I haven’t tested for Jennifer for a little while – the time difference between here and New Zealand (where she’s based) is such that I often miss the sign-up, but in this case the email arrived in my inbox, back in March, just before I went to sleep. Hurrah! In case you’re not familiar with Jennifer’s pattern line, her speciality is to produce vintage-inspired garments with a modern fit and sizing. I like testing for her and her patterns, because they are quite feminine (but not overly so), well-drafted and always a pleasure to sew, in terms of the way the construction is thought out. The Bastion Culottes, I’m happy to say, were par for the course.
The description of the culottes sounded appealing: “The Bastion Culottes combine everything we love about 1940s sailor pants, 1930s beach pyjamas and the modern A-line skirt silhouette”. I made the size 18 and the sizing runs from 6 to 24, the latter of which corresponds to a 42″ waist and 53″ hips. There have been quite a few culottes patterns released over the last few years and I’ve almost made so many of them. The description of these ones ticked boxes for me though and I do think the shaping of them: loosely fitted waist and hip-skimming legs is right up my street.
As you can see, I chose a fabric that ensures everyone will see these culottes from 100 yards away. There are many recommended fabrics for the culottes as long as there’s a little drape – rayon, lawn, voile for a summery version and wool, linen and baby wale corduroy for a winter version. I happened to have some corduroy in an eye-popping cherry red in my fabric stash and it is the softest, finest corduroy I’ve ever felt with, indeed, a little drape. Obviously not as much as a rayon or similar, but enough for these and I like the resulting effect. I got it from Fabric Depot and it’s the 21 wale corduroy in Flame by Robert Kaufman – sadly not so easy to find now from what I’ve seen, because I would 100% sew with it again.
There are two lengths to the Bastion culottes and I decided to go for the longer one, deciding I could shorten if necessary. I made the straight size 18 without any adjustments. The waistband is fitted, but there is plenty of ease elsewhere, so I reckoned it would probably work okay. The drafting seemed spot on for me.
The culottes have lovely deep pockets and you begin the construction by putting these together with a pocket bag and facing piece. The construction of the Bastion Culottes is very straightforward and very well explained. This would be an ideal first culottes or bottom-half project for a beginner.
The main closure on these culottes is by way of the buttons on the front. Aha! You thought that was just a cute sailor pant detail did you? Me too, initially. But this is way you get in and out of these culottes and it works very well. You therefore finish the front and back waistbands separately, which is also very neat and easy to do.
The only slightly tricky part is making sure you get the buttons and buttonholes in the right place. As you can see, I have 6 buttons rather than the 8 in the line drawing. Well, this is basically what I had, given the Covid-19 situation, and they worked just fine. They are 3/4″ buttons rather than the 5/8″ buttons detailed in the notions list and I quite like the effect. I kept them very close to the fabric colour because I feel a high-contrast button would have made the culottes a little difficult to pair with other garments and perhaps a little “costumey”. The colour is strong enough on its own!
As you can see I took two different sets of photos. The first is the sunny day version with my beloved Saraste top tied into a knot. I love this styling and took these pics right after I finished up the culottes for Jennifer to assess fit. However, I was feeling super bloated in these pics – the fact of the matter is that this was right around 4 weeks into Covid lockdown and I had been snacking for those 4 weeks like Henry VIII at his one of his hunting afterparties. Why am I telling you this? It’s not because I feel bad about it. Hell no.
The point is that the second set of pics (with my Montlake tee) is how the 18 will fit if you make it straight from the pattern at those measurements. It’s no biggie, but the culottes look a little strained in some of the first test photos (because they are) and it’s not a true representation of the sizing. Anyway, you get the picture. It was fun to think of different outfits and I was really excited when I remembered about my stripey tee and pink clogs.
Honestly, there isn’t too much else to say as these are very straightforward to make with a lovely finished result and I really didn’t have any issues. The only fitted part is the waistband and even that is slightly loosely fitted, so they should be great for a range of shapes and preferences. I love my cherry red corduroy Bastions and can’t tell you how nice it was to put together some bright and colourful outfits. I think a lighter summer pair would be lovely to swish around in too. The swish of a skirt with the comfort of culottes. Perfect!