Japanese sewing book – She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada – a review


I hope you’re enjoying your spring – or whatever season it is in your part of the globe. Have you embarked on any seasonal sewing projects? I finished a dress for the Spring for Cotton sewalong organized by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille. At the same time I began flipping through the Japanese sewing book, She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada, subtitled “Easy Sew-it-Yourself Fashion with an Edgy Urban Style.” The English translation was just released by Tuttle Publishing, which publishes several Japanese sewing books (link to book on publisher’s site, Amazon affiliate link). They sent me a free copy to review – and they’ll send a free copy to the winner of the giveaway on my blog. Warning: This is a really long post, which ends with photos of the top I made from this book, plus details on how to enter the giveaway.

I’m not sure that I would characterize the designs as “edgy.” I guess it depends on how you define “edgy.” For me, “edgy” would be on the outer limits of what someone would wear in public – maybe not as far out as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons but definitely “out there.” Maybe the subtitle is a result of the translation from Japanese to English. Or maybe it’s because there aren’t any typical feminine touches here – no ruffles, lace, or frills – so maybe that’s why it’s “edgy.” Then again, the book was originally released in Japan five years ago so maybe back then, this was “edgy”?

She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book (Tuttle Publishing)

She Wears the Pants features 20 designs, from a coat and jackets to tops, dresses, and pants, many of which sport a boyish look. There are patterns for woven and knit fabrics. Contrary to the title, it is not a book chock full of pants (trouser) patterns. Though the title certainly gives me a chuckle. The book follows the format of many Japanese pattern books – photos of a model wearing each  garment in the first section of the book, info on the patterns, some fabric and sewing tips, and then the instructions with detailed diagrams. Full-size patterns are in an envelope attached to the inside back cover.

In the book’s brief section on working with fabric, I learned something new – when you prewash woven fabric, before it’s fully dry, clip the selvage and then iron it “as it often warps and pulls the rest of the fabric.” There’s an accompanying photo of some scissors clipping the selvage at a 45-degree angle. Interesting. Do you clip your selvages or do you just cut them off?

Tracing the Patterns
The patterns are printed on both sides of the paper so you cannot cut them out, plus the lines for various patterns overlap each other. You can sort of see this in the photo below. If you are new to Japanese sewing books, please be aware that you must trace your size.

Tracing these patterns is a bit of a pain because all the lines look the same. Other patterns (Big Four, indie patterns) will use different lines for different sizes (dots, dashes, dots and dashes) but this is common in Japanese sewing book patterns. Some might use two different colors but this book just uses black. Warning: It can be a bit of a challenge hunting for each pattern piece in She Wears the Pants. I used an erasable highlighter to go over the lines of the pattern I wanted to make. It’s easy to make a mistake and trace the wrong line. So really scrutinize the pattern lines for your size so you trace the correct size and pattern.

Pattern pieces traced - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

Also, pay attention to when pattern pieces are cut on the fold, and mark it accordingly. On these pattern pieces, the fold is indicated by line with long dashes (no arrows, arrows only indicate the grainline). All other lines are solid and unbroken. Look at the cutting layout to make sure you didn’t forget to mark a piece to be cut on the fold.

Add Seam Allowances
Seam allowances are not included so you must add them to the patterns – 1 cm (3/8 inch) in most cases – hems will usually be 2 cm or 7/8 inch. The cutting layout diagram shows the seam allowance measurements. I traced my pattern pieces with two drawing pencils I put together with a rubberband – my low-tech solution to avoid drawing each line separately (see above photo).

Cutting Fabric
The author also recommends folding fabric with the wrong sides together before cutting and points out that when you cut through two layers of fabric, “the movement of the blades may cause the material to shift out of place.” She advises you to cut the top layer first and “then use that piece as a template to cut the second layer.” I haven’t tried that before. I’ve cut one side on one layer of fabric and then flipped the pattern over to cut the other side. How do you cut two layers of fabric?

