Making Break-Away Suit Pants

Aug 17, 2021 | Theatrical Costumes

For our staging of Chicago, Billy Flynn’s character required break-away pants to go with his break-away suit jacket. Break-away pants are easy and fun to make, especially compared to a break-away jacket. If you need to make both, my advice is to start with the pants for practice, and then graduate to the jacket. This video provides a good demonstration on making break-away pants.

Select the pants:

Start with pants that are one size too large for the actor. The pants need to be made of soft material and not designed to fit tightly – pleated tuxedo-type pants will work much better than twill work pants. 

Prepare the pants:

Fold the pants as if you were ironing creases into them (side seam to side seam, leg on top of leg). Press a crease in the center back of the legs. Open out the pants and lay them flat, so you can see the back of both legs. Using tailor’s chalk (or some other removable fabric marking tool) and a long ruler, draw a line along the back crease. Then, extend the line straight up through the seat of the pants through the waistband. 

Convert the pants:

With sharp fabric scissors, carefully cut along the chalk lines through the back leg, seat, and waistband, including through any pockets or other features. If the waistband has a belt loop on or within an inch of your chalk line, remove the belt loop and discard.

Apply snap tape to the back side of the left side of both openings (Suggestions for working with snap tape can be found here.):

  1. Turn under ⅜” of the top piece of the garment 
  2. Pin snap tape in place and sew along both long edges of the tape. 

Apply snap tape to the top side of the right side of both leg openings. 

  1. Pin snap tape in place and sew along both long edges of the tape. 
  2. Finishing this raw edge of the garment is not necessary.

Onstage:

Close both lines of snaps and wear them like regular pants. To break away the pants, firmly grasp the center front of the pants and firmly yank.