Sacrilege? ETA better pictures!

I've just found these amazing vintage men's dress pants in a thrift store for the price of a sandwich. No tailor's mark but definitely bespoke, possibly Weimar era German. Gorgeous fabric, unbelievable finish and fabulous condition for their age. These are pants for a very big man, in every sense of the word.

I could probably sell them on for ten times what I paid for them but I'm contemplating remodelling them. These are the sort of pants I want to wear all the time but can never find (huh?! what about the three pairs of black slouchy tailored pants already in my closet?!)  *ahem* Well, almost never.

I've pinned them up in the picture to show what I have in mind. It involves moving a few buttons to fit the waist, reshaping the legs slightly and sewing a seam at knee level, although I'd probably go shorter than this. It's not intrusive, it preserves the tailoring detail, but actually, it feels like butchery.

Alternatively, I could keep them around as an inspiration piece. Or I could make my friendly neighbourhood vintage dealer very happy. 

What do you think? Alter? Conserve? Pass on?

ETA: a few additional pictures of these awesome pants. Still not sure I've done them justice. 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Sally replied 5 years ago

    I love them. I say keep them as you have pinned. I'm no expert so wait to see what others say. Great find!

  • Banoffi replied 5 years ago

    As you said, these are the sort of pants you want to wear all the time. So I say get them altered and enjoy.

  • Chris987 replied 5 years ago

    They are yours now, do what you like with them! Don't worry about anyone else's rules, do what makes you happy.

  • chewyspaghetti replied 5 years ago

    Have them tailored do you can wear and love them! That's what clothes are for.

  • LaPed replied 5 years ago

    alter and wear away! they're beautiful. plus, you rescued them -- so you deserve to enjoy them. 

  • Thistle replied 5 years ago

    Alter and wear, if you'll actually wear them.

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    Liz, I'd love to offer my 2 cents, but black doesn't photograph well, and I can't see the fit of these other than the silhouette. I'm inclined to say alter and wear them too. 

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    What Angie said. This is your joy, to work with brilliant design and fabric -- and you know how to do it well. It isn't sacrilege I don't think -- as an artist, don't you love to see someone take your work and riff off it? Straight copy is sacrilege. Respectful theft or adaptation is a gift. 

  • minimalist replied 5 years ago

    These sound like a lot of joy in waiting.

    To reduce the butchery aspect, perhaps there's an old-style tailor around who still sees well enough to work on black and who'd have pleasure in rejuvenating a garment made this well?

  • UmmLila replied 5 years ago

    It's hard to see the details, but I think you should just alter them to fit you and be happy with your treasure.

  • April replied 5 years ago

    Oh, yes, things should be altered and worn by people who recognize their quality and beauty.  Clothes are not paintings.  They were meant for multiple uses, and to be passed on, tailored, taken in, let out, and so on.  
    At least clothes from that era (before disposable fashion had arrived) were.  

    And what can you do with the extra fabric?   

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Well the little buckle on the back sold me. Definitely would alter and wear. As April said, clothings are not paintings - they are meant to be performance art.

  • Eliza replied 5 years ago

    Wow- hard to see all the details, yet there is that compelling buckle and great looking waist. Wear and enjoy as you like them. Very cool!

  • Windchime replied 5 years ago

    I can't imagine those wonderful pants finding their way to someone who would love and appreciate them more than you clearly do! So I'm adding my voice to the chorus of those who think you should alter and enjoy.

    I recently visited a re-creation of a historic Dutch village. The style and fabric of your vintage pants reminds me of some the docents wore.

  • Cococat replied 5 years ago

    I would alter, wear and enjoy. They're fab!

    I have my father's pinstripe wedding vest from the 40s and I have worn it several times. It's very precious and I love wearing it.

  • Deborah replied 5 years ago

    No question in my mind... alter... wear... enjoy :)

  • Ledonna N. replied 5 years ago

    Keep wear

  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    They were meant to be yours.  You have the talent to alter them and wear them.  Enjoy.

  • Astrid replied 5 years ago

    Yes, I would also alter them. You have the skills to do them justice and are going to appreciate them!

  • Inge replied 5 years ago

    What a find, Liz! I'm leaning towards altering too (and love what April and Jaime said).

  • Traci replied 5 years ago

    Any chance the hem can be taken up without removing the extra fabric, so you'd have the option to let them back down later?

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks all! I slept on it and you're right. No reason to be precious, they're just a pair of pants in need of improvement and I'm glad you can see the potential. I was hoping to get to the studio to work on them today, but events are conspiring against me so they'll have to wait until tomorrow. 

