On the surface, the new Bisque Trousers from Vivian Shao Chen and the Miller Trousers from Paper Theory look very similar. Both patterns have an elastic waist, tapered leg, slant pockets, and a front pleat. But how do they compare? Despite appearances, there are a lot of differences, so buckle up for a head-to-head comparison.
A few notes before we get started:
- I’m reviewing View A of the Bisque trousers only. The Bisques also come in a View B (wide leg) and a View C (shorts), but I won’t be discussing those here since they are less relevant in comparison with the Millers.
- The goal of this post is to compare both patterns by analyzing the pattern pieces over the entire size range. I’ll cover how I adjust the fit of each for my body in another post.
Sizing and Grading
The Miller trousers go up to a larger hip size than the Bisque (see chart above) and are drafted for a person 1″ taller, so they immediately have the advantage when fitting larger bodies. It’s tempting to leave the sizing discussion there but if we dig a little deeper, there’s more to it.
A signature detail of both of these patterns is the front pleats and back darts to reduce the fabric volume at the waist. If you sew up these trousers without the elastic, the waist circumference will be smaller than the hip circumference, which is unusual for an elastic waist trouser. In both patterns, the finished waist measurement, when stretched, is SMALLER than the hip measurement, which is a problem because you have to fit the waistband over your hips to get the trousers on. Below is a screen cap from the Miller trousers, but the same is true for the Bisques.
Now, bodies are all different, and some are more soft and malleable than others. The designers are banking on you being able to squeeze the fully stretched waistband of these pants over your slightly bigger hips, however, if you’ve graded the waist down or the hips up to accommodate an hourglass figure, OR if your body composition simply prevents you from squishing your hips into a smaller waistband, then BEWARE! These pants might not fit over your hips. You’ll have to size up in the waist (meaning that you’ll have more fabric bulk around the waistband), or you’ll have to add a zipper, or you may want to omit sewing the back pleats for a smidge of extra room.
As I write this, Jasika of @jasikaistrycurious just posted some IG stories about this very same issue, and how she rescued her Bisque trousers with a side zip. Neither pattern mentions this potential issue in the instructions, which as Jasika points out, is an oversight.
Another thing to be aware of is the different ways these patterns have been graded. Below, I’ve mapped both size ranges onto a scale using the hip measurement.
Notice that these patterns use different grade rules to create their size ranges. The Bisque trousers increase the hip measurement on the first 7 sizes by a smaller amount than the Millers. This means that Bisque trousers place half of the size range under a 40″ hip (gray dashed line), and half above. There are more sizes for smaller people when compared to the Miller, which only has a third of its size range under a 40″ hip.
If you are a smaller person with a straighter figure, then you have more options in the Bisques, and you have a better chance of achieving the intended fit without modifications.
Drafting and Fit
First, some general observations:
- The grainline of the Bisque trousers is not balanced on front and back pieces. This means that the midpoint across the knee is not centered on the midpoint across the ankle. It’s a small amount in my size (1/2″ in front, 1/4″ in back for size 16),
but it tells me that this pattern may have some drafting issues(Edited to add: after a very insightful conversation with the designer, I now understand that this was a design choice to accentuate the shape of the leg). I have an IG highlight showing how I corrected this on the Hudson joggers if you’re curious.
- Bisque Trousers have a pleat intake twice as deep as the Millers (1.5″ vs 0.75″), which requires more ease through the hip and more volume through the leg for it to drape properly. Bisques are drafted with 7.7″ of intended hip ease, whereas Millers are drafted with 6.5-7″ depending on your size.
Below, I’m comparing Bisque (blue, on bottom) to Miller (red, on top) at the smallest common size (24″ waist / 34″ hip), at a mid-range size (33″ waist / 43″ hip), and the largest common size (41.5-42.5″ waist / 51.5-52.5″ hip).
Aligned at the crotch line so hems are parallel:
- Leg Position: Millers are drafted for a leg position that’s more underneath the center of your body. If you have thighs that touch, knees that are close together when you walk/stand naturally, or if you commonly need a knock knee adjustment, the Millers may be a better starting point.
