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May 11, 2016

So You Want to Sew Men's Underwear....



One of the best projects for beginning sewists is underwear.

Underwear generally requires very little fabric, so the financial investment is minimal.  A yard or so of either a stretch knit or a cotton woven, depending on the width of the bolt and the underwear you're sewing, can often yield you at least a few pair.

It should be said that underwear isn't necessarily easy-peasy to make.  Attaching knit fabric to elastic can be challenging, and some of the more complicated underwear styles, like French-back boxers (which have yokes), require buttonholes and somewhat complicated techniques.  Still, I've always found sewing underwear to be fun, if not always worth the effort, which is why these days I buy most of my underwear ready-made and save my sewing time for larger projects.

Over the years, I've sewn a lot of underwear, and even led a men's boxers sew-along, which is still available to all.

Most of my favorite underwear patterns are -- no surprise -- vintage, but a variety of them show up for sale on Etsy and eBay frequently and you rarely need to spend much money on them; many can be had for less than $10 USD.  With the exception of a few 1920's rarities, I would never consider spending more for an underwear pattern than I would for a pair of actual underwear!

Below a sampling of what can be found on eBay and Etsy right now:

NOTE: many of the older vintage ones are one-size only, so you will need to know your correct waist size.  Also, the older boxer styles are meant to be worn at your natural waist (as opposed to where most of us wear our pants, these days, inches below our navel).  So keep that in mind when measuring your size and when choosing a style.  Do you want your underwear to be sitting 3-4 inches above your pants?















A favorite in-print underwear pattern is Jalie 3242, below.  It includes both male and female and children and adult sizes, so it's very practical.  I've made a few of the styles (not the thong yet) and have been happy with the results.



My favorite vintage pattern is McCall's 3438 (below), from the Seventies.  It includes simple briefs, jockey style "tighty-whitey underwear, two styles of boxers, as well as undershirt and tank top.  I'd love to see it reissued as it can be hard to find.



You can read about all my adventures sewing many different styles of men's underwear by simply searching under mens underwear in the archives -- everything from boxtop to French-back boxers.

In closing, have you ever sewn men's boxers and/or briefs?   How was the experience?

Naturally, you don't have to be a man to sew this stuff -- underwear makes a fantastic, if somewhat personal, gift. 

Have a great day, everybody!



31 comments:

  1. Peter, I wondered if you had seen the new men's pattern for underwear done by Beverly Johnson at bra makers supply. Looks quite cool.
    https://www.bramakerssupply.com/site2009/cart/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=12&cat=Underwear

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    1. I've made both styles, in "muslin" of old cotton tee shirts, for my own Dear Husband. Great pattern. He was very very happy with the fit.

      We live in the Land of Hanes, and where most of the knitted fabric sold in the U.S. is made, and underwear is very cheaply boughten here. I sew because I love to sew, not because we can't find perfectly acceptable underwear to buy.

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  2. Does making camis and panties count? I made 14 camis and 36 pairs of panties last year, and after swimwear, I'm making an all white set for Grace's baptism next month to go with the dress and slip I'm also making her.The closest I've come to making men's is the liner in little boys swimtrunks.

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  3. I participated in your men's boxers sew-along (though I didn’t post my results). I self-drafted a pattern that looks very much like View 2 of the first and third patterns shown, but no poop flap in the back. I did learn a lot for very little money and time. I don’t wear them as underwear, but I still wear them as shorts. They fit well and are very comfy. This has me thinking about making another pair or two.

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  4. I've made probably fifty pairs of boxer shorts in everything from size 2 for my toddler grandson to an adult 2XL. I used to take my grandsons to the fabric store so they could pick out their fabric. I used Timber Lane Press' First Choice boxer pattern. There are two separate patterns for kids and adults. This is the baggy seated style of boxer. All seams are enclosed, no raw edges. The first pair may be a little daunting, but after that, they go together easily. This is not a Big 4 "finish in an hour" pattern, but all wearers have been comfortable.

