Thin and Stout Waists

In our day and age, it is somewhat rare to find a man with measurements corresponding to Devere’s proportionate man, that is to say a chest of 37.5 inches and a waist of about 30 inches. For that lucky one with the proportional measurements, the waist line is drawn basically square across, or perhaps lowered by an 1/2 graduated inch. This is what is illustrated in my drafting instructions, as well.

For a man with a thinner waist, your Front measurement will be slightly shorter than the proportional 1/2″, resulting in a waist that slopes downwards at the front.

And for a man with a stout waist, as all too many of us have with all of that relaxed muscle, the Front measurement will be greater than the proportional, resulting in a waist that slopes upward, sometimes 2″ or more above the side seam construction line.

Here is a table giving the rough measurements that the waistline might be moved upwards or downwards corresponding to the size of the waist (half waist). You should compare this to the Front measurement you took and see how well things line up on your draft. If something is wildly off, this is a good place to check.

Waist of14″or less,require a slope of3/4″downwards.
Waist of15″or less,require a slope of1/2″downwards.
Waist of16″or less,require a slope of1/4″downwards.
Waist of17″or less,require the waistdrawnsquare.
Waist of18″or less,require a slope of 1/4″upwards.
Waist of19″or less,require a slope of1/2″upwards.
Waist of20″
or less,require a slope of3/4″upwards.
Waist of21″or less,require a slope of1″upwards.
Waist of22″or less,require a slope of1 1/4″upwards.
Waist of23″or less,require a slope of1 1/2″ upwards.
Waist of24″or less,require a slope of1 3/4″upwards.
Waist of25″or less,require a slope of2″ upwards.
Waist of
26″or less,require a slope of 2 1/4″upwards.
Waist of27″or less,require a slope of2 1/2″upwards.

To apply this to your draft, you’ll simply take your front measurement and use that as the starting point of your waist line, sloping down or up to the construction line made by the side seam measurement. Then the rest of the pattern is drawn as usual based on this waist line.

Here’s an illustration giving many of the possible options so you can see how the pattern changes as the waist becomes thinner or stouter.

For men with very large stomachs, you may need to add a little roundness to the front of the fly, as shown.

Your Progress

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Adjust your trousers for waist size.

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Completing the Draft

Now that you’ve got the main part of the draft complete, it’s time to add a few details to complete the draft and also make construction a little easier later on.

The first thing I like to do is add a horizontal line to mark the knee position. This is simply done by dividing the leg seam in half, giving us the position of the bottom of the kneecap. This will later be transferred to the trouser fabric to aid in construction.

Trouser Fly

Next up is laying out the trouser fly. I prefer to make my flies about 1 1/2″ in width, though that can vary slightly depending on your preferences and originals you may be copying.

Start by drawing a parallel line 1 1/2″ from the top fly edge. It is then tapered down to meet at the diagonal construction line coming from point A.

Next add a 1/4″ seam allowance all of the way around. I usually use a quilting ruler to aid in this.

Buttonhole Layout

I usually just layout the buttonholes directly on the fly when I’m ready, but you can also add them to your fly pattern if you prefer.

Buttonholes should be about 7/8″ in length, or a 1/8″ longer than the width of your buttons, and spaced evenly starting about an inch below the top of the fly. Depending on your size you could have anywhere from 4 – 7 buttons. I’m pretty sure I even made a small pair of trousers a while back with only three buttons.

Each buttonhole should begin about a 1/4″ from the edge of the fly. They should also be perpendicular to the fly, so each buttonhole will be at a slightly different angle.

Also, be sure not to space the buttonholes too closely together, rather keep them roughly 1 1/2″ apart at least. You need room to get the buttons through with your fingers.

Finally, you’ll want to mark the bottom point of the fly on both the trouser front and the fly itself to ensure your sewing lines up later on. Mark as shown by the red dots, though make your marks smaller than mine as to be more accurate!


Next, we will draw the waistband, which is fairly simple. This is a basic pattern I’ve used over the years, and below you’ll find some more ideas straight out of period manuals that are drafted with the same general process.

First, draw out your baseline, which is equal to your waist measurement (half your full waist, remember).

Then square up at each end. On the left side, the front, I typically make that 1 1/2″ wide, narrowing down to 1″ to 1 1/4″ inch on the right, or back side of the trousers.

Next, draw the top of the waist band from the front edge, about halfway towards the back, keeping parallel to the original construction line.

And finally, connect the remaining section of the waistband with a gradually slanted line.

A quarter inch seam allowance is added along the top and bottom edges of the waistband. At either end, I like to add about 3″ allowance to leave room to turn the edges back later. 

Finally, add a buttonhole about 1/2″ from the front edge of the waistband, centered. 

Here’s a similar version from W. S. Salisbury from 1865. This one has rounded ends, and the top is a slightly curved line rather than being formed by two straight lines.

Next comes from Devere and is narrower in width at the front, I’d guess about an inch, and about a 1/2″ wider at the back with some interesting shaping.

Finally, for those with very thin waists, Devere shows a curved waistband, which will help give it a better fit over the hips and narrow waist. I’d suggest starting with a 1″ or 2″ deep curve and experimenting to see what works best for you, if you do indeed have that narrow waist.

Back Buckle

Finally, to finish off the draft, here are a couple of back buckle patterns. The first is from Salisbury’s system, which I scaled up and slightly edited for dimensions to fit a 1″ wide brass buckle.

The second is based on a pair of trousers worn by Ulysses S. Grant. A client of mine was able to view the uniform and get me the measurements for the belt.

Rather than having you draft your own belts, I’ve decided to just give you the pattern, especially as they don’t change in size. They’re rather easy to draw on your own anyway with some basic geometry. A 1/4″ seam allowance is included.

