Monday, August 13, 2018

The wonder of high-rise pants held up with braces

I’ll just say it: I love high-rise pants. They create a striking visual image: they elongate your legs, shorten your torso, and cover your midsection. And they are held in place with braces! Pants designed for braces.

High-rise pants (also called high waist pants) create an smooth line from your shoulders down to your feet, uninterrupted by a belt. These pants keep your shirt tucked in all day, and avoiding the muffin-top effect of your abdomen extending over your waistline. As the waistline is above your abdomen you can breathe comfortably, without having a restricted belt dig into you each time you take a breath. 

Notice how the high-rise pants elongate the legs
In case you are unfamiliar with the term “rise”, this refers to the distance from the bottom of the crotch to the top of the waistline. A waistline sitting above your belly-button will have a ‘higher rise’ than a waistline that sits at your hips, for instance. It’s for this reason that jeans sitting below your hips are commonly referred to as “low risers.”

Back to high-rise pants. I especially love vintage, high-rise pants. Sometimes referred to as “Hollywood waist”, these pants do not have a separate band of fabric that circles around your waist. Rather, the pant fabric extends up the legs right to the top of the pants, with no cross fabric interrupting the line. If there are belt loops, they are below, rather than at, the top of the pant waistline. There are generally darts to angle the difference between the hips and the lower rib-cage. And that’s where the top of Hollywood waist pants ends: at the bottom of your rib-cage, held in place with braces.

Note the Hollywood waist on these high-rise pants for both men and women

Not only do high-rise pants make your look better, they make you feel better. Breathing is enjoyable! The pants sit comfortably above your waist, allowing your abdomen to expand and contract, all day long.  You take a breath in, and your abdomen fills out your pants waist. High-rise pants are large enough to absorb the breathe; just tight enough to be comfortable. You then breathe out, and your abdomen shrinks back into your body. With the absence of your abdomen, your pants would start to slide downward due to the effects of gravity. But they don’t - if you are wearing high-rise pants as they should be worn. Braces come to the rescue to provide fantastic support. Your high-rise pants say high all day long.

No matter how much bending or twisting, braces keep your pants in place

The specific placement of the buttons along the waistline provides maximum support for this accomplishment. Brace buttons should be attached at the front above the center pant line and pocket above each leg (about 3-3.5 inches apart), and then equidistant from the center of the pants at the rear (about 1.5-1.75 inches from the center seam). It’s truly an enjoyment to sit, stand, bend, and twist - not to mention breathe - without having to adjust or pull up your pants. The braces do all the heavy lifting.

Proper button placement on these high-rise white pants worn by Farrah Fawcett
Charlene Tilton with improper button placement -
should be to the side to align with the pant line

With this in mind, I’m constantly perplexed that people turn to belts. Belts restrict movement and circulation around your waist and result in pants slipping down all day long. They interrupt the smooth transition from the top of your body to the bottom.

Men have an unfortunate aversion to wearing pants at or above their hips - why? Is this an outdated style of a previous generation? Do the pants not stay up (without braces, hence the need for braces), or men don’t like braces? I have not solved this question yet. But I do know that they're missing out on the wonder of high-rise pants and braces. Historically, when men wore pants, they were high-rise and held up with braces.

Vintage photo of men wearing braces
If I haven’t convinced you yet of the comfort of high-rise pants with braces, I’ll add one final point: they are charming. People respect you when you make an effort to dress well. High rise pants are one of those ways you can dress well. Braces add a certain sophistication and refinement to an otherwise standard outfit. This writer from Esquire states that she highly regards suspenders and finds them to be darling. 

Current fashion trends are starting to take notice of the increase in rise of pants. Women’s fashion has emphasized high-rise pants for the past few years, and it’s only a matter of time before it shifts to men’s clothing.