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  5. I have sewn a pair for my husband, (I think for Valentine's Day, since they have a giant appliqued heart on the butt). I used an old pair of his for a pattern. They are pretty cute, but I don't think they are very comfortable since he only wears them is when he is very behind in laundry, or if he's trying to get in my good graces. I've also sewn a couple for my son, using Ottobre patterns, which have been much more successful. The vintage patterns you've found were a delight to scroll through.

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  6. What about the Comox Trunks from The Thread Theory? I got it for my husband. He didn't like them in the end because he has been stubborn about his weigh gain and ask me to sew the wrong size (even though I told him the measurements were not correct... you know: vanity hehehehehe). On the other hand my athletic daughter loves the trunks: form fitting and no center back seam are ideal for drylands swimming workouts.

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    1. I made these for my husband and they had a weird fit in the front. I didn't take photos because, you know, my husband's junk.

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    2. heheheheheh! I posted my daughter's (minus my daughter) on the flicker group

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    3. I can confirm that the the fit is odd. I made three pairs from decommissioned work shirts (we get really nice tees) and the fly opening sits at the top of the biref. If a gentleman uses the fly (many don't) it is set too high to be practical. There are blogs with hacks to readjust this or to convert to girl shorts. Aside from that, unlike them better than the Jailie, I'm a shorter guy and these are more proportional. I did go down a size, the set measurements seemed a bit oversized compared to commercial briefs

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  7. I sewed four pairs of boxers for my husband in the fall using the KwikSew 1672 pattern. While I was sewing them, I wondered if it was worth my time. But if sewn items were evaluated on times worn, those boxers would win, hands down, as the most worn of any clothing I've sewn. I used some fun fabrics, including a retro tattoo print from Alexander Henry (a pic is posted in my instagram feed). The other kind of sewing that is similar in terms of number of wearings for sewing effort ratio is pajamas. I sew flannel pajama bottoms and nightgowns every fall for my family, and they are worn to tatters in a couple of years. My son is off to college in the fall to a cold place and has already requested a few more pairs of flannel pj pants for dorm living.

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  8. I make my husband's boxers. But, he recently went out and bought some on his own because he missed the front opening on the boxer briefs I make him. I'm going to reverse engineer a pair and add that to the Jalie pattern. I like seeing him on the ones I make for him!

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  9. I was wondering about making some because I sew a lot with Liberty and because the cotton is so soft, I thought it would be a comfortable way of using all those offcuts that you just can't throw away. How much material do you need for a pair of boxers?

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    1. Depends on the bolt width and pattern but one yard should suffice.

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  10. I've made about 20 pair for my husband from Kwik Sew 1672, without the side vents. They are easy to make, and I have added extra touches such as overcasting the seams and topstitching to make them sturdier. These days, when I plan a shirt for my husband, I purchase a bit more fabric and make a pair of matching boxers for him. He likes matching shirts and boxers.

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  11. I'm desperately in need of the McCall's pattern you posted! I'd love to make the men in my life underwear because they are SO picky about what they wear and what's available in stores doesn't measure up.

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    1. https://www.etsy.com/listing/294736733/mens-underwear-and-sports-wardrobe?ga_order=date_desc&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=pattern%2036&ref=sr_gallery_24

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  12. From my own experience and observing what other men wear based upon the gym's locker room, boxer-style briefs seem to be what is currently most preferred, i.e. similar to the black pair being worn by the model holding the female model in the Jalie picture.

    In shopping for underwear, a trend I'm seeing is a 'push-up bra' style, those with pouches (including zippers, snaps, etc.), some with large cutouts, strategic use of mesh, etc. I wouldn't wear this stuff but some of the creativity is impressive. Men have many more choices than we used to.

