Cross two things off my summer sewing to-do list: work out a hidden inseam pocket, and sew capris. Done and done!
Frankly, I’m elated about these capris, even though they just appear to be a simple project at first glance. And technically they kind of are, but they signify a lot. Do you ever have sewing projects like that, where the project itself has a much more far-reaching impact than just the item you sewed?
In this case, what it means is that I’ve both worked out a sewing problem I’ve wanted to tackle for ages (well not a problem per se, as I’d never gotten around to trying it yet), and I now have a casual fit vintage trouser pattern that I can use as a launching point for capris, jeans, trousers and shorts. Both are things I’m really, really pumped about. So this one project means a lot for many future projects, hence the wider impact than a simple pair of capris might imply!
The hidden zipper in the pocket was actually a lot easier to work out than anticipated, and it only took one test pocket to make sure I was understanding things. I’m planning to do one or two tutorials on pocket zippers soon: one or two, because I haven’t decide if it’s worth rolling this as well as vintage-style slash pockets on jeans into one post, since they’re actually constructed in different ways. We’ll see. But stay tuned, as I need to mull all that over. I’m definitely too excited about this not to do a tutorial though!
Meanwhile, here’s a couple of inside looks.
You can add a shield (it’s not a fly obviously so I wouldn’t call it a fly shield, but basically a shield between the zipper and your skin), but I literally had no spare fabric to add one as it requires lengthening the waistband. You’d definitely want one if using a metal zipper.
(Worth mentioning my pocket shape below is pretty silly… it’s because I was tracing it off jeans and not thinking about functionality so much, so obviously if I’d like anything other than my hand to stay in my pocket, it needs to be re-shaped at the bottom. Easy fix next time. 😉 )
The short of the construction is that for plain inseam pockets like this, you insert an exposed zipper inside the inseam pocket piece that attaches to the back leg. And other than adding length to your waistband (and if it’s a shaped waistband, probably changing that slightly), that’s literally about it. I mean obviously, me being me, a future tutorial will come with a boatload more details, don’t worry.
I was both shocked and delighted at the ease of this little trick. Why don’t more patterns have these?!! I mean, I know most modern patterns have invisible zippers so if you that’s your preference, there’s not really a need or desire to hide a zipper in a pocket. But vintage patterns, I guess that’s more surprising to me. It would allow a lot of patterns that have lapped side zippers and one or no pockets to have two inseam pockets.
You wouldn’t want to do these on tight-fitting cigarette pants or pencil skirts, as not only would the pockets splay out extra noticeably so you’d be looking deep into the pocket (think what RTW pants look like if they have inseam pockets and your hips are bigger than the pants are really meant for), but I suspect you might have a tough time squeezing into them. So you need some positive ease around the hips for sure.
And that’s probably the main reason I’d never tried this yet, as I didn’t have a pattern in my arsenal that fit the bill. Most (well, all) of the trousers or jeans I’ve sewn in the last few years have been pretty fitted, and I hadn’t been bothering to put pockets in my skirts lately. Now that I knew I wanted to give myself some breathing room (literally) for awhile in the pants department, it was the perfect time to try this.
The pattern I used is Simplicity 4401, which I knew from a muslin I’d made over two years ago had a nice amount of ease (mentioned in my last post). It’s a 60s pattern but definitely a typical trouser style for the 50s, too.
It was the perfect pattern to revisit now. I did a couple of new muslins, to try out the hidden pocket and because I wanted to both give the waist a smidge more room and fuss with the leg width and crotch curve. And I’m going to be honest with you: I did something that really only comes from having made dozens of pants, and adding in a bit of daring as well as sewing instinct, which is changing the rise kind of on the fly. I liked the fit of my original muslin, but the rise felt too long. I don’t mean it hit too high on my torso, I mean there was a lot of excess fabric between my body’s crotch and the crotch of the pants, if you get the picture. It didn’t look bad, but just seemed… unnecessarily long. Since I wanted to take in the thighs a bit, I just kind of guessed at where I wanted things to fall, took a significant hunk out of the inseam on both the front and back leg, and raised the rise about 3/4″-1″.
When all was said and done with the muslins, I was really happy with the fit, and the zipper in the pocket worked and looked good, too. And as a huge bonus, I thought I was going to have to use the pattern to make Bermuda shorts because I had only 1 1/2 yards of this vintage tropical seersucker fabric, but because I narrowed the leg enough, I could juuuust squeeze out some capris! I managed to fit everything including all the pocket pieces, and just had to seam the waistband at the right side. No biggie.
I should mention I’m wearing this with a 60s top I sewed several years ago when I was really just getting into vintage sewing. It’s a size too big now and the darts are way too high, but I still like it and wear it just the same.
I have to say I really love the fabric I used for these capris. I’m not sure the era, but it’s a vintage piece of seersucker I got quite cheaply on Etsy. The colors are so vibrant and the print is great! It does bag out throughout the day but since the pattern isn’t meant to be super fitted to begin with, I’m okay with that. I never really gave seersucker much thought before as I’d always associated it with pastel colors and men’s suiting stripes. But it’s pretty lovely to wear these on a hot day, so I will definitely be on the lookout for more seersucker prints for summer.
Obviously I’m pretty delighted with these capris! The only thing I might change in future versions is to narrow the leg a tad at the end, but I was worried if I narrowed them then they’d get hung up around my knee. They’re that awkward length that pulls up over your knee when you sit down, you know? I’d probably want future capris a bit longer anyway. But I literally couldn’t even have cut these 1/4″ longer, and did a teeny narrow hem as it is. So for versions with longer legs or for trousers, I’ll be narrowing it a bit for sure.