The Designs
Here’s a look at a few of the patterns – these images are taken with my phone. They look better in the book but even in the book, the photos don’t necessarily provide a lot of detail because there’s usually just one photo of the garment  (so you only see the front and side but not the back) and the lighting isn’t so great. You can see more photos on this Japanese Sewing Books post, which reviewed the Japanese version of the book. The photos on this site look better than the ones in the book. I wonder if the photos in the original Japanese book were re-photographed from the book’s photos (as opposed to using the original art) for the English edition.

This is pattern No. 8, the Sarrouel Trousers – the one pattern that I would call “edgy” – with an odd dropped crotch and a rather baggy look (not quite my style, plus I don’t think it would look so good on curvy figures).

Sarrouel Trousers - She Wears the Pants - Yuko Takada - csews.com

Only three patterns in She Wears the Pants fall in the pants category: the Sarrouel Trousers, the No. 13 Tapered Trousers, No. 14 and No. 19 Semi-flared Culottes, which look like shorts to me. Aren’t culottes supposed to be longer? There are two versions of the Culottes – one with a bow (No. 19) and one without. The book counts each one as a separate pattern but it’s the same.I don’t know if I’ll make any of the pants.

Tapered TrousersSemi-flared Culottes - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - csews.com

I really liked the striped knit top on the cover. (Photos of my version are towards the end of this post.)

I like these two patterns, the No. 12 Draped Mini Dress and the No. 15 Draped Cardigan. I bought a deep violet knit fabric to make the mini-dress. I wouldn’t wear it as a mini-dress though. I’d wear it as a tunic, with pants. Kirsty of the blog Top Notch made the Draped Mini Dress a couple of years ago. She used the Japanese version of the book. You can see photos of her version here.

The Draped Cardigan is interesting. I like the pockets but there’s a seam in the lower center back that seems a little odd. You can’t really see what it looks like in the photo.

Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - csews.comDraped Cardigan - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

Here’s the line drawing of the Draped Cardigan in the book. I don’t know what that seam in the lower center back will look like. The photo in the book is a bit dark so I guess it adds a bit of drape back there. I’m not sure I want that around my backside!

Draped Cardigan - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

I also liked the Square Top, which Sew Busy Lizzy blogged about (and photographed) in her post on the Square Top. She has also reviewed the book and made the Gathered Blouse, pattern No. 17, which you can see about in her post on She Wears the Pants. Kirsty of Top Notch also reviewed the book on her blog.

Japanese Pattern Sizing
In She Wears the Pants, the patterns go from size XS to L. Don’t be alarmed when you read the measurements for these sizes. Japanese patterns tend to include a lot of ease. As I learned from my most recent experience with Japanese pattern books and from EmSewCrazy of Tumbleweeds in the Wind, you must measure the pattern pieces (see my post Japanese Pattern Sizing,which explains this in more detail).

For my first project, I chose the Top with Epaulettes, pattern No. 4, because I love stripes and I love boat necks, and I liked the 3/4 sleeves and their slightly flared design. Plus I had a couple of yards of this black-and-white striped knit in my stash. It’s a tightly woven medium-to-heavyweight cotton with lycra jersey. (I made a Hummingbird top with this fabric.) I left off the epaulettes on this pattern. I didn’t think they added anything to the top.

I made size L, which, according to the book is someone who is: 5′ 5 1/4 inches (168 cm) tall, with a 35 1/2 inch (90 cm) bust; 27 1/2 (70) waist; and 38 5/8 (98) hips. Heheh, right. Those are not my numbers at all. I’m 5′ 8″ (about 173 cm), bust: 37/38-inch (94-96.5); waist: 30/31-inch (76-79); hips: 42 inches (106.6).

I looked at my ready-to-wear knit tops for something similar in style and compared the shoulders and hip area to the pattern pieces. I concluded that I could trace the pattern pieces exactly as they were except for adding a little more ease (about 1 cm) to the hips. I decided that because I was sewing a knit, that I would leave the shoulders as is. On some patterns, I need to do a wide shoulder adjustment. For comparison, I’m a size 16 in Vogue patterns, a size 10 bodice for the Christine Haynes Emery Dress (my Emery dress), a size 12 US/16 UK for the By Hand London Anna Dress (my versions here and here), a size 12 Bluegingerdoll Winifred Dress (my Winifred version).