Seam Allowances

Now that you’ve got all of your pattern pieces finalized, it’s time to add a 1/4″ seam allowance around the trouser front and back. Begin by tracing the pattern pieces onto a fresh sheet of paper.

Next, using a quilting ruler or a pattern maker’s ruler (I actually just discovered these!), add a 1/4″ or 1cm (either works, just be consistent), all around, as shown in the diagram below.

This diagram also shows how the pieces should be laid out on the cloth. Plum lines are parallel to the fabric selvage, and fit so as to reduce waste as much as possible.

Here’s a video showing the complete drafting process and how I go from that draft, add the seam allowances, and end up with pattern pieces ready to use.

Your Progress

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Mark the knee position.
Draft the trouser fly.
Lay out the buttonholes.
Draft the waistband.
Draft or print out the back buckle.
Add seam allowances.

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Drafting the Back

Seat Seam

Draw a straight line from the fork at Point E, running through the waist seam at the 1/2 inch mark you made. Continue this line past the mark, one or two inches beyond the plum line. I find it good practice to overshoot a little here, and make the line longer than you need it. That way you don’t have to add on to the line, which can be prone to error.

Hollow In

At a point 2 graduated inches from point E, measure in 3/4 of a graduated inch from the seat seam.

Seat Seam

Draw a curved line using your French curves, connecting point E, to the point you just made, joining in a smooth curve to the seat seam construction line.

Completing the Leg Seam

The upper part of the Leg seam of the back forms a very slight curve. Start from point E, and join the leg seam of the front, a little above the place where the dress and non-dress sides meet.

Draw a line 1/4 inch above the Side construction line. This is used to determine the correct height of the back.

Squaring up

Take your tailor’s square, and place it against the seat seam. Draw a line square from the seat seam to the point where it meets the side of the waist seam.

Back Waist

Seam Curve this line to a point equal to 1/4 your total waist, measuring from the Seat Seam.

Complete the Draft

From the point you just made on the back waist seam, connect to point B in a slightly curved line, meeting the straight line down to the bottom. Congratulations, the draft is now complete.

At this point you’ll want to trace each piece onto a fresh sheet of paper, and add .25 inch seam allowances around.

Your Progress

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Draft the Trouser Backs

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Drafting the Fronts

It is now time to begin the draft itself. Make sure you have a large enough surface to work on, so that the whole draft may be on the table at once. Dining room tables are great for this. Take each step slowly, being sure to follow instructions carefully. If something seems off, go back a few steps and check your measurements. Above all, don’t get frustrated! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me via my website.

Plumb Line

Start off by drawing a long, straight line, referred to as the plumb line. This is a very important line, as it forms the basis for the entire draft, so if it is not straight, the draft will be off. The plumb line is also used to align the pattern with the straight grain of the fabric. Mark the right end as 0, which will be the cuff end of the trousers. The next few measurements are taken from that point.

Mark Vertical Points

Starting from the bottom, mark the length of the Leg Seam to measure. Next, do the same with the Front Length and Side Seams, making a mark at all three points. For the proportionate man, there will be 1/2″ difference between the Front and Side measurements. For the rest of us, rely on what your tape measure says, and also check out my unit on fitting thin and stout waists for more information.

Square Across

Next, take your tailor’s square and draw three horizontal lines from the Side, Leg Seam, and Bottom points. The waist line should be equal to 1/4 of your waist measurement. Note that the line at the Leg Seam extends across the plumb line to the left.

On the cuff line at zero, I usually make that about 10 common inches, or 8 1/2 graduated inches. It really depends on the style of trouser you are making and your preferences.

Waist Seam

Draw the waist seam from the top of the Front point, to the top of the side seam, as shown.

There are now two choices, use the graduated rulers, or by the common inch. Using the graduated ruler corresponding to your seat measurement, mark out the following:

A – B 9 3/8″
A – C 3 1/8″
A – D 2″
A – E 4 3/4″

If you choose to use the common inch, it is more complicated. The calculations are:

A – B One Quarter of the Hips
A – C One Third A – B
C – D 1 1/8 of an Inch
C – E Half of A – C

As you can see, using the graduated rulers is a lot easier, as there are no calculations necessary. However, if you want to use common inches, the included spreadsheet will make all the calculations for you.


On the Waist seam, measure 1/2 graduated inch from the plumb line, and mark this. This will give the angle of the seat seam, as you shall see. Be sure it is marked on the Waist seam itself, and not the construction line above it.

Leg Seam

The Leg seam is drawn as a straight line from point D, to the plumb line at 0.

Left Leg Seam

For the Left or Dress side of the Leg seam, draw a straight line from C down the line from the right side, at a point about 1/3 the length of the leg seam.

Hollow of the Fork

Measure out a line at 45 degrees from point A. This line should be two graduated inches long, for the left or dress side, and marked at 1 graduated inch for the curve of the right or non-dress side.

Devere’s pattern is for a pair of trousers with ‘dress’. One side is cut slightly larger to allow extra room for the gentleman. Typically I won’t bother with the two different front pieces and just use the larger piece for both fronts.

Right Crutch

Through the one inch mark you just made, draw a curve for the right side from point D, to a point on the plumb line 2 1/2 graduated inches above point A.

Left Crutch

Draw the left crutch by connecting C to the 2 inch mark on that 45 degree angle, and join it at the top of the plumb line where it meets the waist.

Drawing these curves is a lot easier if you use those French Curves!

Front Side Seam

The Side seam of the front is drawn in a straight line from the bottom, to point B, where it then goes on to meet the Waist in a nice graceful curve. The Fronts are now complete.

Your Progress

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Draft the trouser fronts.

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