But possibly even better than these capris themselves is knowing I now have a pattern that with minor changes I can use to make more capris, or 1950s-inspired trousers that aren’t cigarette pants. I’m also in the process of making bigger changes to turn this pattern into one for a pair of vintage jeans. Easier said than done with the changes (like drafting out 8 damn darts!), but after four muslins I’m now onto the denim. Which means pretty soon three of my goals from my inspiration post will be a reality (50s jeans, hidden zipper in pocket, capris).
And hey, if I do nothing else on my list this summer (like I’m totally queue jumping to make a 70s-does-30s version of the new Closet Case caftan pattern Charlie in tropical rayon for a beach pajama vibe), I’ll still feel pretty accomplished! 😉
It doesn’t have to be pants! I have two high end RTW skirts from countries that don’t exist any more (think made in East Germany and Czechoslovakia) that have the zippers in the pockets. These are also skirts that are pleated at the waist so there’s room to play. But it’s such a magical thing to do!
Oh yes yes, it could absolutely be used on skirts! That’s really interesting to know about your high end RTW skirts having that. It’s odd to me that it’s so elusive in the annals of sewing, because it’s so clever and practical at the same time! Now I’m feeling like all the pocketses! I can’t wait to use this about a hundred times more, ha ha.
That is so clever!
And it’s deceptively simple! And even had the added bonus that if the zipper doesn’t look perfect or you can’t find a matching one, who cares–it’s buried inside your pocket. Even YOU won’t really see it again! 😉
Super-freakin-cute!! And I love the hidden zipper. I had one of those on a vintage pair of trousers and always marveled at how genius it was. Nice work on reverse engineering one!
Thanks! I know just what you mean! I think the first time I saw it on a vintage pair of pants I was like “what is this magic?!” But when I sat down to finally work it out, it was waaaaay easier than I expected!
perfect! I love that hidden zip – you’re so clever for figuring it out 🙂
Thanks Charlotte, I felt pretty clever too if I’m honest. 😉
katie marcu says
Those are fab! I love that zip pocket closure detail, excited for the tutorial, and so great to have a well-fitting TNT you’r going to use over and over. I have a relaxed-fit vintage trouser pattern where the pocket is left completely open to let you get in and out, with a button at the waist to secure – I think the new Megan Nielsen Flint pattern uses the same technique, but this zip version make the pocket functional too which is super!
Thanks! That moment when you know you now have a TNT is one of the best sewing feelings, isn’t it??
They look so great! I love the hidden zip; how clever is that?!
Thanks, I’m pretty excited by that little zipper if you can’t tell! 😉
Kristen Tarpy says
You are an AMAZING seamstress! I love all the vintage patterns, clothing, fabric…. well… I just love it all!!!! I wish I could sew half as well as you. I have been sewing since I was about 8 years old…. I even had a job as a seamstress in a bridal shop doing alterations. I had an Etsy shoppe & made pill box hats, mittens, cowls out of recycled wool & cashmere sweaters. I also knit & crochet! You are an inspiration to me! Thank you! I look forward to your next project!
Aw thanks, Kristen! 😀
gorgeous zip!! I’ll try it!!
I think you’ll be really pleased with the result!
Zowie! Those are fantastic! I love the whole side zip addition (as a fellow nerd for sewing). I just started a vintage Vogue reissue–9189 that I think has that hidden side zip in the pocket but maybe closer to the side seams. I’m just now getting to the sewing of the pockets and zip, so I’ll know better soon but it’s hard to tell from the illustration and directions whether it’s the same as yours. Check it out—cute 60’s pattern with short shorts, longer shorts, pants option. I’m making mine with some yellow and green vintage plaid seersucker! Can’t wait to see your tuturial; you always give the best ones!
Ooh, please do report back if Vogue 9189 does end up having that zipper in the pocket, I can’t tell from the envelope art or description. (Side note, one of the reasons I wish modern patterns showed the shape of pattern pieces on the envelope, because sometimes, not always, you could tell something like this by looking at the shape of the pieces!) It does look promising. That’s a reissue pattern I hadn’t seen yet but I may try it sometime as I really like the fit in the leg. It looks like what a few of my actual vintage pattern envelopes look like, but then have turned out to be much bigger on me in the legs. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Okey doke—I’m now sewing in the zipper and it turns out it’s right at the side seam. Oh well! I think it’s hidden by a flap though—the directions are weird and I’m slooooowly making my way through so I’ll let you know how it turns out. I’m excited to see how it fits as well! (and if I can match the dumb plaid—-holding breath!)
Loving your trousers, and that zip is genius! I’ve never seen that before, and it just makes so much sense!
Thanks! It’s definitely something that’s *mostly* been lost to time (although I know there are a few examples of it in the modern world). It’s such a clever place to put a zipper, I think I’m going to be doing it a LOT!
Stina Ljung says
I’ll keep my eyes glued for the promised tutorial/s.
I am utterly in love with this fabric!! It is just so much fun!
So brilliant! These pants look great, good on you!
I love pockets anyway, but was recently trying to add hidden zip pockets into a skirt for travel (passport- or at least travel-card sized), so as to have things secure, so I’m with you on the hidden pockets thing all the way! I like the look of yours too, so it will be great to have another method in my sewing box, as it were!
I have a pair of RTW capris that have a short slit on the outside seam, which helps solve the narrow-knee issue.
Can’t wait for your tutorial for this genius pocket zip! In the meantime, thanks for sharing so many photos: I might have a go at figuring it out on my next pair of trousers. Nothing like a good puzzle to solve 🙂