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Patternless Costuming

Updated on October 21, 2010

Patternless Costuming- I dream of Jeannie

I have been creating clothing designs since I was a child. At first I would design clothing only for my dolls, but then, as I learned crochet and sewing, I began creating clothing for myself then for my family. While I love sewing, I often get frustrated with the cost of patterns that in the end need heavy alterations to fit my full figure and my height. I have seen some great systems that promise to make the pattern pieces I need fit me. A good example would be the Lutterioh-system . It looked great, but given the limited options for the extra large, and given the cost it is not my first option. I have had luck for some basic free no pattern directions in the past.. I wish I could find the first book I had seen in a library called no pattern sewing. I have tried to locate it but have had no luck I have seen other sites that have similar information: (for medieval) (for turbans tassels tattoos for tribal belly dance)

Each site seems to be for about only 1-2 pieces you may need, but what I have learned is that with practice you can make most anything without a pattern if you know a few basics and take time to practice on the details.

Whether you want to create a modern fashion or an old-fashioned costume it is in the details. To show you what I mean. I am going to break a costume down and show you how to fit most anyone with a no pattern approach and careful eye to the details.

The first project I am going to do is to recreate an outfit (pictured below) from I Dream of Jeannie. This is a simple enough outfit and, with a small change in details, can fit most anyone from children to adults both females and males. This outfit can be used to do Halloween costumes, costumes for Renaissance Faires, or even costumes for Live Action Role Play. With a change of fabric, the harem pants can also make a warm set of sweat pants or a nice pair of pirate pants.

This outfit shows a pair of harem pants, a belt, a tube top/bra, a Bolero vest, a pair of slippers and a pill hat with veil. In this outfit the trim is pink. There were several other outfits that Jeannie wore. Some covered more, but the general style remain the same.

Let's start with the easiest item and the most changeable: the pants.

Barbara Eden as Jeannie
Barbara Eden as Jeannie

Harem pants can be made in only a couple of different ways. The difference between the ways is whether the seams are on the inside or the outside. Of course, you could make a lot more work for yourself and have seams on both the inside and the outside, but why? You can also add some variety to your pants by changing how far forward or backward the seams rest.

Past the seams, you need to pick your fabric and decide how much fullness you want in the pants. The most common styles are 3, 4 or 5 yard pants. Before you decide, take a look at your measurements; this may help you chose. If you are under a size ten you are going to have too much fabric if you go for then 5 yard pants. There is a limit to how much you can gather on a thin ankle and at your hips. I wear a size twenty and find the four-yard pants to be very roomy. I have seen the 5 yard pants for sale but unless you are larger or taller then me, I doubt you will find the need.

In the picture I saw no side seam and the flow of the pants to the ankle was full but not overly bulky. Also note that while harem pants sometimes bring to mind a sheer cloth these do not appear to be transparent. So instead of say a sheer Chiffon fabric I would choose either a Crepe fabric or a light silk or cotton Chiffon that is heavier. Since the veil, and pants are the same color and appear to be I would get enough to do all three pieces at the same time to avoid getting the wrong shade of pink later. You will need to decide how much you want to speed on the project and depending on your size. you may need more or less fabric For myself I would pick 6 yards of pink: 3 yards should be solid and 3 yards can be sheer. then 3 yards minimum of a red velvet or silk for the vest hat and belt. I counted 4 pink tassels and you would have to choose if you can go the expense I would pick a pink braiding for the trim over a cheaper rickrack . and do not forget to get matching thread. you will need elastic for the ankles and possible the waist of the pants I prefer a simple drawstring but you can use elastic or double up and use both.

You could simply take three yards of fabric, fold it in half, cut a half circle out for your crotch, seam it and the legs, then gather the waist and ankle. It may fit.. But lets make it fit the way you want it to.

For any pants pattern you need a couple measurements. Measure your waist, hips,thigh, inseam, crotch length and measurement from your ankle to waist . The more you tailor your clothes, the more measurements you will need to take, unless you have bought a system of pattern makers that does the work for you. for harem pants or any variation of these drawstring pants the most important is the length and waist measurement to start. With 3 yard pants you have 1.5 yard per leg or a rectangle of 54 inches by *58 inches (*depending on the width of the fabric you have bought) . So lets see if you will fit you need your measurement from your ankle to waist plus 2 inches at top and bottom and 3 inches for the gathering at the ankle.for me that works out as 40 inches plus 2(for the waist casing)plus 2(for the ankle casing) and 3 inches for the gathering or a minimum length of 47 inches. For your waist each rectangle needs to be a minimum of half your waist measurement plus 2inches for seams plus more for fullness. The fullness is the trick part. If you are thin or are creating for a child the measurement for fullness will work a bit different then if you are larger. I stated that I take a woman size 20 but I have made pants for a larger man and given the waist measurement the legs came out too full with little gathering at the waist. The simplest way the check that you will have enough flow and fullness is to compare half your waist measurement to your thigh measurement.

I will continue with my next posting and will include diagram for laying out the pants.

Patternless Costumes part 2

How to get the right amount of fabric for pants for each leg
How to get the right amount of fabric for pants for each leg


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