Upcycling thrifted clothing or repurposing old clothes that ran out of style is one of the easiest ways to breathe new life into your closet without breaking the bank.
If you want to learn how to sew but don’t want to start from scratch, upcycling old or thrifted clothing will also help you learn the basics of sewing without too much effort.
An easy project to start with is turning a skirt into a pair of shorts. This is a really simple project that will only take you a few hours, and it’s a great way to transition your wardrobe into a new season. Turning skirts into shorts is also relatively beginner-friendly, and with some practice, you will have a new, fashionable pair of shorts for spring.
How do you turn a skirt into shorts? You can turn a skirt into a pair of shorts by measuring and cutting into the middle of the skirt fabric, front and back, and then sewing up the front, back, crotch, and leg seams. You should use another pair of shorts as reference to help you determine the right shape for your body.
In this guide we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about turning your skirt into a pair of shorts with ease. So read on and happy sewing!
What to Know Before Starting
There are so many skirt designs and not all of them will be able to transform into fashionable shorts. Before following this tutorial to transform an old skirt, you should check the following things to make sure you’ll get the best results.
The Skirt’s Material
This tutorial works best when your skirt is made of stretchy fabric like cotton or a knit.
If you work with stretchy materials, you won’t have to be too rigid with your measurements or cutting. The stretchy fabric will adapt naturally so that your shorts will have a comfortable fit for your body.
Keep in mind, however, that if you are using a stretch material, you should also use a stretchy stitch (such as a zigzag stitch) to sew. Using the correct stitch that complements your material will make sure that the shorts look nice while also being comfortable to wear.
Before you sew, make sure to test the stitch length and tension on a piece of scrap fabric so that the stitch will work well with the fabric of your skirt.
The Skirt’s Design
We recommend using a skirt that already fits you at the waist but has more fabric at the bottom, like a circle skirt, so that there’s less work altering and reassembling the shorts.
Since we will be trimming away some of the fabric to shape the shorts, working with a tighter skirt will not give you enough room to create the desired shape.
This tutorial will work best when you are working with skirts with elastic waistbands since you won’t have to cut around any zippers. We are not working with exact measurements, so skirts with elastic waistbands will make the fit more forgiving.
About Sewing Shorts
Transforming a skirt into a pair of shorts is not simply cutting a triangle at the crotch and sewing the seam together. Since our bodies tend to be larger at the back and flatter at the front, you will need to shape the front and the back differently for the final design to complement your body.
Since we’re not drafting a pattern, we recommend using a pair of shorts that already fit you well as a sort of template to guide you while sewing. Understanding the anatomy of a pair of shorts will also help you picture the steps as you go, and help you follow this tutorial with ease.
Before you start, turn your shorts inside out and investigate their structure. You’ll notice that the backside has a bit more room, while the front is more tapered inwards. When we sew, the front seams are sewn together first, then the back seam, then it’s assembled together with the crotch seam.
Now that you know the basics, let’s get started!
How to Turn a Skirt into Shorts
First, you’ll want to gather your materials. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A skirt with enough fabric to be turned into a comfortable pair of shorts
- A pair of shorts that fits you well for reference
- A fabric marker or tailor’s chalk
- A pair of sharp fabric scissors
- Sewing pins
- Sewing thread that matches your skirt color
- A sewing machine
Turn the skirt inside out, as you will be marking the wrong side of the fabric. Lay your skirt on a flat surface.
Fold along the center of the front and the center of the back, while making sure that the side seams lay on top of one another.
Fold your reference shorts in half, with the front of the shorts facing outwards. Lay the shorts on top of the skirt, with the side seam of the shorts matching the side seam of the skirt and the waistband of the shorts matching the waistband of the skirt.
Use a fabric marker to trace along the front curve and the crotch seam of the shorts, leaving an extra half an inch for seam allowance. Make sure to leave the waistband intact. This line will have a backward “L” shape.
If you are using a longer skirt – an over the knee, midi, or maxi skirt – you should also trace along the leg opening. If you are using a mini skirt, you can skip this step since you don’t have to cut the skirt any shorter to turn them into shorts.
Fold the shorts in half, this time with the back of the shorts facing outwards. Repeat step 2, but on the opposite side of the skirt’s side seam.
Use fabric scissors to cut along the shapes that you just traced. Do not cut all the way to the waistband.
Optional: If your fabric tends to fray, use a serger to stop the fraying after you cut the pieces.
Use clothing pins to pin the two front pieces and the two back pieces together along the cut.
With a sewing machine, sew along the front seam, leaving the crotch seam open. Repeat on the back seam, again leaving the crotch seam open. Remove the pins as you go.
Optional: If you want the seam to lay nice and flat, turn the shorts to the right side and add a top stitch to both the front seam and the back seam.
With the side seams of the shorts on top of one another, pin the crotch seam (an upside-down V shape) together, making sure that the leg openings are aligned.
Sew along the crotch seam. If you want, turn the shorts to the right side and add a top stitch here as well.
Try on the pair of shorts you just sewed and mark how long or short you want the legs to be. Skip this step if your shorts already have the desired length.
Remove the shorts and lay the legs flat. Mark a straight line across the leg where you want the length to reach, leaving half an inch for seam allowance.
Use a sharp pair of fabric scissors and cut across the leg where you just marked. Fold the shorts in half so that the legs lay on top of each other and cut so that the length matches.
Turn the shorts inside out and fold up the seam, pinning along the seam while making sure that the seam has an even width throughout the leg. Repeat on the other leg.
Use a straight stitch to sew along the folded edge, removing the pins as you go. Repeat on the other leg.
And there you have it: a brand new pair of shorts from an old skirt!
What if My Skirt Has a Zipper?
We don’t recommend using skirts that have a front zipper for this tutorial. You will need to leave the zipper intact, and it will be difficult to match both the side seams and the front seam of the skirt with the shorts. The end product may also bulk up at the front since it was not originally shaped to hug the body.
However, if you have a bit more sewing skills, you can also transform skirts that have a zipper. Simply leave the zipper when you cut and sew, and you can achieve similar results as using a skirt with an elastic waistband.
Can I Use These Steps to Turn a Maxi Skirt into Pants?
The short answer is yes! If you want to convert a maxi skirt into a pair of pants, simply switch out the reference shorts for a pair of long pants that fit your body well.
When you mark where to cut on steps 2 and 3, simply trace along the pant legs as well. Here, you can also adjust whether you want the pants to have tapered legs, straight legs, or flared legs. Then you can follow the rest of the tutorial to turn a long skirt into a pair of long pants!
Do I Need a Sewing Machine to Turn a Skirt into Shorts?
A sewing machine is recommended to help you achieve a clean and neat look. However, if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can hand-sew along the seams following the same steps. You can use a backstitch to make sure that the seams are secured in place.