Courtshop James Jeans with braces

Discussion time:

  • Do you wear high-rise pants? If not, why not?
  • How do you find braces with high-rise pants?
  • Have you worn Hollywood waist pants?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Return of the Light Blue Pants

When I was a little boy I had a pair of light blue dress pants. The pants were high-waisted - which was the trend at the time - with the waistline sitting around my belly button. They were held up with clip-on Y-back suspenders that were also light blue. I remember wearing them for holidays or going to church.

Jump ahead 20 years in time. While at a thrift store, I come across a strikingly similar pair of light blue dress pants, although in an adult size and without the suspenders. When I saw them, my childhood memories of wearing the light blue pants immediately came to mind. I couldn’t resist them.

Vintage blue pants this diamond braces
The pants did not come with suspenders but that's not a problem. This time I decided to wear the pants with braces, instead of clip-on suspenders. I removed the belt loops and sewed 6 suspender buttons on the waistline. I decided to sew them on the outside (rather than the inside) of the waistband to go with the vintage style of the high waist pants. Buttons on the outside are very traditional. I liked the look of the suspender buttons against the brace tabs, especially the brown color - here a close-up:
Exterior suspender buttons against the brown brace tabs

The diamond pattern in the shirt complement the diamond braces.

Rear shot of braces

I love the look and feel of the pants; they are vintage and make a statement!

Discussion time:
  • Did you wear suspenders growing up?
  • Do you continue to wear suspenders, or stopped after childhood?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Braces and Suspenders Observations

Have you noticed more people wearing braces? I have. And it’s not just people in one demographic, but young and old, males and females. Here are some styles I observed recently:
  • middle-aged women attending a group birthday party in a restaurant wearing blue jeans and a casual, white shirt. Instead of a belt, she went with clip-on braces
  • older businessman wearing grey pants and a navy blazer. As he was walking down the sidewalk a gust of wind opened his blazer to reveal his braces
  • 20-year old wearing black suspenders with a white dress shirt and black jeans
  • teenage girl wearing a green, knee-length skirt with suspender straps
  • women wearing denim shorts with red suspenders and a plaid shirt
I couldn’t photograph these outfits, so I’ll share what braces I’ve been wearing. This is a pair of Y-back stripped braces with brown leather tabs. The straps have a grey edge trim, with light blue and thin stripes of red, white, navy, and grey.

What braces or suspenders have you been wearing recently?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When Women First Started Wearing Braces

At the end of the 1800s, women started wearing pants - both for comfort and relating to the jobs they did. As a result, women began wearing braces to hold up the pants. Alligator clips (today's "clip-ons") had not yet been invented - all "suspenders" were button-on braces. 

Women wearing pants with braces during the gold rush
I came across on article from 1892 in The Chronicle that comically explained some downsides to women wearing braces.

Source: The Chroncile: Spokane, Washington
Thursday, July 28, 1892

Something About the Latest Mannish Fad in Feminine Attire
How to Meet an Emergency

She cannot successfully chase a busted suspender up her own back, and like men she must ask somebody to pull them down

Suspenders are becoming more and more in evidence on the shoulders of women. Even the stout women are wearing them. Leaving out of consideration, says the New York World, the cost of material for a very fat women’s suspenders, it does seem to be thoughtful that they ought not to wear them. Suppose they should become detached from their rear fastenings, what would happen! When, following some great emotion, or some violent muscular effort, a pair of suspenders, like a runaway balloon, break loose from their moorings and raise to the point just below any women’s shoulder-blades, it is useless for her to try to seize them with her own hands. She can twist and wiggle and make faces and thrust her tongue in her cheek and distort herself into all the shapes of a marionette, but she cannot grasp those suspenders. Generations of men have tried to do it. Ever since the first pair of trousers the stronger sex have purpled their faces and dislocated their shoulders in the same mocking, useless, oath-forcing attempt. And shall women succeed now in a day?

So what’s to be done if a women’s suspenders break lose in the back, say at Twenty-third street and Broadway? Will she fly to the haven that every women seeks when an accident, visible or invisible, happens to what she wears – will she go into a shop? It will, indeed, be a courageous women who will walk into a shop with the explanation, “Excuse me a moment, I want to button my suspenders.” But even if she be brave enough to do that, to endure the scornful smiles, to face the withering looks of the sales ladies whose suspenders are never unbuttoned until they so wish, here, if she be alone, is she going to button her suspenders?

