What Does “Khaki” Even Mean?

I am loathe to call it cultural appropriation but “khaki” in my language (Urdu) means dry mud or dust.  This well-researched book circa 1995, agrees with that fact.



I grew up with my mother and grandmother referring to anything in this subdued light brown shade as a “khaki color”.   The term was Anglicized when the British rulers of India ran around in garments of this color and named them “khakis” – the color of Indian dust or mud. By the way, the first two letters are pronounced with a guttural sound – from the throat.

Well, I stitched up a pair of “khakis” for myself, adding to the pants area of the wardrobe. Traditional khakis which were originally men’s casual pants, are now firmly entrenched in women’s wear with or without the traditional features in men’s khakis.  A pair I made for myself in the distant past had the required cargo pocket at the side of the knee; but it was an embroidered pocket! Those pants are worn out and long gone but they were a feminine iteration of the classic menswear khaki pants.

This time, I chose Vogue 9284 to make a new pair in a stretch cotton jacquard with interesting seamlines and topstitching.  Because stretchy fabric is now a way of life for me.



A short review of this pattern is in order, I think.  The fabric requirements include a four-way stretch fabric such as ponte knit; stretch woven fabric as an option listed on the pattern.  I’m not aware that four-way stretch wovens exist, but maybe that’s just me.  Well, after studying the pattern pieces, I took my chances and used a one-way stretch woven, a cotton/lycra jacquard weave with crosswise stretch only – a stash item.  It’s a good thing the pattern runs big and looks different from the legging-like closely fitted pants shown on the pattern envelope and description. In fact, I had to take in the curvature of the upper side seams to slim it down, and to somewhat resemble the lovely pants on the envelope.  Annnd, all’s well that ends well; I like these pants because I changed their shape to make them similar to the representation on the envelope.   IMG_8060

One more thing: the khaki stretch cotton is on my Mood Board Binder plan, which means I’m sticking to a “curated” sewing plan this summer. Heh.

What about your sewing activities, my friends?




7 thoughts on “What Does “Khaki” Even Mean?

  1. Oh those are lovely. In the UK things that are described as Khaki often have a bit of green in the brown or can be quite a warm medium brown, so I’ve found it a fairly unhelpful term!
    I made these ones from a simpler pattern, but I’m with you on the stretch, these are from Bengaline.


    1. Your pants look great! Yeah, with time sometimes certain terms get lost from their origin. About the color, my ancestors used it only for the light brown color — not with any green in it. I think here is the US, your pants would be called a “military green”.
      Thank you for your comment!


  2. This is lovely fabric. Glad the two-way stretch fabric worked for this design. I am assuming that the fabric had the required cross-wise stretch compared to the stretch guide on the pattern? Love the seaming detail.


    1. Cathy, it had enough crosswise stretch, thankfully. I’ve already road-tested these pants and really like them.


  3. Those pants are very fancy! I love them!
    I thought that “khaki” came from a British African Safari wardrobe and then transferred to the Military? Of course being American what do I know about British wear back then! :o) Thank You for educating me!
    I’m taking a sewing break and watching everyone else sew. I’ve been doing some embroidery which I love but rarely ever get time for.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Khaki seems to encompass anything from a light beige to nearly olive green. My grandkids are required to wear khaki skirts or pants to school and sourcing the right color via online fabric shops is a study in frustration. Before I realized I needed to swatch every internet purchase, I bought khaki willy nilly. The result is a drawer full of one and two yard cuts of fabric that do not match or even blend. It’s astounding. Only a few work for the school clothes and the rest….well, I may see how well they take dye because I dislike khaki on me! Your pants are lovely but I wish you had shown them on, especially a shot before all the alterations. I would love to have seen how big they actually run. I have found that a common occurrence with Vogue pants patterns.


    1. The photo of them on me will come soon, but not the process photo before the alteration. I thought I’ll create a graphic to demonstrate that. I use my phone as a camera these days — should really look into a real camera with a tripod. Mirror selfies are just not my thing… 🙂
      So, what will you do with all those khaki pieces of fabric?


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