What I Love About Vintage Sailor Pants


Sailor pants have been a classic style for both men and women since the early 20th Century. I wanted to walk through some of the key features of 1940's sailor pants that have made them so popular throughout the years, and show how these details influenced my Persephone pattern, a modern well-fitting adaptation of this minimal style.

The Persephone pants pattern is inspired by original US issue Navy sailor pants from the 1940's. In those days, the pants were made without a side seam, but in later years, you will notice that the side seam reappeared (I'm not sure whether the change was stylistic or utilitarian). I thought it would be helpful to compare the Persephone pants to an original pair from the 1940's and outline the key features that have made them great to wear, and show how they are now an accessible style for women who love to make their own clothes.

  • HIGH WAIST: Both the original sailor pants and the Persephone pants have a true high waist. Our waistlines have changed a lot over the years and most people wear their pants much lower, closer to their hips. But this is not the true waistline. I love a super high waist, and drafted my pattern to hit at the true waistline.
  • FITTED BACK: Many times, you'll see pictures of sailors wearing their dress whites with a more baggy fit in the rear. Even on modern women's wide-leg pants, the back can be problematic. I spent a lot of time perfecting the Persephone pants so they have a more flattering, feminine fit, and look great both from back and front.
  • NO SIDE SEAM: Original 1940's sailor pants did not have side seams, and I also wanted this minimal look for the Persephone pants. It took many pattern drafts before I came up with the exact fit I wanted. I love a straight side leg, which I believe aids in giving a super flattering fit through the hips and waist. 
  • SPACIOUS POCKETS: Original sailor pants had pockets that were shorter and more rectangular. When I drafted the first few pairs, I didn't think a whole lot about the pockets, except that I wanted the opening big enough to fit my hand. After wearing some of the first drafts, I noticed I put my iPhone in my pocket a lot. I don't know about you, but when I have mindless tasks to do throughout the day I like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. So when I made the final draft, I made sure the pocket is able to fit my massive smartphone (e.g., iPhone 6+). 
  • BUTTON FLY: Both the original sailor pants and the Persephone have a button fly. I personally love a good button fly and I'm always looking for ways to construct a garment which uses buttons over zippers (anyone else hate zippers?)! Button flies can be tricky to sew, but my pattern provides a clear and straightforward approach which will make you pleasantly surprised at how easy and fast it is to put together.
  • WIDE RANGE OF SIZES: Sailor pants can look great on all sizes, and I wanted my pattern to support this. The Persephone pants come in a wide array of sizes, from 0-20. Since the pattern was released, most sewers have found that my sizing guide works perfectly for them, but several have had to perform small adjustments to make these pants fit their bodies. I can provide advice on how to do this.*
  • SHORTS: I decided to include a shorts version in my pattern because I wanted it to be versatile for all seasons. Making a good pair of shorts can be more difficult than just the "cut-off" version of your favorite pants, so my pattern simplifies the process. I'm always looking for the perfect high waist shorts that aren't too short short (they are always too short!), but also not too long! I think the 4" inseam on the Persephone shorts is the perfect length, but of course they can easily be lengthened or shortened as desired.
  • 100% HANDMADE: Everything available in my shop is designed and constructed entirely by me. The feeling of having made the pants you're wearing is wonderfully empowering, and I want you to be able to experience that as well. Not only do you get to pick the color and fabric yourself, you can make any alterations to the pattern if necessary, so that they fit your own unique body! It's a great feeling wearing a pair of pants that fit you like a glove. 
I'm really proud of the Persephone pants pattern. It has been in the works for about 2 years, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed creating, wearing, and fine-tuning it.

Thank you to Morissa from bottleofbread for the use of her great images showing the original 1940's sailor pants

* One of the more common questions I get is how you would fit these pants with a much smaller waist to hip ratio. For this, you can cut the size that best fits your hips and then bring in an inch or two at the back darts and cut the smaller waistband to fit. Most people have had success with this method and haven't needed to add a side dart. If you have a fuller stomach, you can let out the front by re-drawing the opening so it is straighter and tapers less towards the waist.


  1. AH I'm so glad you posted this thorough, in-depth post about this wonderful pattern! Among the vast majority of rave reviews, I did notice some negative comments on social media about lack of originality about the Persephone pattern and I thought, "Hm, but they're missing the point!?" :-O Oh well, can't win everybody. I have really enjoyed the ownership and pride you have in this pattern because truly, its excellence shows the many months and hours of hard work you've put into it!! I've only sewn up my muslin (gotta find time to cut into that yummy fashion fabric!), but it was a wonderful exercise and was my FIRST TIME SEWING PANTS but your clear instructions made it a breeze. Anyway, two thumbs up again for this pattern!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jeannie!! I so appreciate your encouragement and support of my work and my pattern! And I am thrilled to hear you are enjoying sewing these pants! There were times when working on this pattern where I was close to giving up, but I'm glad I decided to push through and get it done! And then having such helpful feedback from pattern testers was incredible. I now feel more confident creating high quality sewing patterns than when I first started out. I'm excited to start working on my next pattern!

  2. Omg I had decided I was going to copy the sailor pants and make my own pattern. Now I don't have to. Thank you for this pattern Anna!

    1. Yay! That's wonderful! I hope you enjoy sewing the sailor pants! :)