Chaparral Overalls / Fit and Modifications
In the last post, I talked about tips for working with linen, and before that, I shared my overalls! In this post, I'm talking all about making adjustments! If making adjustments seems a bit scary, I'd encourage you to just go for it and to work with a muslin. I'm not an expert on fit, or sewing for that matter, but much of what I've learned has come from trial and error, making mistakes, reading and researching things I don't understand, and really seeing my body for what it is. I used to think that there were certain styles I couldn't wear because I'm shorter, but what I realized is that the reason I didn't like the way something looked on me wasn't because of the style or that there was something wrong with me, it was because it didn't fit my body. Each of us is unique and I think one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is to learn to sew for our specific body and learn how to make the adjustments that will benefit us the most. I'm still growing in the knowledge of understanding my body, but the more I learn how to make things that really fit me, the more I believe that my body is beautiful, which, I think, is one of the greatest gifts sewing our clothing can give us.
For my Chaparral Overalls, I worked with two muslins, making slight adjustments to get a fit that was comfortable for me. These overalls were a breeze to sew and came together quickly after the muslins, and I love how they turned out! In this post, I'm sharing each adjustment I made and the reasons why they were necessary for me. This post is not an extensive how-to for each change, but rather standard adjustments I made for a custom fit, and it's my hope that even though you might need different adjustments from me, this post will be helpful in giving you an idea about some types of changes that can be made with this garment. I am 5'1", so if you're petite, you may find these exact adjustments to work for you. Additionally, if you're taller, doing the opposite of my adjustments may be helpful.
Adjustments & Changes
1. Sewed side seams, crotch seam, bib to pants seam with 5/8" seam allowance instead of 1/2" directed in the pattern.
2. Removed 1/2" from each side of the front and back body pieces.
3. Shortened the front inseam and back inseam by 1 3/4".
4. Removed 1" from leg width for front and back legs (thigh adjustment).
5. Used a 1" seam allowance when attaching straps to the front bib.
6. Adjusted crotch curve.
7. Added topstitching throughout.
8. Shortened the front bib 1".
9. Added a separate rolled cuff.
First, let's talk about muslin fabric. Muslin is an inexpensive cotton fabric that's typically used to make practice versions of a garment to attain the best fit possible and to practice techniques that may be unfamiliar. Sometimes I'll use a fabric that's been sitting in my stash instead of actual muslin fabric, and if it's the correct type of material that the pattern calls for, this can be considered a wearable muslin, meaning it's wearable in the end. Traditional muslin isn't a fabric that you'd want to wear. I've made both wearable muslins and true muslins, but these days if I'm going to make a muslin, I prefer to use actual off white muslin fabric. I've used scrap fabric with patterns in the past but find it challenging to see the shape and details of the garment design, so these days, I stick to a solid color.
1. 5/8 Inch Seam Allowance for Pants
My measurements put me in close the size S, so I sewed that up for the first muslin, and it was overall too large. To make this pattern fit more like an XS in the bottoms, I decided to use a 5/8" seam allowance instead of the 1/2" seam allowance that was instructed in the pattern. I used this seam allowance for the inseam, side seams, and when I attached the bib to the pants.
Increasing or decreasing seam allowance is one of the simplest ways to either increase or decrease ease. Ease can be thought of as the amount of room there is between your body and the garment. If you want clothing to have a tighter fit, you'd want less ease, and to accomplish this, you could increase the seam allowance. In contrast, if you wanted a garment to have a looser fit, you want more ease, and could do so by decreasing the seam allowance.
2. Removed 1/2 Inch From Side Seam of Front and Back Bib Pieces
Because I used a 5/8" seam allowance, which is a larger seam allowance than the pattern was designed for, the pant waist ended up being smaller; therefore, when I went to attach the bib, it was too large. I ended up removing 1/2" from the side seam of the front and back bib pieces on each side and then sewed a 1/2" seam allowance as directed in the pattern to get the bib width to match the pant waist width.
If you decide to use a different seam allowance to change fit, keep in mind how much you added or removed so that later, you will be able to make the appropriate adjustment for any seams that meet. Taking notes during your sewing process may be helpful, especially if you are making a muslin first.
3. Front and Back Inseam Adjustment
Pants are always too long for me at the inseams, so this is one adjustment I made on my first muslin because I knew the rise would need to be shortened. I am 5' 1" and often have to reduce the rise in pants between 1.5" - 2". I shortened the front and back rise by 1 3/4" in the end, which was the perfect amount for me. Sometimes, though, going from the muslin to the real fabric can make a difference in fit, which is why when I attached the bib to the pants I ended up using a 5/8" seam allowance instead of 1/2" like I did on the muslin to bring the pants up just a little more, and I was happy with the fit.
4. Thigh Adjustment
When I made my first muslin, there was some waviness in the thigh area and a bit of extra fabric, which meant I needed to make a thigh adjustment. I removed 1" from the upper inseam area on both the front and back pant pieces, and as I graded it back into the original inseam line toward the bottom of the pant legs, I straightened the inseam a bit.
5. Attaching Straps to the Front Bib
I decided to use a 1" seam allowance instead of 1/2" seam allowance that was directed in the pattern when I attached the straps to the front bib to decrease the length of the strap portion on the bib. I wanted the shoulder seam to sit in the middle of my shoulder, which is where it should sit, and this did the trick. Since I'm petite, it's common for straps to be too long for me. If you're also petite you may find this helpful. Additionally, if you are taller, lengthening the straps here might give you a better fit.
6. Crotch Curve Adjustment
When I made my first muslin, I noticed there was a lot of extra fabric at the back crotch seam, so I used my crotch curve to remove some of the excess material. But because I knew the actual garment made from linen would hang differently, I decided to make the adjustments on the real linen version and not the pattern or muslin. Because of this, I sewed the pants together differently than directed in the pattern. First I sewed up the side seams, then the inseams, and then sewed together the two pant legs along the front and back inseams. Sewing the legs together this way gave me more access to the crotch seam, making the adjustment here easier.
To use this method for assembling pants, first, turn one leg wrong side out and the other right side out, and place the right side out leg inside the other so that both right sides are facing, then sew one continuous crotch seam from back to front. In the third photo below, you can see how I took in the lower crotch area, scooping it a bit to remove excess fabric and for a more comfortable fit. The seam most inward is the one I used in the end.
7. Additional Topstitching
I like to add topstitching wherever I can because I like the look of it, but I also think it helps to make a garment stronger, especially those made from linen.
Areas I added topstitching include:
• Along the back darts (1/8" away from seam)
• Both leg side seams (1/4" away from seam)
• Seam attaching the bib to pants (1/4" away from seam)
• Second seam on pockets (1/4" away from main seamline)
8. Bib Length Adjustment
I like the top of my pants to sit around my belly button or true waist (which is typically about 1" higher than the belly button), so in addition to the pants being too long, the front bib piece was also too long and needed to be shortened. Because this adjustment is specific to this pattern, I'm sharing how to do that in a separate post, Front Bib Adjustment. If you're taller and need to lengthen the bib, this post will also be helpful.
9. Rolled Cuff
The last change I made was to add a separate cuff to the hem. When I was making the muslin, I kept rolling up the pant legs because they were too long but ended up liking the look of it. When I got to the real thing, I was unsatisfied with the serged side seams facing out, so I decided to add a separate cuff to eliminate the visibility of serging. I'll be explaining how to do that hack in the final post of this series on the Chaparral Overalls. Stay tuned! - Emily