I’m not sure what first inspired me to want a pair of knickerbockers, but I think it was likely some combination of pictures of dapper folks at various Tweed Runs and the gloriousness of Oscar Wilde. There’s a casual insouciance to them, a stylish flair and an opportunity for mixing many textures and colors between the knickerbockers themselves, the accompanying knee-high socks, and the waistcoat or blazer topping it all off.
My set began to come together in my mind when I picked up this lovely rust colored wool remnant at the Textile Center Garage Sale (always great for bits of wool!) It coordinated so nicely with the tan tartan I already had in my stash (purchased online for a different project, but not quite suitable).
I worked on the vest first. The pattern is the historically-inspired Butterick B6339, a set of men’s waistcoats. Because it was decidedly not made with my body in mind, I did some sort of baffling set of full bust adjustments and dart rotations to get it there. When I say baffling: I am not even sure if I could describe the things I did, trying to maintain the two vertical darts in some semblance of the original pattern while not warping the armscyth too much. It was ugly, friends, and I did not document it.
What results, though, is a vest that maintains the style lines of the original while accommodating my breasts — either in a bra or, as here, in a binder. This dual fitting function is one I’m very keen to explore, and you’ll be seeing more here soon! This was also the first garment I’ve made that feels really good over a binder, not just incidentally okay, but purposeful and affirming. Next I just need to make more binders that also feel affirming and fit well — my pink binder was an exploration into that, but I’d like to do more with shaping and flattening.
The knickerbockers, though. The knickerbockers I LOVE. They were, all things considered, a pretty easy make, and they feel so good and fun and happy on my body. I started from a relatively basic high-waisted, pleated-front, wide-leg pant pattern, the Claire Shaeffer Custom Couture 7468. The largest size was too small for me, but I already had it in my stash and the instructions are really nice — a mix of couture and couture-light techniques that taught me a few things! To size it up, I went a pretty lazy route. I needed another inch or so in the waist but around 7 in the hips. So I simply added it all in the darts and pleats, without changing the vertical grainline, which gave me plenty more room through the butt and thighs. Then I just tucked all that extra into the darts and pleats — a great trick when you have a high waist/hip disparity.
To get that knickerbocker look, I cropped them at just below the knee and added a cuff. The volume of the back side of the pants is evenly gathered across half the cuff, while in the front I added two deep pleats at the side. The cuff is finished with a button — one of these adorable gold equestrian buttons I used for the whole thing. If I were to make another pair (should I?) I’d maybe go for a slightly longer leg, so when cuffed there is more volume above the knee, simply for range of motion. Or perhaps I’d go for the slightly longer and more exaggerated plus-four style.
As the tartan has a loose weave and slightly rough texture, I interlined the entire pants using a polyester lining. If I hadn’t already had it in my stash, I probably would have used rayon bemberg, my favorite these days. However, the poly is slightly heavier, giving these a good heft and making them cozy enough for the cool December day we spent running around Detroit!
I’ll definitely be using both of these patterns again. Additionally, I’d love to make another shirt in a simple linen that might bring out the soft hobbit feeling of this outfit (the one I’m wearing here is my much-loved Strawberry Thief!) Additionally, I’ve just enough fabric to make a coordinating blazer, I hope! That’ll be a tailoring challenge, but one I want to take on.