By Haley Pierson-Cox
For me, summer in NYC means two things: 1) I will eventually wear a light skirt into the subway when my hands are full, and 2) on that day, when I step onto the stairs of the station, a gust of wind will come barreling up from below, lifting my skirt and showing my backside to anyone who cares to look. This year, on the very first nice day, my skirt flew up not once, but twice. In the same commute. Grumbling and scrambling to pull it down, it hit me: I definitely needed a pair of tap pants.
In case you’re not familiar, tap pants work like a slip, but they’re actually shorts, making them the perfect solution to my summer skirt woes. I’m pretty sure that every gal with a skirt and the chance of a breeze needs a pair!
Fabric, 1-2 yards nylon or silk
Foldover elastic, 1-3 yards, depending on whether you use a serger
Lace, 2-3 yards, optional
Pattern paper; you can also use newspaper
Serger/overlock machine, optional
Fabric scissors/rotary cutter
Water-soluble fabric marker
Step 1: Create the front pattern
To get started, use a measuring tape to take the following measurements. I’ve included my measurements below so you can follow along through the process.
a. Hips: Measure around your hips (use the widest part of your hips/butt).
My hip measurement: 40″
b. Crotch: Sitting upright in a chair, measure the length from your waist (wherever you like your waistband to fall) between your legs down to the chair. I started measuring just below my belly button. Keep in mind that tap pants should sit at the hips, below the natural waist.
My crotch measurement: 8 1/2″
c. Shorts Length: Standing up, along one side of your body, measure from your waist to the length where you would like the tap pants to fall when finished.
My shorts length: 10″
d. Thigh: Measure around the largest part of your thigh.
My thigh measurement: 23″
To make the pattern, plug your measurements into the formulas below to get the line lengths. (Don’t run away from the math – it’s really easy!) Again, I’ve included my measurements below, and the formulas are written near the corresponding lines in the photograph above. These formulas DO include a generous seam allowance to smooth out any cutting mistakes or sewing mishaps. If you’re an expert at the machine, add 1″ less to the shorts length line for a standard 1/2″ seam allowance.
a. Draw the top line: (Hip divided by 4) + 2″ = top line length
My top line length: (40″/4) + 2″= 12″
b. Draw the shorts length line at the left side: Shorts Length + 2″ = shorts length line length
My shorts line length: 10″ + 2″ = 12″
c. Draw the bottom line: (Thigh divided by 2) + 3″ = bottom line length
My bottom line length: (23″/2) + 3″ = 14.5″
d. Draw crotch length line: Crotch + 2″ = crotch line length
My crotch line length: 8 1/2″ + 2″ = 10 1/2″
e. Draw the right side line: Draw a vertical line from top to bottom on the right side, connecting the end of the top line to the crotch line below it.
f. Draw your leg opening line: Draw a vertical line between the crotch length line and the bottom line. Your pattern should now consist of two rectangles.
g. Draw the curve: On the line you drew in Step 5, measure 4″ up from the crotch line and make a dot. Connect that dot with the end of the bottom line, creating a triangle. Find the center of the line you just drew (the triangle line), and make a dot 3/4″ towards the middle of the triangle. Draw your curve, making sure the deepest part intersects with your dot.
Confused? Visual learner? Check out the excellent shorts pattern tutorial at patternsthatfityou.com – it’s where I learned! (Keep in mind that the formulas will be slightly different from mine, as tap pants are short and loose.)
Step 2: Create the back pattern
To create the back pattern, you will angle the top line up slightly, and extend the bottom/crotch line. Trace your front pattern onto a new sheet of paper. With a ruler, measure 3/4″ in from the right side of the top line, then make a dot 1/2″ above that measurement. Draw a line from the left side of the top line horizontally to the dot you just made. This is your new top line. From there, draw a slightly angled vertical line down to the 4″ measurement at the top of your curve. This is your new right line. Finally, extend the length of the bottom/crotch lines an inch or so, angling the curve down slightly.
Tap pants are short and loose-fitting, so there isn’t as dramatic a difference between the front and back patterns as there can be in longer, more tailored shorts patterns.
Step 3: Cut out your pattern pieces and arrange them on fabric that has been folded in half with right sides facing. Cut out the front and back sections. You should have two pieces each of the front and back that are mirror images of each other.
Step 4: If you would like to add lace, and prefer having the lace sewn into the seams on both sides, you may add it now to each front and back piece. To do so, line up the edge of the lace with the bottom edge of the fabric pieces, right sides together. Serge along the bottom edge to attach the lace and finish the hem, repeating this step for all 4 pieces. Fold the lace down when finished so the serged edge will be on the inside of the leg hole. See step 8 if you would rather attach the lace in one piece.
If you don’t want to add lace, sew foldover elastic around the bottom edges of all four pieces to finish the hem. Do not stretch the elastic as you sew. (Unfamiliar with foldover elastic? This video shows you how to use it.)
Step 5: With right sides together, line up the inner side seam edges of one front piece and one back piece. Stitch them together. If you aren’t using a serger, use foldover elastic to finish the edge. Repeat for the second set of fronts and backs.
Step 6: Open up each stitched-together set, lining them up and pinning them together with right sides facing. (The curves should line up.)
Open the curve wider, giving you more room to sew, and serge along the curved edge, connecting the two front-and-back sets. This will be your center seam in the front and back. Again, you can also finish the seam with foldover elastic and a sewing machine.
Step 7: Line the center seams up in the middle of each side with right sides facing, revealing the inner leg seams you made in Step 5. Sew across both seams in a straight line, reinforcing the crotch and making sure that all pieces are completely connected.
Step 8: Line up the side seams and stitch them together, either using your serger or the foldover elastic method.
If you prefer to wrap lace around the bottom of each leg hole in one piece, you may do so now, and include the lace ends in your side seam.
Step 9: Because slippery fabric frays easily, it’s a good idea to serge or zig-zag stitch around the edge of the waist opening before installing the waistband.
Step 10: Cut a length of foldover elastic that fits comfortably around your waist plus 1″. Starting at the back center seam, install a foldover elastic waistband using your sewing machine and a wide zigzag stitch. (Again, this video will help.) Because you’re not using stretchy fabric, you’ll want to make sure that you pull the elastic to full stretch as you sew. Once I got the hang of it, I found that sewing faster helped me get a more even stretch.
Foldover elastic doesn’t fray, so you can finish the waistband by cutting the end to length and stitching over it a few times.
You’re done! (And you’ll never be afraid of a subway grate or gust of wind again!)
About the Author:
Haley Pierson-Cox is a Brooklyn-based craft writer who loves granny glasses and loathes extraneous apostrophes. She blogs about crafts, cats, domestic bliss, and DIY goodness at The Zen of Making.