Double Vintage 1970s-does-1930s Wide Legged Pants

1970s-does-1930s white twill trousers by American Duchess

If you’ve been following me for awhile you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession with vintage pants. Although I own and wear modern low-rise jeans, I much prefer trousers with something closer to a natural rise. I go so far as to shop in the men’s section just to find pants that come up above my pelvic bone (I’m not ashamed!).

For a long time I was deathly afraid to sew my own trousers, but too many years of going without forced me into it. And you know what? Pants aren’t nearly as hard as I thought they would be!

The Wearing History “Smooth Sailing” trouser pattern converted me. The instructions are super easy, and I made a pair in 5 hours. Since then I’ve become a bit of a vintage pants fiend, diving into bins of thrift store sewing patterns looking for any design with a natural waist and a wide leg.

And there are many.

The fantastic thing about pants patterns is that you don’t need a true 1930s pattern to make a great pair of 1930s pants. Trouser patterns really didn’t change much between the ’30s and the ’80s: a straight-legged, high-waisted pant is a straight-legged, high-waisted pant.

Where there are changes may be in the crotch depth (1930s and 40s crotch depth is lower than 60s and 70s); treatment of darts, pleats, or lack thereof at the waistline; and method of closure. All of these things are easy to alter for a more authentic design, but to be completely honest, there was so little difference between the ’70s pattern I used for these pants, and a real 1930s pattern, that I didn’t bother with alterations.

About the pattern and my make:

Etsy seller: PatternTreasury

The pattern is Simplicity 6659, which contains a maxi skirt, the wide-legged pants, and a wrap top. The pattern envelope is oh-so-70s, complete with gag-inducing leopard print jumpsuit thing, but the diagram on the back shows a basic pattern for a wide-legged pant resembling styles from the 1930s.

Etsy Seller: PatternTreasury

I made these pants from white rayon/cotton twill. They’re lined in white cotton muslin, which makes them much heavier than I originally planned, but makes them opaque. There is *a lot* of fabric in these pants, but they’re a ton of fun to wear.

Interestingly there are no waist darts or pleats. They’re flat at front and back. I did a slight full-belly adjustment to help them hang smoothly over my 30-something abdominal addition and handles of love at the back. I also moved the zipper to the side.

The result? Great pants. I freaking love these pants. Paired with any number ’30s style blouses, these pants are unbelievably chic. Score one for the 1970s!

1970s-does-1930s white twill trousers by American Duchess
My white twill trousers paired with a thrifted ’30s-look top, red fedora hat from Etsy, and mustard yellow ’40s style platform shoes by b.a.i.t.

So next time you’re at the thrift store, even if you don’t see any telltale yellow envelopes in that bin of old sewing patterns, have a flick through and look for any good basic pants patterns. They’re easy t0 make, fit well, and have a great vintage look!

p.s. You’ll want to wear your big girl knickers with pants like these – yup, “granny panties,” all the way up to the waist. You may feel silly in them when getting dressed, but they make all the difference in keeping the line of your pants smooth. More on light shaping and vintage underpinnings later…


  • Seamstress Erin

    July 10, 2015 at 6:09 PM

    I just scored that pattern myself! I was eyeing the top on it but dang do those trousers look great on you. I might need to make both. And soon!

  • Ann

    July 10, 2015 at 7:43 PM

    You look delightful in those!

    Thanks for the information about the change in fitting the crotch seam between the 1930's and the 1970's! In the 1960's and 1970's, my mother sewed pants for me and she tended to set the crotch seam half-way to the knee. I never understood why until now, because it didn't seem like a logical way to fit them. Now I can ask her about it!

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 10, 2015 at 11:53 PM

      Yup, half-way to the knee sounds very much like a 1930s crotch depth – not the most fun to wear, with all that fabric between your legs! The crotch depth on these '70s pants wasn't up in all one's business, though, which was nice.

  • Bianca Esposito

    July 10, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    These are just beautiful, endlessly chic! I am still working up the courage to make some pants, I'd love an Agent Carter worthy 1940's pair!

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 10, 2015 at 11:54 PM

      Go for it! Jump right in! They're really not as hard as they seam – just choose a pair that has a side zipper first. A fly front is more difficult.

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    July 11, 2015 at 4:55 AM

    Cheryl Teague!! She was the IT girl of the 70s. Kinda young, kinda wow, Charlie! That tie top btw came back in with a vengeance in the early 90s, with poofier sleeves. I made a ton of them in organza for posh middle aged women.

  • AuntieNan

    July 11, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    Oh yeah, I had a vogue pattern that was just dandy. Made a pair of lounging pants for Amanda in Private Lives in black rayon.mside zip, no pockets, what a line!!! You look so cute! And for those who don't want full on granny panties, I suggest Jockey's French cut!

  • Anonymous

    July 27, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    Yesterday I watched a show called "Hollywood, My Home Town." It's a bunch of clips from home movies made by actor Ken Murray from 1927 when he moved to Hollywood to the mid-60's. In one clip from the late 20's to early 30's, Jean Harlow is on a golf course wearing a snazzy pair of very wide-legged, white pants that look exactly like your fabulous pants! Very glamorous! –Kris


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