More About Waistband In Skirts And Pants  

If you enjoy sewing apparel, chances are that you'll encounter waistbands cut on the straight-of-grain frequently, especially with the popularity of separates in our wardrobes. In fact, so many of our garments have waistbands, and we open and close them so often, we tend to take them for granted. So let's take a look at why these waistbands deserve closer attention, and how to sew perfect ones.

Functions of a waistband

Waistbands are one way to finish the top edge of skirts, pants, and other separates. They're also part of the opening that provides entry for the garment. And perhaps most importantly, they anchor the garment at or near the waist. This small strip of fabric performs a big job: a waistband "carries" the entire garment.

Structuring waistbands

Because of these various functions, it's very important that waistbands are supported properly, which is accomplished through interfacing the waistband fabric. There are many interfacing materials that can be used, and the best one to choose depends on the amount of support and structure that's required for the particular garment style, fabric, and width of waistband. (Typically, wider waistbands need more support than narrower ones.) By experimenting with fusible interfacing, sew-in interfacings, and products specifically made for making waistbands, you'll discover which give you the results you like the most with specific fabrics and styles.

Selecting a waistband interfacing

The best way to choose which interfacing product to use for the inner support of a waistband is to make several test samples for each garment you make. Simply apply a few different interfacings to scraps of fabric after you've cut out the garment. With your fingers, feel the difference between the samples. You can also make a practice waistband if you want to make sure the interfacing in question will do a perfect job. Place the practice waistband around your body and try bending over and sitting. Does it keep it's shape or does it fold over? Is it too stiff? Does it feel comfortable? You'll also want to take into account what kind of wear the garment will receive; what kind of cleaning process the garment will undergo; and what type of closure the waistband will have.

Waistband materials

Waistbands are usually cut from the same fabric as the garment. Patterns generally call for the length of the waistband to be cut using the fabric's length-of-grain. This is preferable because the cross-grain normally has more inherent give than the length-of-grain. For design purposes, waistbands can be made from contrasting fabrics, or even from ribbon or other trims.

How wide should a waistband be? Most frequently, waistbands are either 1-1/4" wide or 1-1/2" wide, but there is no rule that says you must make your waistbands either of these widths. Some people like a narrower waistband - even as narrow as 3/8"; others prefer a wider waistband - 2" or more. Both comfort and style (design) will influence how narrow or wide you choose to make your waistbands.

Getting a comfortable circumference. Some people prefer snug waistbands and others prefer a looser fit. Commercial patterns have approximately 1" of ease in the waistband pattern (i.e., the finished waistband will be 1" larger than the waist measurement for the given size). But people's preferences vary a lot: some people like their waistbands equal to their actual waist measurement; some like their waistbands larger than their waist measurement; and some people like their waistbands smaller than their waist measurement. This is a personal choice - and part of the benefit of having garments custom tailored is that you can make a waistband fit exactly how you like it!

Waistband closures

Some people choose a buttonhole and button closure, while others prefer a skirt/pants hook and eye (this is a flat hook-and-eye set that is about 1/2" long). The choice is yours, depending on the look you want to create. Using a hook-and-eye closure results in a very clean looking garment, while buttons can be a decorative element.

By Sarah Veblen


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