Denim romper – part 1

The problem with being a boy is that, traditionally, you have a fairly limited range of clothing options. Shirts and T-shirts. Trousers and shorts. Jackets and jumpers. The odd vest on sunny days.

They all follow fairly traditional shapes. In silhouette terms, women are dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a near-endless array of flavours and combinations; men, by comparison, eat the same Boots Meal Deal every damn day.

I’m bored. I want more. And I recently spotted something I want for myself. Two words: Denim. Romper.


This image popped up in my Twitter feed, and I just knew I had to have one. Alas, some concerted Googling revealed absolutely nothing from the usual places (ASOS, Boohoo et al). I was going to have to make it.

It was time to invest in my first pattern.

Again, being a boy is a problem. There aren’t many patterns about for chaps, but luckily that hasn’t always been the case. The 1970s was home sewing’s heyday, and simultaneously a high point for menswear. I began searching online for a vintage pattern, and found exactly what I wanted almost instantly. (Etsy is a goldmine for this kind of thing, by the way.)


This delightful pattern was living in the U.S., and I got my grubby mitts on it (two weeks later) for the princely sum of £21. Not cheap, but money I’ll almost certainly make back by selling it on again.

It would need some fairly major adjustments to achieve what I want – the sleeves would need shortening (the short-sleeved option in the pattern is almost elbow-length on me), and I would need to cut off the legs. Those ugly patch pockets on the front would have to go (replaced by something more subtle in the seams), and I want bum pockets like the rest of my jeans.

I also decided to remove the collar (keeping only the stand, giving it a Mandarin-style effect). I trundled into Fabric Land in central Bristol last Saturday to procure textiles and notions, and an additional change was enforced: a lack of 24-inch dress zips meant swapping to a 22-incher.

For the uninitiated, Fabric Land is a kind of indoor jumble sale that is populated exclusively by Baby Boomer-aged women, and goth-y girls with a penchant for nappy pink fur and Hello Kitty. I bought four metres of calico (for practising with) and three of denim – overestimating fairly significantly, in case I mess things up.

Once home, I began cutting in calico. I followed the original pattern to the letter, including the full trousers, and things came together remarkably quickly. I settled on a new length for the shorts and the sleeves by marking with pen, cutting and rolling the hems.

By the end of the day – including lots of trying-on, the lightning-fast fraying of the edges, and several hearty expletives – I had reached this point:


For cutting the final denim, I’d need my new, bespoke pattern pieces. I could have cut the original paper but this would negate its sell-on-ability, so I decided to take the original apart with a seam ripper and lots of patience. With Marc’s help, I found the ideal position for the rear pockets (my first attempt put them somewhere on my thigh…) and marked roughly where I wanted the slot pockets to go.

And this is where we are now:


Up next: cutting and preparing the final fabric.


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