting a sewing project or making a RTW purchase will go a long way toward a coordinated wardrobe where every garment is a favorite that gets worn often.

Next time we’ll take a closer look at second layer tops, like cardigans and jackets.

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