Mulling over the comfi trouser question brought me to the Dhoti pattern in a draping book I bought some years ago. The natural white jersey used in the zebra top seemed like the ideal fabric to try the pattern out. There are three versions in the book, I decided to pick the simplest, least fabric hungry.
The instructions for drafting this pattern, I’m sorry to say, are pretty dire. How they want the crotch curve drafted is left to the imagination. ‘Swing an arc from the centre back’ isn’t a lot of help when CB hasn’t been established. Where on it you’re throwing the arc from is left to guesswork. Positions for the points the arc is supposed to go through aren’t given, so that’s no help. That said, there’s a diagram with some minimal information . I decided, for better or for worse, to use the crotch curves from my trouser block, and wing everything else based on what it looked like in the diagram.
In a break from dissing the instructions I googled and found a plethora of Dhoti pant tutorials and videos. Here’s one. There are some differences between the Silberberg:Shoben pattern and most of the tutes I found.
There’s a hole cut for the ankle across the point of the triangular folded piece of cloth (bottom left). The others leave a space at the bottom of the seam. That would throw more cloth into a drape above the ankle at the outside of the leg and make the ankle area look pointier. This rtw version shows the effect of leaving the bottom of the inseam open instead of cutting the point off.
The S:S one curves the waistline – the aforementioned arc, going from back crotch, top left, to front crotch, bottom right in my photo. The others cut the waistline straight, one with a piece cut out at an angle at the top outer corner where the side seam would be positioned if there was one.
Making up is very simple. You stitch the inseam and stitch the front to back waistline from the side fold a little bit. The pattern draft suggests 15cms, I took an extra 8cm. This part drops forming the start of the cowl like folds, so my 23cms makes a bigger drop and eats up some of the waistline.
What was left was still a waistline that would fit round an elephant. It’s about 100 inches, so roooooooomy!
The instructions for pleating this were on the vague side too. As my fabric is stretchy, I pleated it to a bit less than my hip measurement. I’m not wild about a lot of gathers bunching at the waist on me.
The S/S draft has an elasticated waistband. Many of the tute examples had deep bands giving a smoother fit over the hips, with all the fullness falling below that level, possibly resulting in webbed legs as it must drop the crotch level. For this trial, I decided to use a very stretchy piece of black jersey, folded double but not elasticated, so it could be worn at the waist or folded down yoga-pant style.
Black Waistband in Jersey
They definitely fit the comfort bill. In a nice silk jersey, with a little more tweaking they could be stylish in drifting round the patio glass in hand mode. I’m in two minds about whether to class these as wearable or unwearable toile. You could definitely sleep in them, and they’d be ok for yoga if you don’t do headstands. You could slob-out in these on the morning dog sortie without raising too many eyebrows.
(See how the cowl forms at the side from the waistline seam?)
There were many style variations on internet. It would be nice to try them out, but how much dreamily drifting out to admire the sunset clutching a martini shaken not stirred do I do? Here’s a couple:-
Butterfly such fun!
Kite could be chic!
Styles cut from Western trouser blocks with side drapes have a similar look to some of the versions I found. The advantage of the Western method seems to me a greater control over where the drapes fall, but perhaps it’s just down to experience.
Does it strike you as funny that so much sewing discussion reverberates around fitting jeans to get the ideal shape posterior, with no drag lines, and these Indian styles completely bypass the question of hip fit – going for an exaggerated pear shape, with lots of fabric gathered or pleated at the top, narrowing sharply? When I was shopping with someone for Diwali party gear I snooped the cut of a trouser style with very narrow, tight fitting legs and a big baggy gusseted top, made in lightweight cotton. To a Western pattern drafter these looked almost like a caricature of pants, but I guess they are actually very practical in a hot climate. The rapid googling I did threw up information on many different regional styles of these garments, which seem to go by a variety of names. I also found a page of style advice. What’s a banana shaped body? I could only think of Dowager’s Hump, a Dhoti for my Dotage.