Saturday, September 17, 2016

I Hate Trouser Buttons

I've made a whole lot of trousers over the years and the placement of the trouser buttons on the waistband always irritates me to no end. Good lord. On an adult sized pair of trousers this issue isn't so bad since you have a longer waistband to work with but I was truly frustrated with the little hobbit trousers I have been working on for Benjamin, which I decided to make with pockets and a fly front like Bilbo's trousers in The Hobbit.

When you make normal trousers there are certain landmarks where you want your seams to fall. The side seams obviously should fall at the sides, and not a third of the way back onto the buttocks or creeping up towards the front hips. The center back seam should align with the center of the back, right? And the front seam should go down the center front. 

BUT WHAT THIS MEANS, and WHAT DRIVES ME CRAZY, is that the button on the waistband is NOT centered on the body. 

For trousers that do not require any more buttons on the waistband this is okay. It's not a big deal. But for any historical or historically-inspired trouser that requires waistband buttons to accommodate suspenders/braces this becomes an irritating thing. Ideally the suspender buttons should be symmetrical on the waistband. But then this means that one suspender button is closer to the center button than the other side. Or you could measure out the same distance from the center button to position the suspender buttons but this means that the suspender buttons are different distances from the side seams. Oh my gosh. This drives me nut. 

I could not get Benjamin's suspender buttons to look well no matter how I positioned them. So I just sewed the darn things to the inside of the waistband. Bilbo's suspenders in An Unexpected Journey button to the inside of the waistband so that is okay. But historically, visible buttons on the waistband to which the suspenders are attached is definitely a thing. 

So what did they do historically?
From CW Quartermaster
It seems like they didn't worry about it. Looking at originals the distances between suspender buttons and center front buttons are kinda all over the place, and are not necessarily symmetrical from side to side at all. It still bugs me.
From Augusta Auctions
Now, on drop front style trousers, like many of the male hobbits wore in the original Lord of the Rings, the center buttons and suspender buttons are definitely easier to make symmetrical. On a fly front, however, like Bilbo wore in The Hobbit, the off-center center front button is very much unavoidable.

Moral of story: drop front trousers are better.

But the good thing is, that yes, Benjamin's outfit is done! Here is the finished little costume:

The shirt is made based on the styles in the LoTR. It opens all the way down the front, has gathered sleeves and a rounded collar. It's not really historical at all. It's quite modern in how it is cut, especially with the shirt opening all the way down the front. I wish now that I had made the shirt more 1860's style with a short placket but oh well. This just means that Benjamin cannot really use this shirt for any historic era. It is strictly hobbit attire.

I made his trousers like Bilbo's in The Hobbit mainly because I wanted to avoid the work that goes into a fall front trouser. Eh, a fly front isn't much less work. And then I could have avoided the whole button issue. But I like these. 

(Also, I promise that these look a lot better in real life than they do in the pictures. The photos make them looked washed out and wrinkly. Their true color is almost mossy green and the fabric is a soft mid weight herringbone weave with a faint red stripe.)

They are made to mid-19th century pattern shapes except shortened, of course, to just below the knee. While the style is historical he can't really use them for any other time period just because, well, he's 2. And historically he'd still be in dresses for at least another year or so. So, the trousers are strictly hobbit attire as well.

In movie stills from LoTR the little boys can often be seen wearing dark colored trousers and matching or dark colored suspenders.

I used the same fabric to make what is called in living history circles "poor boy" suspenders; two finished strips of fabric with buttonholes at each end, that button to waistband buttons. Like historical braces, these are not sewn together at the back but can move independently of one another. 

I made the backside a bit roomy just because little boys often need extra room in the seat to prevent tearing out the center seam. The back adjusts with a ribbon and eyelets. 

Benjamin does look adorable in this outfit but for some reason he hates it and screams if he thinks he has to wear it. Hopefully his hatred is short lived. We will see. 


1 comment:

  1. I can see why it bugs you. I've never made a pair of trousers, but that would bother me, too. Fly fronts bother me. I make my husband's boxer shorts. They are super fast to make, but the fly is always the longest, most frustrating part. I keep thinking I'm doing something wrong and one time it will all fall into place and be easy, but I've made many pairs of them and the fly frustrates and bemuses me every time.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!