Men have been trying to solve that problem for lo! these many generations, and, as they give everything they own and a great many things they don’t to women, women might as well have the benefit of their experience at once. The commonest thing for a man to do in such an emergency is to unbutton his vest, throw his coat taile over the back of his head, walk up to the first man he sees, turn his back to him and ask his help. If he knows the other man he says, “Old fellow, I’ve busted my gallusses. Yank ‘em down, will you?” If he does not know him, he is, of course, more distant – that is, in his speech. He may say something like this: “Oblige me, sir, by drawing down my suspenders. As you see, they’re broken.” And the other fellow, who it’s ten thousand to one, wears suspenders himself, has a fellow feeling and obliges.

Now, there is, perhaps the simplest method and the easiest to learn. Any women can say: “Oblige me sir, by drawing down my suspenders. As you see, they’re broken.” It may be that the man’s hand will tremble a bit, but there will be a fellow feeling still, and he certainly will oblige.

Menswear by Ralph Lauren - black pants with braces

If a man’s suspender button’s fly off when the rupture between his suspenders and his trousers comes he has as a last resort that may be stated at first as being the most discomforting – to a man. He can take off his suspenders and walk on the heels of his trousers. But a women would hate to take off her suspenders, for, strangely enough, she wears them for show, most unostentatiously, proudly, delightedly, with an air that plainer than words: “Be kind enough to observe, I have taken another step toward the emancipation of the sex.” Some women, indeed, choose the gaudiest colors for their suspenders. If a man were to wear suspenders as loud as theirs he would not be able to hear himself think. For example, all Philadelphia was delighted the other day by the sight of a red headed girl wearing red suspenders and a pair of red shoes. Men, on the other hand, hide their suspenders. If they don’t wear sashes to conceal the awkward end of the ugly straps.

If man does not take off his broken suspenders he makes an effort to repair them. Human ingenuity has exhausted itself in this direction. Men have used twine since twine has been made and tied their suspenders down. But, then again, men have had advantage of the fact that their suspenders were hidden. What women would walk down the street with her suspenders tied to her silk dress? She’d pin ‘em first, but pins would not hold on a man. Instead of pinning his suspenders he has always nailed them, if need be, with tenpenny nails. But its doubtful if the expedient of cutting, with a jack knife, a new buttonhole in a $100 gown will be generally adopted by women. Whatever they do, however, when their suspenders rise to their shoulder blades they will find it better than to grasp them. The women who pursues her suspenders up her own back will, after assuming a number of ridiculous postures, wind up by standing on her head, a position repugnant to polite society.

The lady has a popped right-side exterior button

Here is another important point: Women may as well come to the same conclusion as have men, that it is useless to try to repair a broken pair of suspenders when the leather in the metal ring tears. They may be sure that when that leather attached to the ring in the back from which the suspenders radiate gives way it’s all up with the suspenders. They may sew that leather, they may clamp it, they may reinforce it with steel chains if they like, but it won’t hold anything thereafter. That’s one of the mysteries of suspenders. Another is that a buckle from one pair of suspenders was never known to fit another pair. So it will be useless, if they wear “real, true” suspenders, for women to preserve their buckles except as curios. The buckles may be gravel like those old Italian cups and dagger hilts, they may be heavy with gold, but they will never fit any other suspenders than those with which they were bought. The suspender manufacturers take care of that.

Yet another mystery of suspenders lately developed is, what do a women’s suspenders support? But, of course, that must remain a mystery. A very interesting and peculiar fact is that no women has been seen with her suspenders hanging from her waist. Walk into a newspaper office, for example – if you can – on one of these days when the mercury is soaring. There sit the men, their shirt sleeves rolled up, their suspenders kicking around their heels, perspiring; there are the women, cool and imperturbable, their suspenders where they ought to be – that is, where they ought to be on the men. But there must be moments when a women’s suspenders hang from her waist. Fancy the graceful sweep of her arms as she raises them, try to imagine the lovely curves as she carefully puts them in place.

