The Tuxedo-Inspired Suit

Sorry for the delay in the photos, but being so far up in the Northern Hemisphere means it’s very dark by the time we get home from work during the week, and our first photoshoot didn’t have the right lighting to capture all the details in this suit. So we had to wait for the sunny weekend…

If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that my grandmother visited the Pendleton woollen mill in the 1960s and bought two 2 yard remnants of 100% wool navy blue suiting fabric for $6 each (so $12 total). In August, she gave these to me, saying she’d never got around to sewing up anything with them and she thought I’d make better use of it.

I’d already finished the jacket portion of this tuxedo-inspired suit (the show piece from my F/W 07 Collection), and you can see the first photoshoot of that here.

The trousers were far more straightforward than the jacket, however, so they didn’t take nearly as much time or seam ripping to complete! I wanted to tie together the satin accents of the two pieces so I opted to add a thin stripe of navy blue satin ribbon to the outside seams of each trouser leg, which I think gives a subtle sheen as I move. The integral belt/waistband of this pattern really evokes a sort of cummerbund, too, and raises this design above just a normal trouser suit.

I love high waisted trousers, but I hate the way they crumble and wrinkle the first time you sit down, so I added lots of sew in boning to the front waist area – four pieces inside the belt (with a long portion to help the points keep their shape) and a further four pieces inside the front facing. The boning made turning the belt pieces inside out to be rather more challenging than normal, but a few minutes with the pliers and it was all over! Since the belt portions cover up the zipper fly, I decided to go even more streamlined and use a hidden trouser hook at the top of the fly rather than the button suggested by the patter. This way if the belt slips a bit (which it doesn’t tend to, even after a few test runs), you don’t get an ugly exposed button there.

I had to change around the order of construction of these from my normal order for sewing trousers (front and back seams, fly, inner leg, outer leg, waistband) because if I’d followed that, it would’ve been very difficult to topstitch the ribbon into long tubes of fabric! So here I sewed the front and back seams and the zipper, then the outer legs and topstitched the ribbon over the seam lines before progressing further.

The interesting thing about this pattern is that the waist treatment is completely different at the front than at the back. The back is a normal waistband and waistband facing like you’d have on a pair of jeans, but the front has a facing to the top of the trousers, and then the belt is laid on top of that. So when you join the front and back together at the outer legs, the back pieces are several inches lower than the front pieces in order to account for the extra height of the waistband in the back!

The other big change I made was to keep the hem simple on the trouser legs. The pattern called for the hems to be folded up and tacked, but as my boyfriend put it, “turn ups are so 80s!” and to me they also just make me think that your trousers are too long and you don’t know how to fix it properly. That, and you’d never see turn ups on a tuxedo! So I’ve just turned up all the length inside and hemmed it normally by hand.

I’m calling this tuxedo-inspired because it contains a lot of tuxedo elements – sharp lines, satin accents, high waist and “cummerbund” – but it doesn’t have tails or the side fasteners of real tuxedos, but that was purely down to my design choices and not really wanting those extras. This way I can look dressy but not like I’ve stepped out of a cross dressing high school prom.

With the three changes I’m making to my F/W 07 Collection, I’ll soon have BurdaStyle’s frilled JJ blouse to wear with this suit, which I think will be nearly perfect. It makes me smile to think I’m hearkening back those frilly 70s powder blue suits!

But really, the one I have to really thank here is my grandmother, who not only held on to this fabric for over 40 years, but gave it up so that I could make this suit. I hope I’ve done her proud, and that I’m still wearing this when I’m her age.

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