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  13. I've made several pair of Jalie #F. Swim suit material, old blue jeans, some boat canvas, a piece of 4-way stretch knit I made a shirt from, even a scrap from a Home Depot painter's drop cloth. One layer thick rather than the pattern's suggested two layers. It's an easy pattern and quick to sew. I made it a little shorter on the bottom, a little more rounded. Very comfortable to wear. Those who have seen it comment they find the textures interesting.

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  14. As much as they reveal, underwear models appear to be the most forgotten group of models. There is no Pat Cleveland, Verushka, Suzy Parker, or Tyson Beckford.

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  15. I've made about 5 pairs of boxer briefs for myself using an old, holey pair as a pattern base. I just cut along the seams, laid the pieces flat, traced a pattern, and adjusted the pattern to suit my tastes and there ya go!

    I did have to find some plush-back elastic though, which took a bit of time to find in the internet, but other than that, I'm especially happy with my undies.

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  16. Male dancers typically wear what's called a "dance belt," kind of like a male thong. That's why when male ballet dancers wear white tights, there are no visible lines. OK, fine for performing, but a major cause of rash, itch, and chafing if worn during daily class and rehearsal. I decided to make cotton/Lycra briefs to solve those problems. I deconstructed a pair of store-bought perfect fitting briefs, including laboriously removing all the serging and cover stitching, and made a pattern. The finished briefs were a dream to wear for dance practice, but I ended up using them for regular wear, and swimwear, and presents to other male friends. Only caveat, dark dyed cotton/Lycra fabric will bleach out in chlorinated water as in hot tubs and swimming pools, so only use tighty whitey briefs when hot tubbing!

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  17. I have never tried to make underwear and wouldn't, but my ex sister in law has made some amazing lingerie, swim suits, and other personal items. She started making them in the 80's and I am pretty sure she still makes them last time I spoke to her. I remember when she bought her first serger and there was no looking back. Although I don't make clothing, boxers sound fun to make.

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  18. Hi Peter, As you know I make just about everything I wear, and boxers are no exception. I began making them for myself about 5 years ago when I couldn't find any in the store that were of any quality...I use beautiful Italian pima cotton & sateen in stripes, checks & small prints. One thing I always do is make a 1-1/4" casing for 1" elastic, with a buttonhole in the center back so I can change out the elastic when it no longer is stretchy...I use Simplicity pattern #9958 which has no side seams, only center back & center front...Can whip them out in no time!

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  19. I've started to make all my partner's underwear. He has a full set of boxers I gave him for one Christmas and this year I'm slogging through a full set of Comox Trunks for him (great pattern, but I had to adjust the overlap...apparently it was not user-friendly for the bathroom). It wouldn't be so bad except the fabric I'm using is so darn tricky!

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    1. I love the Comox Trunks patter - with that said, I too had to lower the gate, I also added a half inch in the back and lengthened the legs by two inches. I find cotton jersey fairly easy to work with, but maybe it's because I've made them so many times now. My first pair where a bit sad looking, but the did get better. Happy sewing - Ron in Germany

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  20. I've used that Kwik Sew pattern for 10 years now. My husband has the best undies in St. Louis! The crotch and leg seam always wear out first, I assume from.....friction from the ......bits down there.

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  21. I bought some crepe backed silk satin to make a fundoshi with so have a lot left over (2.3 metres by 34cm was all I needed for the fundoshi) and would like to make some flyless boxer briefs with the rest, any suggestions for a suitable pattern?

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    1. Jalie 3242 would work but not sure about silk satin boxer briefs!

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  22. Thanks for the pattern help Peter. As to the fabric choice, well it is a case of I have it, originally I wanted a charmeuse type of silk but could not source it, probably just as well in the case of the fundoshi as it would have been too slippery. I have just cut the pieces for a pair of cotton boxers as a trial using a free pattern with a fly (Manylybaloo) but it is the fly that worries me most for the sewing up as the folds seem complicated, though I'm sure they are not :0) Anyways many thanks for your interesting and amusing blog.

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