- Crotch curve: The Bisque crotch curve as measured front to back is generally longer than the Millers, and how much longer depends on your size. At size 16, the Bisques have a crotch length that’s a whopping 2″ longer than the Millers. The Miller instructions say that the intended fit is a 1″ dropped crotch, whereas Bisque instructions don’t specify (I am 5’10”, both were too short for me).
- Pockets: Notice the Bisque pocket angle is becoming shallower as you go up in size. A shallower pocket slant may be at greater risk for gaping open on the larger sizes, so that is something to watch out for.
Aligned at the inseam to compare leg space:
- Leg ease: Although the ankle width is very similar, the leg width increases more in the Bisques as you move up the size range compared to the Millers. If you are a smaller size, these two patterns may feel similarly tapered on your body. If you are a larger size, the Bisques will feel looser or baggy depending on your anatomy (see Jenna’s post about this). I toiled the size 16, which is in the middle of the range, and there was a significant difference in leg volume compared to the Millers. The Bisques were very loose from the thighs to the ankles. Miller was much more tapered through the entire leg.
Aligned at crotch line so hems are parallel:
- Leg position: As in front, the leg position is more underneath your body in the Millers compared to the Bisques.
- CB Angle: One of the biggest differences on the back piece is the pitch or angle of the center back (CB) seam. Even though it is classified as a trouser, the Millers look a bit like a jeans draft to me, where the narrower leg and closer fit means that the CB seam needs to be on a slight bias to create room for the curve of your hips/butt and allow for better range of movement. The Bisque is more of a classic trouser draft with a straight, vertical CB seam and generous ease through the hips, thighs, and leg. These drafting differences will obviously affect the fit. If you have smaller waist in relation to hips/butt, Miller may give you a better fit through this area.
Aligned at inseam (and CB seam):
- Leg ease: It’s true in front, but perhaps more noticeable in back, that the outseam on the Bisques bows outward through the leg/calf in the size 16 -24, whereas Miller cuts inward across the whole size range. There is also more width across the back hem in the Bisques, meaning the total ankle circumference is larger and the leg is less tapered.
- Crotch curves: When aligned at the CB seam, Miller back curve is a little deeper and the crotch extension is a bit longer.
The instructions on both patterns are generally good, however the Bisques give you more detail if you are a beginner.
My main critiques of the Bisque instructions are that 1) the seam allowance isn’t stated anywhere as general information, instead it is indicated at each step (and occasionally changes depending on what you are doing) which I find annoying, and 2) the pocket instructions are more complicated than they need to be. The Millers use the same construction technique and pattern pieces but with a more efficient order of operations. I constructed the pockets on both toiles at the same time and the Millers came out looking much neater.
My final comment about the Bisque construction is that you aren’t told to trim the excess bulk from your deep front pleats, which means that getting a 2″ piece of elastic and a safety pin through the finished waistband channel is a pain. The Millers have you construct the front pleat without the extra fabric in the waistband, and it’s much easier to work with.
(Edited to add: My bad! The seam allowance is stated on page 1. I missed it. Regarding the pleats, Vivian Shao Chen (the Bisque designer) got in touch with me to say that it was a design decision to leave the pleats untrimmed. This creates the extra pleated appearance on the waistband itself.)
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking with me.
To be honest, I thought analyzing both patterns would help me decide which ones to make, but I’m still waffling. I like the slightly more dramatic pleat detail of the Bisques, but I will need major alterations for these to fit me well (like re-drafting both legs). Is it worth the effort?
The Millers will need fewer adjustments, but I’m not sold on this pattern either. The more subtle pleat on these gets a little lost in all the waistband gathers, so in that case I’d rather make a more straightforward pair of elastic waist trousers like the Arden pants, which already fit me well with practically no adjustments.
So stay tuned, I may proceed with both patterns as a learning exercise for myself on how to fit trousers. Or, I may just make myself a 3rd pair of Ardens.