Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Utilitarian Sewing: Gym Pants

Gym Pants Thumbnail

The glaring exception to my Look Cute Every Day philosophy is gym clothes. I spend a lot of time in the gym, and all of my gym clothes are horrible. Hideous Old Gym Pants The worst of the pants is exhibited on the left (but were they really the worst?). Seriously, is there anything worse than a sagging crotch? The waist on these stays up with a drawstring, just a regular drawstring and not an elasticated one. The little shoelace drawstring came through small eyelets so I couldn't really add elastic to it. As I worked out the waist and crotch would droop lower and lower, exposing my belly. Also, they have side seam hip-height pockets. Worn Out Old Gym Pants Because when you're doing squats what you're really hoping for is gaping pockets to widen your hips (I stitched the pockets closed). The pants at right were not quite so ugly, but I had worn them to DEATH as you can see by the fuzziness. I also had a pair of Kardashian-esque black drawstring pants with white stripes down the side that were clearly not actual athletic wear but fashion athletic wear (shudder). With a saggy crotch.

I have been planning to make new gym clothes for, like, two years. My failure to do so was a combination of procrastination and letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I bought some heavyweight cotton-poly knit from Spandex House in March 2008. I traced a pattern from my one pair of non-horrible gym pants about 4 months ago. But then I was like, "Well, that cotton-poly knit is not really a technical fiber. And shouldn't I try to find/draft a pattern with a crotch gusset?" But really, what could possibly be worse than the horrible pants I kept wearing week after week? I will answer that question: nothing. Piecing together strips of rags and just tying them around myself would have been better than the horrible pants I was wearing.

RTW Gym PantsBut still, I kept putting off this boring, non-cute sewing until finally the day arrived that I could not face wearing horrible saggy-crotch gym pants for one more workout. So I pulled out my non-technical fiber and my non-gusseted rubbed off pattern (they don't ride up into the lady area and have all the movement I need so I don't know why I got hung up on the gusset issue) and got to work. I liked the wide, tall waistband of the original (Danskins purchased at WalMart while visiting my parents last holiday season) because no matter how much I raise my arms my shirt doesn't ride up above it and show my belly. I also like the little bit of color contrast at the waistband but I don't care for the volume-adding ruching.

I did one pair of pants as a construction test, and it worked well with the minor tweak of needing to add 3/4" to the top of the colored contrast inside waistband so I went ahead and cut out the other three pairs.

I probably should have waited until I actually did a workout in them because having done so now I should have used shorter elastic in the waist as they can slump down a little during vigorous cardio. And not being versed in the ways of pants, I can't tell if those arrows on the front mean that I need more room in the front crotch or need to shorten the front crotch (input appreciated) but whatever. Nothing could be worse than my old gym pants!


Note: I constructed these almost entirely by serger. I used the sewing machine only to zigzag the elastic in place and to twin needle the hem.

1. Cut out. Add 3/4" inch to the top of the inside waistband (or take 3/4" from the top of the outer waistband if you prefer a lower waistline).

2. Inseam.

3. Outseam.

4. Crotch.

5. Waistband side seams.

6. Cut a piece of elastic to fit very snugly around your waist (will stretch out a little when applied).

Elastic Pinned 7. Place waistbands right sides together, with the inner waistband on the inside. Line up upper edge. Pin elastic through both layers about 1/2 inch below the upper edge, stretching elastic. Zigzag elastic in place along the upper edge.

8. Trim the upper edge seam allowances so it extends about 3/8 inch above the elastic. That extension above the elastic is what will cause the colored inner waistband to peek out at the top. I used the serger to trim out of laziness, though I really shouldn't as it stretched and mis-shaped the waistbands. Again, whatever.

Waistband Application9. Turn pants right side out. Fold inner waistband over the elastic, so the waistbands are right sides together. Line up lower edges of waistbands. Pin both layers of waistband to pants, outer side of waistband to right side of pants. Serge.

10. Hem.

Once the pants are cut out, it takes just about half an hour to sew them. Really, what took me so long?

Catalog Shot of All Four PairsHere's the catalog shot of all four pairs. The different colored waistbands are mostly so I can try to rotate them evenly, and because I like to have some color on anything I wear but black is the only practical color for gym pants due to the embarrassing sweat location issue.

