How to make women's trousers

Updated July 20, 2017

When considering how trousers or trousers are made, there is a difference: Women's trousers are derived directly from men's wear and have style elements not always found in many women's trousers. Sturdy construction, a fitted waistband, front pleats, a fly front and often, cuffed hems characterise typical trousers for women or men. Making women's trousers need not be a daunting task if care is taken in choosing fabric, style and pattern. Measurements must also be exact for a good fit.

The single most important step is taking accurate measurements. Use the tape measure to take several key measurements: waist size, hip size, inseam and rise. The inseam measures the leg length between the bottom of the hem and the crotch. The rise is the distance from the top of the inseam to the waist. Pull the tape firmly but not tightly around the person being measured.

The measurements taken will affect the pattern selection for the women's trousers, even though most patterns have a wide range of sizes included in each individual pattern purchased. Look for the size needed by comparing the pattern's waist, hip, inseam and rise. If all of these measurements are not given, adjustments are possible by altering the pattern pieces: Most patterns have adjustment lines to compensate for differences in body shape and size.

"Simplicity", "Butterick," "McCalls" and "Vogue" all make women's patterns, available at your local store's sewing department or in fabric stores. See References 1, 2 and 3 for online pattern information before going to the store.

When choosing fabric, remember that most purchased patterns have fabric suggestions for the intended garment. Look on the back of the pattern envelope for fabric suggestions and the yardage needed for the pattern's individual sizes and styles. Trousers will require that the seamstress choose a substantial fabric to support the features that characterise trousers. Thin or stretchy fabrics will not be good choices for trousers with pleats and a waistband. Good fabrics for first attempts at making trousers include gaberdine, crepe, twill, poplin, lightweight cotton canvas, lightweight wool, linen, linen blends or lightweight denim.

Purchase notions and supplies. The difference between a poorly made garment and a great one can be the sewing notions and supplies used in producing the garment. The importance and utility of items like interfacing and seam binding cannot be overemphasised: If the trouser pattern calls for them, use them. Interfacing reinforces elements like waistbands. Seam binding strengthens seams and is useful for taking up hems.

Likewise, the quality of items, from scissors to sewing machine, will show in the finished garment. More than one sewing project has failed because of poorly cut out pattern pieces or a sewing machine that pulls or makes loops of its stitches and massacres the fabric.

Indispensable sewing equipment and notions for the seasoned seamstress include sharp scissors, a great sewing machine, a seam ripper and extra thread bobbins.

Gently prewash and dry the fabric for shrinkage, if it is washable. Iron the fabric, maintaining the single lengthwise fold that divides the fabric in half. Adjust the pattern pieces to the size and measurements needed. Lay out the pattern pieces on the fabric in the manner recommended on the pattern envelope. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric. Check all work before cutting! Cut carefully around the "cut lines" provided on the pattern pieces. Keep the pattern pieces pinned to the fabric as much as possible, or mark them in washable pencil to keep track of each piece's function.

Follow the pattern instructions exactly. Pin the cut out pieces together where indicated and sew them together, step by step. Remove pins one by one, immediately before they pass under the sewing machine needle. During the sewing process, it may be helpful to periodically try the garment on to check the fit. Pressing each seam open, right after it is sewn, is a helpful step. Use hand sewing for hems to give a more polished look.


When figuring yardage needed for the trousers, make note of the fabric width, the fabric content and its washing instructions on the bolt. This information probably will not be on the purchaser's receipt. Trousers are one of the more difficult garments to sew, because of the crotch seam and the fit. See "Resources" for additional reading on sewing techniques before beginning the project. When in doubt, buy a larger pattern size, not a smaller one. Alterations are easier on a garment that is too large.


Sewing machines, pins, needles and scissors can be dangerous. Practice your skills with these items before beginning a project. Remember never to hurry and never to be distracted while working with such equipment.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pattern
  • Fabric
  • Interfacing
  • Seam binding
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Washable pencil
  • Sewing notions
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About the Author

Peggy Madsen began writing professionally in 1977. She has written for the “Mensa Bulletin,” American Mensa’s high IQ magazine. Madsen also won a national award in 1997 for a series of articles on early education, and was featured in a Medstar TV syndicated story about flash card learning. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music education from Long Island University.