I was trying to figure out why I got so excited about doing this whole pants-making business, and I’ve decided that I had some pretty legit reasons for being excited.
First: I’ve never made myself a pair of pants before (and often felt dissatisfied with what I could buy)
I’m heavier on the bottom than the top, built a bit like a T-Rex with really beefy legs, but sort of spindly forearms and hands. As a result, I’ve always dreaded buying pants. The first few times I tried to buy pants for my adult woman self, back in the early days before lycra and spandex had infiltrated all our clothing, I remember thinking that there simply wasn’t anything out there that could work for my body as it was. And, like so many other people, this gave me a horrible sense that my body needed to change if was going to conform. It’s been a long journey since then, but I still generally dread buying pants. I’m not claiming I can make anything close to as good as what might be out there, but there is something exciting about the idea that these pants are made for me, taking my actual measurements and needs into account.
Second: because I neither like to pants shop, nor as am diligent about mending as I should be, I’m starting to run low on pants. I bought four pairs of colored jeans four or five years ago on sale and have worn all of them within an inch of their lives. New pants for summer would be nice.
Third, and most importantly: Japanese Farmer Pants!
Probably dating myself and giving too much away about my personality, but as a kid I was obsessed with a yuppie mail order gardening supply catalog that would come in the mail for my mom. Smith and Hawken, they had all these groovy gardening tools, and pictures of beautiful English Country-type gardens with fountains playing eternally in mottled sunshine. Aaah.
I had deep agricultural aspirations even as a kid, and I really wanted to dress the part by getting myself a pair of the ‘Japanese Farmer Pants’ perennially advertised in the catalog. Of course, I was a kid, and the pants were expensive, and not sized for children– so I would emulate the look by rolling up the legs of my blue chinos a bit (based on photographic evidence, I looked pretty dopey–but it felt so good!). I never did get a pair, but apparently people who did really liked them, there are forums on Amazon and elsewhere with former Smith and Hawken customers (the supplier went under) begging for someone to bring the fabled Japanese Farmer pant back to market.
I’ve been watching the trend of baggy pants cinched at the ankle and worn with birkenstocks (and here in West LA, with a nice manicure) with great interest. It reminded me of…. something…. but what??
And then I flashed back to Smith and Hawken and the Japanese Farmer Pants. Now was my moment! the Japanese farmer pant is finally in fashion!
As I’ve started to get energized to make my own, I decided it might be worth researching whether this concept of “Japanese Farmer Pant’ had any basis in Japanese sartorial history, or if it was a complete sales construct designed to lure in crunchy California pre-teens. Happily, it turns, out, that there is, in fact, a tradition of loose-fitting pants that have ties at the ankle and the waist. They are called “monpe” in Japanese, and were actually used by farmers and other people working outdoors in the heat, and therefore had to have a lot of give. Traditionally, it seems many of them may have been died with indigo using shibori technique, and sometimes even embroidered in the knee pad area with sashiko (running) embroidery for reinforcement, and presumably comfort for someone having to kneel. While one website said that the style had fallen out of favor because it reminded people of the necessity of women doing men’s agricultural work during World War II, it does seem possible to procure modern monpe on the internet. I have not yet seen any indication that the baggy pant ‘look of the moment’ that I see at the park and that is being emulated in the Luna Pants is indeed inspired by monpe, but it seems possible.
So I will finally have my Japanese Farmer Pants. The yellow ones I’m making probably won’t be that good for gardening because of the color, BUT, I do have some extra cotton yardage in a very ugly ‘putty’ color that would be a great candidate for a shibori makeover…. so stay tuned!