Olive Borden in The Country Beyond (1926) with popped suspender buttons

The first and most natural result of the women’s appropriation of this article of apparel is that some young men are now embroidering suspenders for their sweethearts. That is almost too painful for contemplation. But, if they will do it, the young men should be very careful in their choices of mottoes to embroider. Suppose such as weak minded youth should embroide “I Love You” in blue silk on his girl’s suspenders, and then the suspenders should break after the word “love.” That would double the young women’s woes, for not only would she have a pair of broken suspenders to grapple with, but also the question, “Whom does he love?” Perhaps nothing could unite them – the suspenders. Again, although blue is always the color of true affection, the young man must observe his lady love’s complexion and her habit of dress before choosing the silk for his embroidery. Thus there will be many with such symphonies in colors, as that girl in Philadelphia with red hair, red suspenders and red shoes.

Discussion time:
  • What do you think about women wearing braces or suspenders?
  • Do women face different issues than men when wearing braces?
 Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

National Suspenders Day 2015

Today was National Suspenders Day, or National Braces Day for everyone wearing the button-on variety.

I wore a light grey suit with a white dress shirt and checkered tie. The proudly wore a pair of Y-back Trafalgar braces with inverse-U tabs to support the suit pants. The straps have a grey stripe in the middle and navy trim border, and a burgundy rear strap that accented the white shirt well. The grey strap of the braces mirrors the grey pants and brings the whole outfit together.

You may recall that I've worn these braces in a previous post; I find them very comfortable!

How did you celebrate National Suspenders Day?

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to sew on Brace Buttons

Time has flown by! It's been 9 months since my last post where I described how a brace button popped off my jeans. I sewed that button on, but didn't find time to write the post. This week a different button popped off from wear and tare, so it's high time I write this post on sewing buttons for braces! As a side note, if you take these two instances, you may think that my buttons are popping off all the time. This is not the case. Aside from the popped button this week and in December, I can't remember the last time a button popped off.

I will mention that a button popping off is an effective method to ensure the brace tabs are not damaged when braces are under significant strain. It is better to have a popped button than to have a damaged brace tab. Brace tabs are very difficult to repair, whereas a button can be easily sewn on.

If you are currently wearing braces and a button pops off or you wish to start wearing braces, you should know how to sew on brace buttons. It is relatively simple to sew on buttons. 

This post is your step-by-step guide to sewing on a button for braces.

Supplies for sewing on brace buttons:

  • 6 cone-shaped buttons (2 for each brace tab)
  • Desired color of thread that matches the color of your pants or inside waistband lining and good quality strength
  • Sewing needle
  • Chalk is helpful, but not necessary
  • Pair of scissors
  • Pants or skirt intended to wear with braces
  • Braces

Supplies for sewing on a brace button

Type of buttons

When selecting a shape for your braces, look for a cone-shaped button. This allows the brace tab to pull the button rather than cause the button thread to cut into the brace tab. You should also look for buttons with 4 holes rather than 2 to provide additional strength. Many tailors suggest that any button is suitable, and while it is true, it won't serve you well when the pressure is on to keep your pants up!

Suspender buttons should be between 1/2" and 5/8" in size to fit in the brace tab. They should be stylish but functional. If the buttons are going to be placed on the outside of your pants, you can be more creative in the design, but keep it tasteful. 

These types of buttons are aptly called 'Suspender Buttons’ at your local sewing store, or you can pick up them up online.

Sewing on a Button

1. Determine button placement

This is the critical step. In fact, there's a full post dedicated to this topic. Essentially, the buttons on the front should be located on a main pleat and then 3-4 inches towards the side. The rear buttons should generally be placed 1.25-1.5 inches on either side of the back center seam. The distance will depend on the distance of your brace tabs and your personal preference. Use the chalk to mark the placement.