    As Angie says, black doesn't photograph well, but I'm going to try and take some more pictures so you can see the beautiful workmanship that went into these. There are some issues with the fit of the seat, so I'll try using the excess from the legs to reshape the crotch seam a la CdG's Ganryu jeans. 

    April, Jaime, since you put it like that, it's not just my right, it's my duty to give them a new lease of life and bring them up to date. And Windchime, that's fascinating. I was pretty sure they were formal dress pants but now I wonder if traditional Dutch clothes might carry more clues about their origins. 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Traci, sorry, I missed your reply. That's a good point. They're slightly tapered to a cuff, which is so beautifully worked that I can't bear to loose it. It might be possible to keep the fabric in the leg without too much extra bulk, but then I loose the option on reshaping the crotch seam. I need to ponder that. 

  • Kaelyn replied 5 years ago

    I agree with what others have said--these pants clearly make you very happy. You should keep them and alter them to suit your needs. I see no harm in altering a vintage piece if you're going to enjoy wearing it!

  • tulle replied 5 years ago

    As Angie said, it's a bit hard to see what's going on with those trousers, but I can imagine the fabric and tailoring, and that little buckle in the back would seal the deal for me!  I would not advise just anybody to cut into such beautifully made pants, but, as Suz says,  this is what you DO, and you know exactly what you want from them, so you should absolutely make them new again:  comfortable, warm, historical, but uniquely yours.

  • RobinF replied 5 years ago

    Definitely alter and wear! What a fun find! 

  • unfrumped replied 5 years ago

    No point in saving for someone else who may never come along. So if all depends on whether ghd treating are feasible. Good practical issues.
    Also It sounds likd you may have to choose amongst some results. I skeays get tied up in that. To keep or not to keep this of that.
    So channel thd tailoring muses. I'd ghere s result that thd oants " want" so you follow that? What end product will help you really wear them and not keep them as a relic yourself. Maybe the fabric suggests a direction, in terms of others you already have- should these be more classic , or versatile, or more quirky? That sort of thing. .

  • Barbara Diane replied 5 years ago

    Can't wait to see them on you once you are done.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    tulle, that's exactly why I feel so nervous about it!
    I've just been telling a fashion designer friend about them. She was very excited to see them until I told her what I was going to do. Then she winced and told me to take lots of pictures.

    unfrumped, still trying to figure that out. I could limit it to the waistband and wear them long with a slouchy hem, which looks more classic but won't be very practical. Or I could shorten them for the full "awkward crop" style, which works with my current direction but might not have so much staying power.

    Either way, they will be very quirky pants. 

  • JAileen replied 5 years ago

    My son has bought bespoke items at garage sales. The tags inside indicate their origin. Just because they were custom made for someone doesn't make them museum-worthy, unless the person was of historical significance. So I agree that you should change them how you want. If it were me, I would want them to have as long a life as possible, so I would alter them to a less trendy silhouette. But it's your choice.

  • replied 5 years ago

    If I tilt my laptop screen just so, it lightens the picture for me and I can see the gorgeous fabric quality and the back detailing. I think you should definitely keep them and ponder on the best path to take for a little re-model.

  • unfrumped replied 5 years ago

    Also, remember they're just pants, not the Mona Lisa.
    Meaning, I can get decision paralysis about how to remake-- always some missed opportunity-- same as when trying to cull wardrobe, feat of missing something. After some thought, take your best shot snd enjoy. There will be more fabrics, more styles, more pants.

  • Marilyn replied 5 years ago

    If you think can rework them to get the look you want then by all means go for it.  Best of luck with the project!

  • tulle replied 5 years ago

    I just tried some of Diane's juju with my computer, and was able to pick up the stripe & other details (thanks, Diane!) and it hit me that these pants look pretty great on you as is.  Any chance you could just take the deepest possible hem to whatever length you like now, leaving enough fabric to lower the hems later, and just wear them slouchy without fussing too much?  You could always change your mind and carve them up in the future, but meanwhile they would be wearable, intact, and possibly your new fave trousers.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback everyone! Plenty of food for thought here. 

    I've taken a few pics before I start working on them, so you can see what I'm dealing with. Let me say again I am in awe of these pants. This is meticulous hand-finished tailoring right down to the last detail. 

    JAileen, unfrumped, honestly, I don't think these would be out of place in a museum, despite their lack of provenance. Not so much the Mona Lisa as a very fine specimen of an endangered species ;)

    tulle, Diane, I think you're right. The less I do to these pants the better. I kind of wish they weren't quite so nice, otherwise I'd be tempted to remodel them quite radically. 

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    They really are beautiful. i understand your hesitation but I still think you can do it. 

  • Traci replied 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing the more detailed pictures.  They really are beauties!

