Anatomy of a Camel Toe pt.2

If Camel Toe had a big brother, his name would be “Wad”. You know what I mean, that bunch of wadded up fabric at your crotch. Levi’s 501 was infamous for the wad -and every pair was different. That’s because Levi’s has been outsourcing their product development for years. Rather than having product development at headquarters develop one set of patterns that would be then sent to each factory, the style was spec’ed in detail and each contractor was left to develop their own proprietary pattern based on the measurements. Well, as I’ll show you here, not all inches are created equal. Headquarters passes sample wad/camel toe patterns unknowingly because the most critical specs of waist and hip measures are met.

At right you’ll see how a camel toe/wad is born. Starting with the basic pattern on the left, some area is sliced off from the side seam and added onto the center front. With this, the makers seem to be saying that one inch in the front is equal to any other inch in the front (or back too but that comes later).

Taking an inch off the side seam and sticking it at the center front doesn’t make it equal which is why something would fit (if fit were defined as having enough fabric to cover body parts) in the waist and hip but you’d still end up with a wad or a toe in the crotch. The reason this happens is because the total crotch length is shortened. Adding fabric onto the center front effectively straightens that line. Unfortunately, you need that length in order to shape around the pod shaped body -in addition to the curvature of course. Presumably contractors test fit their own samples but upon whom? It is exceedingly rare that a fit model in an off-shore facility is going to match the physical dimensions of the larger boned and taller average US citizen.

The motivation for a pattern designed with the camel toe “feature” can be summed up in one word: savings. While the savings are not apparent from one pattern piece, consider the savings once the pattern has been make into a marker and paired with the other pieces. I realize the mocked-up marker below is incomplete; in real life, you will be able to fit in more pieces across the width than what I’ve shown here. Also missing are companion pieces such as pockets, waistbands and flys. The black ink indicates the placement of a better pattern. The blue shows the outlay of the camel toe patterns. This sketch is a bit small, see the larger illustration of this marker.


I should also mention that a similar problem occurs with the seat of pants which is why some pants don’t flatter your rear and your butt looks flat. Have you ever looked at a pair of “mom” jeans? I mean, really looked at them? Everybody’s got at least one pair. Try them on. I’ll bet you money your butt looks flatter in the back and you either have Camel Toe or her brother Wad in the front. Yeah, I know the waists are often higher too but try to overlook that -ignore styling issues- and just look at fit.

Another thing you can do is compare different pairs of jeans you have, compare jeans that fit you well vs. ones that don’t by turning them inside out and sticking the leg of one side into the other leg to expose the cross section of the crotch seam. Lay them flat and you’ll notice a big difference between the ones that are camel toed and the ones that fit you nicely. The camel toe ones will be straighter and shorter in the crotch line than the ones that bend to fit you nicely.

Camel Toe and Wad are usually brought to bear through outsourcing. Depending on the manufacturer placing the contract, contractors are often paid a package price per unit delivered. Therefore, there is an incentive for the contractor to tightly control marker utilization which defines the total yardage used. The reason a company like Levis (by no means the only transgressor) will assign package contracts is because Levis won’t need to source the fabric goods in the market closest to a given contractor unless they have to. Likewise, assuming the contractor had CAD facilities and Levis provided them with a pattern, the file transfer may not work due to conflicting file conversions. That might not seem like a big deal but I know of one pattern company in LA with the bulk of their revenue coming from file conversions. A manufacturer’s only other option is to ship a marker to the contractor but with the costs and time involved, that is usually untenable considering distances.

The solution to controlling these problems costs more but is unavoidable if you really care about the fit of your product. First, you must develop the pattern yourself or hire it out until you have a pattern you like. Then, you have to send that pattern to your contractor be it by file conversion or shipping. Unless your product is really simple -say pure rectangles, squares or circles, you’ll have to provide the pattern. Despite an entire industry grown up around the spec’ing of products and the advent of “technical designers”, there is no other way.

Related: Jeans and pants fitting tutorials
Jeans fit so lousy these days
Jeans fit so lousy these days pt. 2
Yet another pet peeve: Waistbands
Anatomy of a Camel Toe pt.1
Anatomy of a Camel Toe pt.2
How to fix a camel toe
Adding a gusset to pants pt.1
Adding a gusset to pants pt.2

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26 Comments on "Anatomy of a Camel Toe pt.2"

[…] women’s trousers. Got that uncomfortable bifurcated look? it’s not you it’s the freaking manufacturers saving money. And it’s incidentally a really really really really strong case for why you can’t just […]

C.K. Kidd
1 year 4 months ago

In different terms, I see the “to separate or not to separate” principle as this: For no cleavage (e.g. no camel toe), snug horizontally around the thigh at the top of the inseam and loose on the vertical center seam. For cleavage (e.g. bun separation), loose horizontally around the buns and snug on the vertical center seam. For a man, there exists a different problem at the front which I believe would be solved by twin vertical seams about an inch apart in the front which join at the inseam, but the result, while super comfortable, would be too anatomically explicit for other than gym wear… and me. :-) Does there exist a service that can custom tailor men’s running tights with professional flat stitching?

2 years 7 days ago

Had to make a pair of pants for my mom this weekend. I had read this article several months ago (hey, with that title this is a cant miss) and filed it away for future reference. Well suffice to say that of all the many little adjustments that come with pants fitting especially for a novice like me – this was the easiest and quickest to fix. And I would never have just figured it out myself ( ok maybe I would have after many days, hair pulling, adding even more fabric there convinced it was happening because it was too small, weeping and knashing of teeth). You made it so easy. Thank you.

Darla Ferranti
2 years 1 month ago

Sorry I’m late. I love this place…..

Darla Ferranti
2 years 1 month ago

My sides are split from laughter.
OMG after spending 4 months in Milan then loosing weight from not eating their diet (bread, pizza, gluten & pasta) I was forced to purchase Italian popsicle spandex pants. It didn’t matter what size I was or the pants..We were all doing the camel toe dance until wee hours of the morning in them…I cursed all the way home on the plane until I got back to Dillard’s to find my favorite no-waisteband twill pants….I could feel in every pair that that tiny corner was missing… Little lies can hurt you!