You can purchase a pair of suspenders with brace tabs with clips on the ends to experiment with the positioning (see below):

Alternatively, you can temporarily hold the brace tabs to the pants with pins to experiment with the placement.

In my case, the popped button is the front, inner button. The button will be sewn in line with the main pleat. It lines up with the pocket line to keep the pant lines taut.

2. Choose whether to sew buttons on the interior or exterior

When every man wore braces in the 19th century and early 20th century, the buttons were located on the outside of the waistband and covered by a vest. As men came back from World War 1, vests started disappearing, which lead to brace buttons moving to the inside of the pants or disappearing altogether. Nowadays, it’s acceptable to place brace buttons on either the interior or exterior - your preference! You may choose to place the buttons on the exterior to display fancy buttons and your personality, or keep them inside and be more reserved. The choice is yours whether to place buttons on the interior or exterior.

In my case, as all the other buttons were sewn on the inside, this button will also be sewn on the inside of the waistline. 

3. Sew the first thread

Brace buttons should not lie directly flush on the waistline; there should be a small space allowed by the thread between the button and the pants. This is called the “shank”. Once you’ve inserted the thread into the eye of the needle, insert the needle into the button placement marked by the chalk. 

  • Interior buttons: Make sure that the thread goes through the waistband materials and the lining, but not so far as the exterior of the waistband. This may take some practice. If the thread is only sewn to the waistband and not the inner lining, you will have a roll-over effect and the waistline will pull up but leave the pants hanging. If the thread is sewn through the exterior waistband, it will be visible and look unprofessional. It may be simpler to start with exterior buttons.
  • Exterior buttons: the thread can go through completely as the thread marks will be hidden on the interior of the waistband.
In my case, I’ve selected a thread that matches as close as possible to the color of the exterior waistband. That way I can sew all the way through and show some of the thread. 

4. Knot the thread

Once the needle is inserted, pull the needle through, leaving about 5 inches from the end. Tie a knot with the thread to hold it in place.

Here’s a photo of the knot.

 5. Weave the thread

Weave the thread through the button hole, and then back to the waistline, through the button hole in line (not diagonal). The thread should form two parallel lines on the button, rather than an X. This will minimize the friction on the thread during wearing and reduce the changes of the button popping off. 

I recommend weaving the tread 3-4 times through each button hole to attach to the waistline. There should be 4 button holds, so this would be 6-8 loops between the button and the material on the waistline.

Here’s a photo of the woven thread.

6. Terminate the thread and complete the shank 

Once you complete the weaves through each button hole, finish by having the tread and needle come out of the waistline (not the button). Take the thread and circle around the button 7-8 times. Take the needle and insert it directly into the thread you just circled, leaving a 2 inch loop. Once the needle is through the thread, re-insert the needle through the loop and pull tightly. You can then cut off any excess thread.

Here’s a photo of the completed shank.

7. Repeat for remaining buttons

Repeat steps 3-6 for the other 5 buttons.

In my case, I only have 1 button to reattach.

8. Button on the braces

Once the buttons on in place, fit the brace tabs on to the buttons. You are set to enjoy wearing braces! 

I’ve reattached the brace tab to the button. My pants are now be fully supported by the braces.

The view from the exterior.

If you are more of a visual learner, here’s a short video that describes the process above. The person on the video sewed the buttons 2" apart, but I would recommend the buttons be 3.5-4" apart, to balance out supporting the pants and to spread out the brace tabs as they naturally fall.

Should the belt loops be removed?

Yes. Pants should never be worn with both braces and a belt, so why keep the belt loops? You shouldn’t switch between a belt or braces on the same pair of pants. Additionally, the empty belt loops look out of place when wearing braces. They are not needed and add clutter to the waistband. Cut them off or ask a tailor to remove them.

My story
I started sewing on brace buttons onto my pants when I realized that it was too expensive to get a tailor to do it. And most tailors did not know where to put them, how to sew them in without ruining the waistband, and did poor workmanship. So I learned by trial and error.

