Bell bottoms or flare pants are my absolute favorite shape of pant. They’re pretty much flattering on every body type and super easy to dress. It’s a style of pant that I don’t think my wardrobe could ever part with. I’ve been in love with them ever since I was a kid. I could seriously stuff my closet full of them! I’ve purchased several store bought pairs but none of them had the fit I was looking for so I decided to make them to fit exactly the way I like. Follow this tutorial to make your own!
Skill level: Advanced beginner
What you need:
- 2 yards of prewashed stretch fabric, more or less depending on your height (I prefer to use a brushed matte jersey)
- a pair of form fitting stretch pants you already own (this will be your pattern guide)
- sewing machine or serger
- tape measure
- pencil or fabric marker
- walking foot if using standard sewing machine
Cut your pattern
To get started, take your fabric and fold in it half with the fold parallel to the selvage. Take your guide pants and turn them inside out and fold one pant leg over the other and lay over top of the fabric. Your pattern should be laying flat with the seams lining up and the waistband folded under. I like to pin the legs, crotch and side seams of the pants together to prevent the fabric from shifting.
Once your pants are neatly lined up on the fabric, trace around your pants and add a 1/4″ seam allowance and a 1″ hem allowance. You can increase your seam/hem allowance to whatever you like if you have a preference. I like to begin with tracing the backside of the pant. If you’re using leggings as a guide, mark the pants where they hit your knee. From the knee point, flare out the leg opening in a ‘bell’ shape to your desired width.
Once you’ve traced and cut the backside, fold the pants open to the front and repeat to trace the front.
You should now have 2 front and 2 back panels.
Assembling your pants
Take your 2 back panels, pin and sew right sides facing and down the crotch seam. Do the same with the 2 front panels and it should look like this:
Once you’ve sewn your panels together, open up the front and back, place them right sides together and pin at the crotch seam. Continue to pin all the way down both sides of the inseam.
Once the inner leg panels are pinned together, starting at the crotch seam, sew down one side of the inseam toward the leg opening. Flip the pants to the other side and repeat sewing down the other leg. I prefer this method rather than starting from one leg opening and around down to the other leg opening, in a horseshoe. I have found that the seams stay better lined up so you end up with a perfect seam intersection. Once the inseam is complete, pin and sew down the side seams.
You will now want to try on your pants and determine whether or not you need to make adjustments. If you’re satisfied with the fit, its time to move on to the waistband!
Constructing the waistband
Take your pants and turn them right side out. Take the side seams and bring them together, pin and lay flat. Make sure your raw edges are not overlapping. Grab your tape measure and lay flat against the top raw edge of your pants to get your waist measurement.
My measurement was approximately 15″ across, 30″ circumference. To make the waistband, I reduced the width of the waist by about 1″, giving me a 14″ waist width. The height of the waistband is really up to your personal preference. I like a higher waistband so mine was about 8″ tall (unfolded). I like my waistband to hit snug at my true waist. Don’t forget to factor in your 1/4″ seam allowance for the all sides of the waistband.
Once you have your 2 waistband pieces cut and placed right sides together, fold the pieces over long ways or hot dog style.
Grab your scissors and clip away at the top folded edge at an angle, gradually reducing the angle of the cut until you’re flush with the bottom corner. Do not discard the piece you just cut, you will be using it to trim away the opposite end. You should end up with a half trapezoid shape. The width of the bottom edge should stay the same. We are only reducing the width at the top. This is to create a curve that will hug your waist. I went in about 3/4″ at the angle. Adjust this measurement based on how snug you want the top of the waistband.
Take the piece you trimmed away and place it on the opposite side and repeat.
You should now have a complete trapezoid shape.
Unfold the trapezoid, leaving the pieces right sides together. You should now have an hourglass shape. Pin those pieces together and sew down the sides.
Now that your sides are sewn together, take your waistband tube and fold the top raw edge over to meet the bottom raw edge, creating the trapezoid shape again.
Once your waistband is ready to be attached, you’re going to pin it into quarter sections. Bring the side seams together and pin. Leave the band lying flat and pin the opposite ends. These pins will be your guide of where to place the waistband onto the pants.
Attaching the waistband
Rotate your band upside down with the raw edges facing up. Grab your unfinished pants and pull the top of the pants through the tube, raw edge also facing up.
Pin the side seams of the pants and waistband together first.
Note: Match up the side seam on the INSIDE of the waistband (the side seam that is touching the right side of the pants as shown above), not the seams facing outward. The inside seam is on the side where my hand is placed. When your band is attached and flipped up, you should end up with one continuous side seam.
Match up the front and back seam with your pin markers from when you quartered your band. After those 4 pin points are attached, find the midpoint between each quarter and add another pin. This helps the fabric to be evenly distributed and makes sewing much easier.
Once your band is pinned securely and evenly, go ahead and sew it on!
Hem the pants
You’re almost done!!! All that is is left to do is hem. Pin under the raw edge of the leg openings about 1″, starting at the side seams.
Pin all the way around each leg opening.
If you’re using a standard sewing machine, go ahead and sew using a zigzag stitch. I use a coverstitch machine to hem. I love the professional finish it gives!
Note: Always run a test strip before sewing your hem to make sure your tension is correct and you’re happy with the stitch length.
Once you have sewn your hem all the way around the leg opening, make sure to overlap your stitches to lock them in (if using a cover hem machine) or back stitch on your sewing machine.