Anatomy of a Camel Toe pt.1

Until about a year ago, I’d never heard of “camel toe” but significant other explained it was a popular culture description of the crotch of a woman’s pants that was inordinately defined due to wearing pants that were too small. Ha! I knew immediately what he was talking about, we’ve all had that experience. Although it’s difficult to quantify this sort of thing, I think camel toe has become more common over the past 10 years. By that I refer to camel toe becoming more frequent among women who are not wearing their pants too tight. This is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time because if there is one thing I know, the fitting problem known as camel toe is not caused by women wearing their pants too tight. No, no. Most of the time, camel toe is rarely the extreme you see on certain websites; it’s more subtle than that. Most of the time, camel toe is caused by wearing pants that are too big -in one specific area- making a reciprocal area too small. It’s an engineering problem, not a weight problem. In fact, here’s a skinny mannequin. If she’s got a camel toe, everyone else will too.

The poor engineering exemplified by camel toe has become one of my favorite topics of discussion -with those near and dear- because I can slap down the all too common fat-bashing myth perpetuated at the expense of heavier chicks accused of wearing their pants too tight AND -quite gleefully- I have two of my favorite culprits to blame; those being outsourcing and the use of CAD pattern templates. With those two targets in my sights, I just couldn’t be any jollier. The victim is innocent. The Man is to blame.

As my visitors well know, I just love to disparage the use of CAD templates for pattern making; that in spite of the fact that some of my best friends are CAD pattern makers :). I’ve made not so subtle implications that CAD is to blame for everything from teenage pregnancy, to decreasing literacy, to intelligent design, onto the scourge of plastic cutlery. Given enough time -and leeway- I’ve been known to link the use of CAD templates to everything from the Black Death in the fourteenth century to the bombing of Dresden. This of course is not to say that CAD isn’t useful -far from it- but if you’re not using the templates that came with your word processing program as is, why would you use the templates that come with a CAD program as is? Neither have been proven to fit you or your needs precisely. You tell me, is that true or is that true?


The problem with illustrating the problem is that you can’t fit something that is too small. By how much is something too small? If an area is stressed beyond the intended range of expansion, by how much can you quantify the difference? I realize I said in the second paragraph that the crotch is too big but the too-bigness is creating a paradox of too-smallness. So, the first thing to illustrate is what I mean by too-bigness creating too-smallness. A good example of this concept is not cutting lines away; it makes the pattern grow. For example, failing to cut the lines away on a curved neckline conversely make it smaller. Worse, a collar which is sewn into the neckline is getting bigger than its reciprocal set down seam -depending on the shaping of course.

Here’s a sample: Nearly always, a crotchline -like a neckline- is concave. If you draw around a concave neckline -keeping the shoulder line and center front static, the neckline -or a crotch line- will get smaller. Below is a sketch of a neckline traced out several times, in just this fashion.

Now, at the same time your neckline is getting smaller, your collar -say a mandarin or some other sort of straightish collar- is getting larger. Below is a sketch of the end of a straight collar.

So while your neckline is getting smaller, your collar is getting larger and the two will never fit together. This is one reason why you can’t grade a pattern by extending the boundaries of every edge by some determined amount. Proportionately, the concave areas get smaller and the convex or straight edges get larger. Believe it or not, this has a lot to do with the explanation of how camel toe is created through poor pattern design practices. Outsourcing product development to people who are much smaller than we are prevents the problem from being discovered and corrected. Failure to catch the problem in outsourcing explains why bad design is often approved. Particularly by push manufacturers.

Next in the series I’ll explain the specifics of how camel toe is an engineering problem for those of you who don’t guess it from the antecedent explanation. I’ll also explain the less obvious outsourcing connection sans hyperbole -or maybe only a little; exaggeration is fun and funny.

Related: Jeans and pants fitting tutorials
Marking & Cutting
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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