My gym tops are similarly old but slightly less horrible than the pants so I'm not pressed to replace them now. And for the tops, I think I actually do need technical fabrics. I am lucky to have a fairly high tipping point for sweating, but once I reach it I am a faucet. Cotton poly is not good with faucet sweat. Also, I'd like to get a good supportive mesh for built-in bras. Of course, this means I will continue to wear my up to 8 year old horrible gym tops in perpetuity.

Side view You can see in the side view why I get so frustrated about my belly. I have a four pack and a curving line of muscle alongside it and then...a five-month-pregnant-looking belly. It's not for lack of trying (although laying off the sugar would trim it down a little, I know).

Back The back fit is good, and the waistband goes up high enough that I never feel like I'm going to expose my bum. And it is quite a bum. In yoga when we're in Warrior II the instructor is always saying, "If your bum is sticking out in this pose, tuck in your pelvis" and I feel like he is looking directly at me. I'm like, "Seriously, unless I can tuck my pelvis into the next county, my bum is going to stick out." I think he thinks I'm not trying. In fairness, I should add the I love the instructor, he is awesome and kind and gives a great yoga class. But, like so many male gym teachers, he has no concept that the architecture of the female body is quite different from the male body, especially in the pelvicular area (how I love making up words).

While making these I kept singing "Gym Pants, Gym Pants, I need gym pants!" to the tune of Sex Bomb by Tom Jones (link goes to video--mildly unsafe for work). I was practically giddy to get rid of the old pants. I don't think I have quite achieved Look Cute Every Day with these pants, but I am content to have moved up a notch from Look Horrible In Saggy-Crotch Pants Every Day. Now that I know how quick they are to make hopefully I won't put off replacing this set once they reach their expiration date! Although I would like to alter the pattern for those front crotch arrows--suggestions welcome.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Marie-Christine said...

Sounds like you need to change yoga instructors :-). We know it was invented by skinny men with long limbs, but normal people can do it too, without getting berated about their anatomy.

That said, technical fabrics -are- better, in this case. I'd recommend a good supplex/lycra mix, which breathes well and wears like iron, can also be used for sports bras. Or some wicking stuff, but watch out for the right stretch. For pants, why not go for some side-seam-less number? I've made some from Stretch-and-Sew, there are some from Kwik-Sew, I'm sure Jalie does too. 20mn sewing :-). Really.

As to the front wrinkles, they mean not enough room for the belly, not length but in width. Guess how I know?

Nancy K said...

Yeah it does sound like you need a different yoga instructor.
These are cute, the little bit of color at the waist is a nice touch, and they fit you! Happy exercising.

Ann Brodsky said...

These are great! I love the peek of color. Now your gym pants absolutely do fit with your Look Cute Everyday philosophy!

Little Hunting Creek said...

Aren't you happy that you made these? I agree with commenter above - add more width in the tummy area. Because I have the same issue and and it helped

Victoria said...

Nice knock-off (they look great) and nice abs!

MushyWear said...

Great job on your self-drafted workout pants. The little pop of color at the top is a nice detail! I love it, workout clothes are in the air, lots of great posts about them!

Audrey said...

Great workout gear! I know I am more motivated to work out when I can wear flattering, functional workout clothes. Your post makes me think about making some for myself. The fabric is falling apart on my old favorites. I appreciate your observations on features and wearability, like leaving off pockets, and using dark fabrics (I know what you mean, when did I start sweating down there?) They say the ability to have a flat muscular stomach is genetic. It is definately not in my gene pool. The important thing is to be fit and healthy!

Karin said...

I like the little touch of colour you added at the top of your all your pants.

I thought yoga instructors were supposed to be nice!?! I think yoga has probably change since my last brush with it 20 years ago, when to two hippie types swung by my liberal arts college to give us free lessons in the library!

McVal said...

Good job! My workout is sorting my fabric stash... and running out to the car to pick up kids. I do need some more comfy clothes tho. Thanks for the inspiration!

Samina said...

If that peek of color at the waistband isn't cute, I don't know what is! I really like the way that looks.

Uta said...

Great pants! I love the contrast color peeking out on top; I may have to steal that idea. Kudos for working out so faithfully! I think the instructor is just clueless, don't let it bother you. (I also think your stomach looks just fine. Just because the meadia won't show any stomachs that aren't totally flat doesn't mean that it's normal.)

kbenco said...