I learned how to sew buttons into dress pants after many years. I would only wear button-on braces with dress pants. Then one day I remember wearing a pair of jeans with a belt. The bottom cuffs were dragging on the ground and fraying. I started wearing suspenders with the jeans but they didn’t seem to support the pants correctly; the 4 connection points didn’t feel comfortable. One day as I reached for the jeans next to dress pants, it dawned on me that I could sew buttons into my jeans to see if that improved the comfort. I sewed on 6 buttons to the inside of the waistband of the jeans and put on a casual pair of braces. The instant I strapped on the braces onto my shoulders it felt right. The jeans were supported on the front crease and side seam, and at the rear. The jeans were a higher rise, and to be worn at the natural waist line. The jeans were made for braces, but I never knew! I’ve been wearing braces with this pair of jeans since then and enjoying the comfort.

Discussion time:

  • Have you sewn on brace buttons or do you go to a tailor?
  • Any helpful tips you’ve discovered when sewing on brace buttons?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ramblings of a Brace-Wearer: A Popped Button

It is inevitable: when you wear braces you are bound to have a button pop off occasionally. The 6 brace buttons undergo strain and tension throughout the day to support your pants from the constant pull of gravity. Yesterday it happened to me: one of my brace buttons popped off on my jeans. I was wearing a pair of jeans that I only wear with braces (no belt loops). I should not be surprised, but I am!

My surprise came from the fact that I was not doing strenuous activity. The braces were not being pulled or stretched - I was simply walking in the kitchen, when I felt my left brace strap suddenly shift to the left. I looked down to find the freed button on the ground and a dangling brace tab.

Drooping waistline from the popped brace button

I think most people assume brace buttons pop off when pulled or with a significant tug. But I share this story because buttons can also pop off simply by everyday wear and tare. This gradually results in the threads losing their hold with the button slipping from the threads and coming off.

Fortunately I was wearing inverse-V brace tabs so the change in brace tension was minimal. The braces continued to support my jeans and I made it through the day. If I had been wearing braces with inverse-U tab, the strap would have been ineffective to support the pants. Here's the result:

My front, inner brace button popped off
The button that popped off was the front, inner button on the left side. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the front-inner buttons are frequently under a lot of strain; hence they are likely to pop off. Now I’m wearing lopsided braces until I spend time to sew on the button.

Where the brace strap should be

Buttons are better than clips - even when they pop off

Braces are designed to be attached to pants or skirt with 6 buttons – 2 on the front left, 2 on the front right, and 2 in the rear. Any less than 6 buttons and the equilibrium is thrown off. Brace wearers will feel that the pants/skirt isn’t correctly supported without 6 buttons. Because the left strap is further to the side and not as taut, the strap has started to slip off the shoulder. I should sew this button back on soon!

A few days later I decided to wear clip-on suspenders with another pair of pants. I haven't worn clip-on suspenders in a while, so I thought I'd try them out again. This was a big mistake: within 2 hours of wearing them 3 of the 4 clips had snapped off. I was constantly reattaching them. I wondered why I was even wearing suspenders, as they were not keeping my pants up! 

Button-on braces attach and stay securely attached to pants much more than clip-on suspenders. Even though I didn't have all the buttons attached to the jeans, I was not constantly reattaching clips. When suspender clips pop off, you lose the only anchor on that part of the pants. With braces, when a button pops off, you still have 1 anchor holding your brace strap in place. I will wear button-on braces over clip-on suspenders any day!

Now you might think that buttons should be sewn in so securely that they never pop off. However, this is counter-productive as a popped button will save the brace tab and strap when under significant strain. A good tailor knows how much to sew the button on to keep it in place but also to give way if needed.

Given my particular situation, I think it’s fitting to explain how to sew on a brace button in my next post. Stay tuned!

Discussion time:

  • Have you popped any buttons? How did it happen?
  • Which button(s) do you find pop off?