Dhoti

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.

Dhoti Pattern

Dhoti Pattern

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.

Using Inseam

Using Inseam

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!

Elephantine Waist

Elephantine Waist

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

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.

Dhoti Worn

Dhoti Worn

(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.

 

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About jay

I design and draft patterns
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14 Responses to Dhoti

  1. mrsmole says:

    Absolutely fascinating to watch those videos…mind blowing in fact…we western sewers have so little experience with such fashions. The kite style could be made up in no time! Not sure any of these styles would work in public in my rural village but maybe having a cool pair of pants that breathe would be of some use in the sewing room. The kite style looked as though you could hide things in those side pleats/drapes….sugar free candies perhaps? What are you wearing with your white pair?

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  2. I made a pair of ‘indian’ pants for a client some years ago. Sho loved them and wore them during the few hot days we had in the UK summer. I admit to coveting them at when they were made but I still haven’t made any for me.
    Thanks for directing me to the you tube videos.

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    • jay says:

      Heat seems to be the key element for this style. In the light jersey you don’t feel the garment at all, it just wafts around a bit as you walk.

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  3. jay says:

    I photographed this whilst wearing an old long sleeved Tee, hence the cut off picture mrsmole. I think they are often worn with a long tunic. It would be tempting to try turning one of the side drapes into a pocket, wouldn’t it?

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  4. Jude says:

    The banana body type might be what we call the rectangle or ‘straight’, i.e. without a waist?

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  5. S says:

    I came over from Mrs. Mole’s blog and am glad I did. My boyfriend’s sister spends a lot of time in India and adopts Indian dress whilst there, but somewhat understandably doesn’t wear the garments back in Italy so I don’t get to see them. I think dhoti are men’s pants (?) in the region and so she likely doesn’t wear those, but who knows! Your pair looks great and has a lovely drape.

    I quite like the salwar pants and could see myself having a go at making a “kite” pair sometime – great tutorial in that video. My concern with these pant styles is usually that I would look like I had something in my pants, so to speak, although with a long tunic dignity would be preserved!

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    • jay says:

      I went with the term ‘dhoti’ from the Silberberg/Shoben book, and googling that did bring up a huge variety of styles, some menswear, some for women. There were also different names given for similar pants. I liked the ‘kite’ ones too.

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  6. prttynpnk says:

    I’m so fascinated with the pants under dresses/tunics looks and have wanted to branch from the legging styles to something more fun and flash- local reception be damned! I will courage up and try one of these tutorials soon!!

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  7. fabrickated says:

    I really enjoyed the you tube selection you mentioned here Jay. They opened my mind. I once had a pair of these made in a shop in Southall (Indian area) and they had that enormous waist, but they were very comfortable to wear. Of course they needed to be under a longer top. Also I have two pairs that are really leggings that I got in India and I wore them instead of knickers under a Kurta – I hope you don’t mind this detail but it made all the difference to feeling cool, while covered up, in hot weather.

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    • jay says:

      I did wonder, when snoop shopping, if that was the general way of wearing the tight version of these pants. After all, it makes sense, especially if the weather is very hot.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. seweverythingblog says:

    Nice post! The tight-leg/baggy-top pants you mention in the last paragraph are chooridars, made famous by the Mughal kings and queens of India 100s of years ago. They are traditionally made on the bias – so they would stretch to fit the leg tightly (before the days of stretch fabric). And, yes, they’re worn with long tops to cover the ugly, baggy top. They are still worn by fashionable people in South Asia.
    I really like your white dhoti pants; they have the look of a shalwar but also have the loose summer pants vibe of a western garment. I think you ought to wear them throughout the summer of 2016 🙂

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    • jay says:

      Thanks for the information on Indian trousers. I was hoping someone who knew about which term was correctly applied to which shape would comment, and you have!

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