Prom dresses are some of my favorite articles of clothing to upcycle. Thrifted, that fancy fabric is cheaper by the yardage than purchased new, and they always include gorgeous embellishments and perfect hardware that careful cutting can preserve.
My kid wanted a pair of green pants in “fancy fabric” to go with the upcycled T-shirt shirt that she designed. She drew a slim-fitting upper with many detailed notes about construction (apparently elastic waistbands are now for babies?), and basically reinvented the bell bottom for the pants’ lower half. I took her design, three VERY unstylish old formal dresses, and a lot of stress and sweat, and sewed for her these pants of her dreams. Here’s how I did it:
If you sew for kids, it’s good to have in your toolbox a good, serviceable, basic pattern for the following styles: 1) wide leg pants, 2) skinny leg pants, and 3) leggings. With these patterns and accurate measurements, you can mix and match and work with any fabric or kid-created design. I also prefer, when I’m being fussy about fit, to cut two of each pattern piece, with seam allowance, and piece them, rather than fold the fabric double and cut one; if you really need to slim the pants down or add width in waist and/or leg, picking apart the side seam to do it is the easiest option.
Cutting two of each piece also gives you the freedom to cut from smaller areas of fabric, and especially to fussy cut interesting details or useful pieces of hardware. For instance, the bow on the kid’s right leg come from the front of one of the dresses; I cut the pants front specifically to include that detail.
Another detail that I was able to use from this same dress was the long invisible zipper on the back. I lined up my pattern piece for the left front pants leg to include this zipper. It’s entirely on the left side of the pants, then, and not centered, but since it’s an invisible zipper and there’s still a center seam, it’s barely noticeable, and the fun for the kid of having a looooong zipper that unzips all the way to her knee is way worth the missing symmetry.
It reminds me of a baby’s romper, but don’t tell the kid that. Those babies already ruined elastic waistbands for me; they’re not taking away my zippers, too!
Before I sewed the pants, I added patch pockets in front and back, using fabric from other green formal dresses for contrast. My kid had been very insistent that these pants had to have green sequins, and thank goodness, her grandmother thrifted her a dress that had just enough green sequins to make the pants’ front pockets.
After the pants were complete, I had the kid try them on and show me where she’d like the flare to begin, and I marked them, added a half-inch seam allowance, and cut them off. I’d planned to sew ruffles there, instead of traditional bell bottoms, but I messed up sewing them so many times and kept hating the way they looked (I think formal fabric is just too heavy to pull off the narrow ruffles needed for such a narrow leg), so I eventually scrapped that idea and, using a DIY bell bottoms tutorial from Henry Happened, I sewed a new set of pants leg bottoms from another green formal dress, added traditional bell bottoms, and sewed those onto the pants.
The kid LOVES her pants. I was worried about how well this “fancy” fabric would look with her upcycled T-shirt top, but as usual, the kid’s fashion design genius prevailed, and they look absolutely perfect together.