Pattern pieces cut - She Wears the Pants - csews.comOnce I traced and cut my pattern pieces, I carefully placed them on my black-and-white striped fabric, lining up the pieces so the hems lined up with the same stripe. This top has 6 pattern pieces, not including the epaulettes: front, back, sleeves, front/back neck facings. Yes, it has facings, which you see here (interfacing and fashion fabric).

I wasn’t sure how that would look. I’ve done one neck facing with a knit fabric – my chevron Red Velvet dress. I don’t have a serger and on that dress, I knew that I didn’t want to have a seamline around the neck. So I just tacked the facing down at the shoulder and hand stitched it in a few places. For this striped top, I just decided to go ahead and make a facing, fusing some black interfacing.

After I attached the facing, I used my Kenmore machine’s straight stretch stitch – not very pretty because it goes over each stitch three (!) times – to topstitch it in place. I decided to approach it as a style element and use black thread. Here’s a closeup shot of the neckline:

Top with Epaulettes - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

If I had a serger, I would consider leaving off the facings, increasing the seam allowance of the front and back, and serging the neckline edge to clear elastic, fold it over and sew that down. This is a tip I picked up at the Bay Area Sewists beginning serger meetup last month. One of our members, Edina, demonstrated some techniques on her serger. You can see photos here.

I carefully pinned the front to the back to try lining up the stripes. But I didn’t bother basting because it was my mockup so if the side seams didn’t line up perfectly – no big deal. And when I sewed the side seams, there was a bit of shifting so they stripes got slightly off in a couple of places. It would have helped to use some sort of stabilizer – maybe some fusible tape.

Pinning stripes - csews.com

This is an easy-to-sew top that will be a wardrobe staple for me. If I make it again, I think I’ll add a little more ease to the shoulders. As you can see, the shoulder seam line is above my shoulder point. It doesn’t feel tight but I think it would fit even better with that slight adjustment.

This is a simple top so I decided to have a little fun with my hats for this photo shoot. I got the hat box from the Alameda flea market – officially known as the Alameda Point Antiques Faire. You can never have too many hats (or hat boxes).

This is a vintage felt beret I got at All Things Vintage in Oakland. I’m a sucker for berets. I took these photos (timer on my camera) in the mid-afternoon so the light was a bit harsh (so I’m squinting) but at least the are shadows behind me. I’m wearing some RTW pants here.

Top with Epaulettes - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

This is a white straw fedora that was custom-made for me by Elwyn Crawford of O’Lover Hats. I entered a drawing for the hat as a perk in her Indiegogo campaign. I had a hat fitting for it.

Top - She Wears the Pants - white fedora - csews.com

I think I got this black fedora for a few dollars at a charity shop. I don’t know if the fedora shape is really suited for my face. I’ve got two black ones and I don’t wear them very much. I wear the straw one more often.

Top - She Wears the Pants - black fedora - csews.com

In this photo you can really see the slight flare of the sleeves, which I really like. I got this vintage hat at a charity shop in Palo Alto several years ago. My husband calls this my “flying saucer” hat. I love this shade of red. Here I’m wearing the skirt I made from the Japanese pattern book Basic Black in this photo. You can read my post on this skirt in this March post.

Top - She Wears the Pants- red hat - csews.com

A back view of the top.

Top - She Wears the pants - back view - csews.com

And another shot with the beret – maybe this is bit too much, eh? Beret and striped boat neck?

Top - She Wears the Pants - beret - csews.com

Thanks for your patience with my hat indulgence!

If you’d like to enter my giveaway for a copy of She Wears the Pants, please comment below by Thursday, May 21, 11:59 pm, Pacific time (California). Anyone can enter! Tuttle Publishing will send a copy to the winner. [The giveaway is now over.]

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review purposes only. I am not being compensated to review it.

Striped top pattern from Japanese sewing book - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada