Connecting With Our Clothes – Enjoying The Process Behind The Perfect Pants

The Connecting With Our Clothes series explores the meaningful relationships we have with our clothing – the memories, the stories, the interesting ways of getting it that mean so much more than scooping it off the sale rack ever could. (Check out the beginning and a story of my own here)

Maria-sidebar-2I’m pretty thrilled to have Maria from Lost In A Spotless Mind sharing the story behind one of her pieces of clothing today. Maria teaches Photoshop, textile knowledge, personal style, photography and portfolio development at a fashion school in Norway, all of which makes for an inspiring and thought-provoking blog.

I love her focus on personal style over trends and the wonderful balance she manages to strike between pretty and pensive. I always have the most fun with fashion when I’m adoring the aesthetics, but also going beyond that.

“This looks so amazing! Now, why do I like this / why is made this way / why did I choose to buy this over that?” That’s what I want, and it’s certainly something I’ve found in Maria’s work.breakVintage trousers 1

There are many garments I could have described for you in a blog post like this, such as the flowery vintage dress with deep pockets that people always compliment, or the thrifted trenchcoat I’ve had for eight years now that never looks boring or old. But as the topic for Emma’s blog series is “Connecting with our clothes”, in the end I decided to tell you about a pair of plain pinstripe trousers (or pants, if you prefer) I bought rather recently.

Like so many others of my clothes, they were found on a rack in a second hand shop, squeezed between rows and rows of anonymous, seemingly identical black legwear. Many people avoid those daunting masses of black and gray, but I find them to be a treasure; as not many people bother to browse them, there can be unusually many treasures hidden there. I’d already picked out four pairs of dark trousers to try on when that slim, gold buckle winked at me.

A quick once-over revealed everything I look for in this style of trouser. The waist was high. The waistband a width I like, and cleverly elasticized in some areas to provide comfort. Tapered legs seemed promising, and I liked the side pockets, though they might also cause an issue of gaping. Those hundred percents of polyester were a bit of a let-down, but at least there was no visible pilling, and the fabric felt both sturdy and soft. That little gold buckle made it more feminine, and I liked that the pinstripes were actually double pinstripes, which I only noticed on really close inspection. Like most of my favourite second hand purchases, they were very either or: they would either be fantastic, or a frumpy disaster.

Vintage trousers 2

In the dressing room I did the usual things (studying all angles, sitting down, bending over), and strangely enough, the trousers held their own. You see, trousers are pretty much my holy grail. I just can’t ever find a pair that follow the curves of my own body; they either gape horribly in the waist and lower back, or I can’t pull them over my hips and/or thighs and/or calves. It simply seems like clothing companies won’t make trousers for a body shaped like mine. Alterations are the obvious answer, but I just can’t afford to have them done professionally, and doing it myself has seemed too technical for my self-taught sewing skills. That is, until I got those trousers.

They were almost perfect, after all, and the small things that would make them fantastic suddenly seemed obvious to me. The legs needed to be taken in from the knees down, the hem shortened a little, and adding two simple darts down the back would make the fabric lie better over my swayed back. I paid the 69,- NOK (or $11, or 8€), went home, put them on inside-out and just started pinning. It was done mostly with intuition and improvisation. I really have no idea how one is supposed to alter trousers, but I allowed myself to just “go with it”, instead of spending so much time doing research that I’d get nothing done in the end.

It was a process of lots of dressing and undressing (oh, to have a custom shaped dummy!), lots of pinpricks in odd places, lots of “does the bum look right now?” to my sister, and then oodles of frustration when I discovered I’d cut one leg shorter than the other. I decided to use the old cuffs to make the legs equal, then proceeded to sew the cuffs on wrong so all the seams ended up on the outside. I ripped them off, sewed them on again, painstakingly making sure I’d done it right this second time. I don’t think I’ve ever done that many small alterations to any kind of garment. Suddenly, though, I found myself with a pair of wonderfully fitting trousers, something I had never really owned before.

Vintage trousers 3

I finished the alterations about a week and a half ago, and I’ve already worn the trousers at least five times. Five times, and I’m not even a trouser-kind-of-gal! I wear them with a white shirt, black masculine coat, brogues and winged eyeliner, and they look sharp and professional. I combine them with a (now altered) buttoned cardigan, trenchcoat and heels, and they look beautiful. I add a simple t-shirt, my Dr. Martens boots and red lipstick, and my steps seem more confident somehow.

There are so many reasons these pants have made me feel satisfied. I bought them second hand, which is my preferred way to buy things. They stood up to all my picky demands, even after some serious contemplation. They filled a hole in my wardrobe. They showed me that of course there exists a pair of trousers that are right for my body shape, and my body can look great in trousers. All the time, thinking and energy that went into altering them makes me value them even more, and also taught me plenty of new sewing tricks. I know they’ll always be a part of my travel wardrobes. If they tear, I’ll do my best to repair them. When they are no longer wearable, I’ll take them apart to study how they were made, and use it as a base for a trouser pattern.

If all that is not a fantastic connection with some metres of fabric and thread, then I don’t know what is.

breakThere are many things I love in this story (The second hand shopping tips! The mixing of prints! Be still, my beating heart) but the overarching theme that I really enjoy here is that of a process.

Knowing what you love in pants, working out what exactly needed to be altered to make them perfect and how to do it, planning on taking them apart to get a pattern once they’re worn out. It’s all so much more interesting being an active part of all this rather than just accepting whatever trend is being dished up at that point in time. I love it!

Thanks for sharing, Maria. Check out more from her over at Lost In A Spotless Mind, or follow her on Twitter.

Do have an unconventional relationship with a piece of clothing? Did you get it in an unusual way, does it tell a story, have you learned something through it? If it goes beyond the the buy-new-throw-away relationship we are so often encouraged to have, please get in touch!

Email me at emma_vitz at live dot com, and let’s share the meaningful relationships we have with our clothing.

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