Wool Slacks

Or do you call them pants?  For some reason, I tend to think there are slight differences between pants and slacks.  But not so, according to Fairchild’s Dictionary.  Slacks are listed as “Synonym for pants. Term is usually applied to loose-cut casual pants, not part of a suit.  In the 1930s when women first began wearing pants for leisure activities, these garments were generally called slacks rather than pants.” (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyliss  Tortora, Third Edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc, New York, New York, 2003, p. 359-360).  I find this interesting, and a little confusing. I have always thought of slacks as a bit more refined than just pants.  “Slacks and a sweater” conjures up a town-and-country-state of mind for me – rich wool, cable-knit sweater and a string of pearls or simple gold necklace.  Perfect for being comfortable but stylish.  Although it doesn’t really matter what one calls them – pants or slacks – I prefer “slacks” – especially when they are finished!  

This is the pattern I used for the slacks. Notice they are called slacks in the description! There are 8 shaping darts – four in the front and four in the back, and no pockets.

It took so many fittings during the process of making these slacks, and so many minor tweaks, so that when I finally took the last stitch, I was so relieved!  A lot of thought went into them which I will share here.

First of all, the vintage wool I was using (and from which my matching cape is being constructed) is – you guessed it – an uneven plaid.  Fortunately, the dominant colors in the plaid allowed me to “ignore” the uneven aspect and concentrate on what WAS even, if that makes sense.  

This photo from my last post shows the uneven aspect of the plaid. I planned the layout according the the brighter lavender stripe.

Then I had to determine where I wanted those lavender lines to hit my hips, and where I wanted them to run up and down the legs.  These considerations needed to accommodate where I wanted the pants-leg hems to fall in relation to the larger blocks of the plaid.  I generally like to have a hem fall somewhere mid-way between dominant horizontal lines.  I never want a dominant horizontal line to be right at the edge of a hem if I can avoid it. 

Here is the hem on one of the legs, to show where I wanted the lower edge to fall in relation to the plaid.
And here you can see how I placed the vertical stripes on the legs.

I underlined these slacks with silk organza, I lined them with silk crepe de chine (from Emma One Sock Fabrics).  I am lining the cape with matching color silk charmeuse, but I wanted a lighter weight lining for the slacks.  The only exception to this is the facing on the waistband, for which I used silk charmeuse.  The interior of the waistband may occasionally be against my bare skin, and silk charmeuse is just a bit more comfortable in areas which call for a snugger fit. 

I faced the waistband with silk charmeuse.

It was serendipitous that I had a wool sweater, purchased many years ago, which is a perfect complement to the darker purple/eggplant color in the plaid. 

It was quite chilly when I took these photos! Where’s my cape?

 Now I’m excited to make more progress on that cape, which has taken a backseat to holiday sewing and shopping.  It may, indeed, be after Christmas until the cape gets its debut, but life has its priorities, doesn’t it? 


Filed under Fashion history, Hems, Linings, Slacks, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

35 responses to “Wool Slacks

  1. toomanyanimals

    Beautiful trousers (what I call them!)!

  2. toomanyanimals

    Beautiful trousers (what I call them!)! Slacks are more casual. And ‘pants’ — that’s what a dog does 😂.

  3. caroline beckenhaupt

    Thank you so much for sharing! These slacks look very classy on you. Interesting especially to hear about the lining and underlining.

  4. Joan

    Gorgeous slacks.. I think of trousers as pants with menswear details, like pleats and fly front, and slacks as more slim fit, likely without pleats, possibly with a faced waist.

  5. Absolutely beautiful. Seeing your makes over the past few months is helping me find my “sewing mojo”. Thanks

  6. Betty Morgan

    very nicely done. Pretty on you too.

  7. Christine

    Beautiful – can’t wait to see the matching cape. On the subject of pants differing to slacks I think of the idiom of ‘who wears the pants around here’ for example and feel pants definitely sound a bit manish, maybe not as much these days but possibly equated to a authoritative and masculine role when women only wore skirts. Either way slacks may be dressy or casual but to me they have a lot smarter vibe to them than pants, maybe more so perhaps because vintage patterns refer to them as such.

  8. These trousers look smashing on you! And I appreciate you sharing the “ behind the seams” info about positioning the plaid & lining/ underlining/ waistband lining considerations. You put a lot of thought into your sewing even before bringing scissors to fabric. I’m in awe.

  9. Peggy shaver


  10. Very nice garment! I find it frustrating that such a commonly worn garment is so difficult for me to fit!

  11. Cheryl

    Your slacks are lovely. I am in awe of you matching the dominant checks, that is a mammoth task. Did you place a zipper in the side seam? I imagine the front or the centre back would have been even more of a challenge.

    • Yes the zipper is in the side seam. One of my tricks for successful matching is to lay out my pattern on my fabric and let it sit a day before I review it and start to cut. Never good to be in a rush with matching plaids.

  12. Janet Thornton

    Gorgeous, as always! I remember years and years ago deciding uneven plaids were never for me, and you have done these do beautifully!

    I must ask though, does the interlining make the slacks really warm to wear?

    I think of the British ‘pants’, referring to underpants or what I grew up calling ‘panties’, and slacks referring to ladie’s slacks, which to me meant not having a fly etc like trousers. Just to wade in….

    • I just learned that pants are underwear in England! (What’s that saying about two countries divided by a common language?) As far as the interlining adding warmth, not really. It just adds a little bit of structure and a mechanism for concealing stitches, as with the hems. This wool is very lightweight so the extra bit of structure really helps. Thanks for your comment!

  13. Lovely as always. I have 1 pants (slacks, LOL) pattern that I use all the time as my sloper and so far, fitting is no longer a problem. I can’t wait to see the cape.

  14. Jackie

    Beautiful casual outfit! I’m looking forward to reading about your cape!

  15. Stunning! I’m so impressed.

  16. Johanne Kemp

    Love your trousers. (I’m British! Pants are men’s underwear or something a dog does,) I too have just drafted a trouser pattern, oh so many.many tiny adjustments but oh so worth it! Your lining details very interesting as that was to be my next step. Thank you for sharing details & pictures as it all takes time & effort.

  17. Lovely pants Karen! I can’t wait to see the cape!

  18. marguerite

    Fabulous! Yep, I still say slacks. Somehow “pants” doesn’t apply to such classy “slacks” as you have made here. Great fit too-worth the effort.

  19. Mery

    Those look great, and you already look smashing in that outfit even without the cape.
    Whenever it’s cold enough for wool slacks I need socks too.

  20. I’m now committed to using the term slacks! These plaid slacks are wonderful and I’m anxiously awaiting the photos of the finished cape. I have no doubt it will be a masterpiece!

  21. Gorgeous work, Karen!! (As usual…) I’m intrigued at your underlining and lining these slacks…I’m venturing into some tailored type trousers and am going to need to consider such interior aspects. And yes, there are quite a few fitting details to tend to when working on trousers! But so worth it hey.
    Your slacks look elegant and fabulous on you. And working tartan & plaids…well, that’s an amazing adventure too!

    Take care,

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