The 70's Square Leg Tanksuit

Let's Go Retro!

For the last 40 years we've all looked back on the 70's and wondered how on earth the fashion industry got us to wear flares, wide collars, wide ties, and spectrum of colour all in the one garment. Yet the cyclic nature of fashion crept up and bit us in the behind while we weren't looking. Low slung hipster waist lines have taken over every section of fashion for the last 15 years and now waistlines are so low on every type of garment that women are running off to wax areas they'd never have dreamed of waxing 30 years ago! Thankfully we’re starting to see the end of this long running trend and a return to higher waists.

I have to admit liking the 70's. Women's fashion was soft and feminine. Men's fashion had a sense of flamboyant style that hadn't really been seen since the 1700's. People could speak their mind and everyone was open about love and sexuality. But as sudden as those years arrived, the 70's were crushed in the 80's by androgyny, shoulder pads, huge plastic components and the belief that 'greed was good'. I hereby swear that if 1" thick shoulder pads ever return to mainstream women’s blouses I'll retire from fashion forever!

The 70's were responsible for the transition from bloomer type bikini bottoms of the 60's through to the bikini brief. The 60's bikini bottoms were predominantly centre front/back seamed short designs with a square leg line. This meant that one piece designs had a centre front seam that ran all the way to the bust. The only way to remove this seam was to lift the leg line slightly up from square, which is exactly what eventually happened. Indeed this also meant a certain amount of unflattering wrinkles and fabric bulking around the crotch area. So the square line kept on being lifted a more and more until by the mid to late 70's the leg line had reached the low slung waist line and the most successful swimsuit design in history became standard. Ok so the 80's saw a short lived high (sometimes way too high) leg line, but feminist androgyny pretty much destroyed that design with anyone wearing it being looked down upon. Of course the invention of fluorescent colours didn't help the cause any.

So how did they make the one piece square leg? How low can you go before needing to revert to a centre front and back seam? By definition the lowest a square leg can be is the waist to crotch measurement as a vertical. Any more than that and it's no longer square. But of course you still need to be able to able to wrap around the inside leg tendon and join between the legs. This means lifting the leg line a fraction. This sketch above represents the early 70's halter neck one piece with a square leg and no centre front seam that we're going to make a pattern for. Of course there's nothing stopping you still using a centre back seam, in fact I think it would look much better with one.

The sketch above illustrates the pattern we're going to make. This pattern is based on the Halter Neck One Piece we created previously (using 12% horizontal negative ease and 0% vertical ease). Before you start each step, take a good look at the illustration to help you follow the drafting process. At the end of each step your draft should match the illustration.

Step One

Trace around your one piece block and transfer across the top of the halter pattern (without seam allowance). Mark in a guide line 7cm above the hip line (+/- 0.25 cm per size). This represents the height of the leg line. Draft in a vertical guide line twice the width of the crotch from centre front on the new height guide.

Step Two

Extend the side seam on both front and back panels to the height guide. Widen the crotch seam (red line on the bottom of each panel) by 0.5cm (for all sizes). This is a simple tweak to help the leg line sit better ... it won't matter if you don't do this.

Step Three

Draft in the new front leg line touching all guide points: new side seam to intersection of vertical guide, to narrowest part of crotch, to widened crotch seam. This should be a smooth gradual curve dictated by the guide points. The back leg line curves ever so slightly from side seam to crotch seam. Trace the front side seam onto tracing paper to true up the back leg line at both ends.

Step Four

Remove unnecessary guidelines. If necessary retrace the front and back panels. Add seam allowance to the pattern based on how you intend to assemble it. I've shown this pattern with 10mm allowance for overlocked seams (8mm to blade plus 2mm off cut) and 10mm allowance for folding over 9mm elastic. If you were to use a binder attachment to apply the elastic and casing fabric to the edge, then you wouldn’t need any seam allowance on those particular seams. Finally, be sure to clearly label your pattern pieces with a title, panel name, garment size, cutting instructions, author’s name, date and revision number.

Step Five

This image has been included for completeness to demonstrate how the centre back seam might be created. It's very much the same as for the Cheeky Shorts pattern only we're not going to narrow the bottom of the square leg line.

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