    I have no hesitation at all about you hemming them to wear them. This is the way of clothes, this is what they're meant for.  Their creator would be proud to have someone wearing them who appreciates the workmanship and artistry.

    My only hesitation is over whether you could have remorse that you've removed the option to wear them as full length pants.  Have cropped pants had longevity in your closet?   One thought I have had is that these would also be lovely pedal pushers if you do eventually tire of them as cropped pants, but then you're just getting even further from their intended structure, so I'm not sure how you'd feel about that.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Ok, a couple more pics, taken in better conditions for my own benefit so I can assess the fit properly.

    I'm doubtful mainly because they're so very big, and this is the first time I see them properly from behind. I like the front and side view, but that's a heck of a lot of material in the seat. I'm also inclined to agree that they should be full length.

    I think my best option is to shorten by restructuring the cuff, and overlaying the fly with a separable zipper to achieve the drape front. But should I even try?

    Suz, Traci, thanks for your continued encouragement and faith in my skills. I'm making it all up as I go along ;)

  • Traci replied 5 years ago

    I'm far from a fit expert, but I think the top half is perfectly cute as is.  I don't see that these need a major reworking for more drape.  As they are, they remind me of a paper bag waist, which I really like.  I feel like more drape could take away from the amazing waist details.

    My vote is to hem them to regular ppl and live with them just like that for a bit.  If you are finding you reach for them but put them back often, reassess the need to crop.  This latest set of pictures has me even more convinced these would be great at knee length too, if you can't find your happy spot at pants length.

  • Kaelyn replied 5 years ago

    WOW. The details really are incredible. Enjoy those pants! They look like they were made for you!

  • Jenn replied 5 years ago

    I really empathize with your dilemma here. I'm a paper artist, who makes things out of old books, and there's always a tension between being an artist and being a collector. A few years ago, an English professor friend gave me his collection of Harper's Magazines from 1914, with full blessing to use them however I wanted. I've never been able to cut into them. These magazines were widely distributed, and there are plenty of copies preserved in libraries and even floating around eBay. And yet...

    I still believe that you should have faith in your abilities. The chances are far greater that the next person to find those pants won't appreciate them or will want to alter them to their own needs, than the chances they'll fall into the hands of a man in the exact right size to wear them as-is. Trust yourself, preserve the details that are wonderful about them, take lots of pictures to document the process, and then own your art.

  • minimalist replied 5 years ago

    That _is_ a lot of fabric around the seat. Crotch area adjustments are complicated, if I understand correctly?

  • Jenn replied 5 years ago

    Also wanted to add that the altering and reuse of objects--clothing especially--has been a constant throughout time. It becomes part of an item's story for future generations. You wouldn't be "restoring" the Ecce Homo fresco, you'd be engaging in a long tradition of repurposing.

  • chewyspaghetti replied 5 years ago

    Taking in the seat shouldn't be too hard to do, though. I think these are going to turn out great!

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks again everyone for the encouragement! Jen, you should totally make art with the Harper's magazines. One of these days I'll tell you about my passing acquaintance with Paul Ford of ftrain and the legendary Weekly Review. He's very good at hypertext. I love Harper's.

    For anyone who's still with me, here's a progress report:

    1-3 Full length with a basic hem. Nice enough, but they don't make my heart sing the way they should and then there's that pesky problem with the undercarriage.

    4-6 Pinned up in a variant of the original plan and cuffed to flood length. I cribbed this little trick from Jil Sander: horizontal tucks on both sides, above the knee at the back and just below in the front. I like the sense of structure and proportion. The way it brings the backside under control is a tiny miracle.

    7-9 Same idea further down the line. I unpicked a section of the leg seam to make room for the tuck. I think this is too deep but I wanted to see how the length played out.

    Conclusion: I'm thinking flood length with a deep, structured cuff. The shape cries out for it and the rise needs to be adjustable. There can be no PPL with these pants and I'm OK with that. I just need to tweak those tucks and let the proportions guide me. 

    That's as far as I got today. Hopefully I'll have more time for them next week. In the meantime, any more thoughts or comments are deeply appreciated. 

  • tulle replied 5 years ago

    Much better photos, thanks.  I see what you mean now--those are giant pants!  I love the front drape you've pinned--could that be achieved with just a substantial hook & eye fastener?    The seat IS very full--you would know better than I what to do about that.  Would you ever think of wearing the trousers quite high, with suspenders, as the original owner would have, or does that seem too clownish?  I look forward to seeing what you decide to do.  Trust your instincts!

  • unfrumped replied 5 years ago

    Oh wow. Swoon- worthy fabric.

    I think you're on track for the length that's feasible. They're great with fullness in hip, but I'd like them to not be so dropped in crotch, but not sure what kind of a job that is.

You need to be logged in to comment