IMO, making sports clothes is noble. This is why my running shorts are horrible 10 year old baggy things from Target. Your new gym pants are excellent. I really like the contrast waistband.

meli88a said...

You are fearless! I've been meaning to sew some technical wear for YEARS. yours looks awesome and inspiring.

beth said...

Good job, as always! (I just bought the most recent Simplicity wrap top pattern based on your review a few posts back). Once upon a time I used to look a little like you (before kids and AGE), but I am still about your height and general proportion I would guess: and I have to disagree with the other commenters on the source of the arrows-- I think it is a too long crotch... Thanks for all the inspiration!

a little sewing on the side said...

You know what? That is CUTE sewing! really, look at the cute colors and the great fit. Your tummy is awesome. You look very fit.

Sew4Fun said...

Great pants! I love the peek of colour. They may be boring to sew but I always reach for my own sewn work-out clothes before RTW. They are just so much more comfortable.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, my first thought was "wow, that is a nice belly!" I miss my belly looking like that (actually I don't know if it's looked like that since I was 18... anyway...)

Cute gym clothes are a must, seriously. That being said, I've dawdled on copying a new pair from my fave old ones (which have some unfortunately-located holes :( ) for at least a couple of years now. You definitely need some sports-bras to match the pants cuteness, now. :)

Niki said...

I'm still trying to figure out where is the stomach you constantly talk about.

Cassie said...

Oh my! Gym clothes can be so beautiful (they're a huge industry here where I live in Australia - and one of our leading fashion sportswear brands started in my city - Lorna Jane).

You just need some inspiration!

I love drooling over my Lorna Jane and Belle Bustiere catalogues. Even the Nike womenswear can be inspiring (but a bit boring).

As a long time gym addict I'm finding that the funnest way to dress for the gym is to be open minded. I'll cut into tshirts that I was going to throw away, or wear the shorts that I fell asleep in (esp for early morning yoga classes).

Have fun with it!

Hmmm some links lets hoping that these don't count this comment as spam:


I just wish I had an overlocker. My basic sewing machine really struggles with stretch fabrics.

Shelley said...

I'm impressed! Four pairs! Utilitarian sewing always feels so good to do once it's all done.

Sue said...

Your work-outs are working for you - you look very fit. Good on you for making your own gym pants.

Paola said...

I have the same sticking-out posterior problem in Warrior II, but my female yoga teacher has never mentioned it!

Anonymous said...

I think you look great! You can tell by your photos the reason you wore those pants out - all those hours working out! I certainly can assure you that your stomach is not that of a 5 month pregnant woman! You are ripped! Oh yes, and I love your new pants.

Isabelle said...

Kudos for tackling intimidating technical sewing!
I too am impressed by how great you look and can really not see that tummy you feel so bad about - you look so fit!

I do believe you managed to achieve your look cute every day mantra. I love the coloured waistbands. Vraiment, bravo !!

daiyami said...

My female aerobics instructors also say things like "straight line down your back from head to toe" when stretching. Even I said it, when I taught aerobics for a wee bit, and that will never be me. It's part of the training.

The new gym pants AND your midriff look great!

(But, I have those exact same navy pants, and I don't think they look so bad on you. Or on me. Though my sister tells me they are terrible)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have those navy pants too - they make my legs look really short & stumpy, but for some reason (i.e. I'm lazy and cheap) they stay in my wardrobe.
I like the Lorna Jane clothes that Cassie linked to. I hate harem pants in general, but the workout pant version is kind of cute. Although probably less even flattering on me than those navy crops.

Angela said...

Oo.. those are nice!!

BrusselsSprout_Katharine said...

One seam pants are quick to sew but by definition sacrifice fit for ease of sewing. They are frumpy on me and a frsutrating waste of time and money. Side seams allow for the cut to be more flattering.
A crotch or underarm gusset is easy to draft yourself. Use a long, narrow diamond, judging the length and width yourself.

French_Seam said...

I'm in the middle of making McCalls 4261. Is that the kind of top you're looking for? (it's got a racer back)

TracyKM said...

I don't think you've ever seen a 5 month pregnant belly! Check out theshapeofawoman.com and see what it really means to look pregnant.
Other than that, the pants are really cute.