Coffee heat rising

The Art of Daily Living: Frugal New Shorts

So now that I’m “thin” and the fat doesn’t seem inclined to come back, the closet still holds great wads of size 12 and size 10 Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, my favorite uniform.

Hesitated to throw these out or donate them, for fear the diet might not stick and so I might need them again. But that fear seems to have been unfounded. And now…baby, it’s HOT out there!

Them thar 105-degree temps make the size 8 jeans feel a little on the hot and uncomfortable side. I’d already made a couple of pairs of shorts out of old Glorias, and suddenly I’ve found myself wearing them all the time. Since they’re always landing in the wash and leaving me with nothing to wear, yesterday I decided to  construct several more pairs.

Here’s the trick: Gloria Vanderbilt’s “Amanda” stretch five-pocket jeans are very much your mother’s bluejeans. These things are designed to fit up around your waist, truly stodgy, and they have rather baggy pants legs: i.e., a  comfortable, conservative fit for comfortable, conservative (fat) laydeez. What this means is, if you choose to make your cut-offs from a pair that is two sizes too large (as opposed to just one size), you can let the waistline ride on your hips…and voilà! Magically, you have a pair of shorts that fit like they were made for a younger, more stylish woman.


They’re pretty easy to make, though it’s a little time-consuming to do more than one pair at once. Building three pair occupied an entire evening in front of Netflix. Here’s how:

1. Estimate the desired length. Put on the jeans, stand in front of a full-length mirror, and let your hand fall to about where you’d like the hemline. Take a straight pin and insert it an inch & a half or two inches below that level. This will mark where you’ll cut off the jeans.

2. Lay the pants out flat on an ironing board, a table, or the floor, with the leg seams together. Using a tape measure and a white Prismacolor pencil (unless, of course, your jeans are white…) or tailor’s chalk, rule a line at your cut-off point, parallel to the bottom seam of the legs. The idea is to try to make both legs straight level.

3. With a sturdy pair of sharp scissors, cut off the legs along this line.

4. Heat a steam iron to “cotton” or “linen.” On the front side (i.e, don’t turn the jeans inside out, since you’re going to make a cuff that folds up and outward), turn over a narrow edge and iron it down flat. Do this for each leg.


5. Now fold that narrow edge over on itself again, once, and iron that down flat. Using a sewing machine, stitch a steam along this narrow edge. Be careful while sewing over the side seams, as these may be bulky for your machine and could break the needle, an annoying development. Ease the needle over the side seam. Repeat on the other leg.

6. Fold a cuff up, making it the width you desire. This will depend on how much fabric you left yourself when you cut off the pants legs, on how daring you like your shorts, and on how deep you like the cuff. Put the unfinished shorts on and check, in front of the mirror, to establish the size of the cuff and be sure the result is even on both sides.

7. Iron the cuff down flat, using your measuring tape to be sure it’s the same width all the way around and that the cuffs on each leg are the same. Tack it, with thread that matches the jeans fabric (more or less), at the side seam and the inside seam, and then tack again, gently and a little loosely, at the front and back of the pant leg. This will help keep the cuff from turning inside out when you run the shorts through the washer. Repeat on the other side, checking to be sure the cuffs match.

And that’s it! Very simple!



1 thought on “The Art of Daily Living: Frugal New Shorts”

  1. I often will “modify” clothes if it doesn’t fit anymore or something becomes wrong with it. Sometimes I’ll just cinch it with a belt depending on whether it’s the type of item that can look good with that, or sometimes it will be modifications of a greater scale like your shorts project. Great idea!

Comments are closed.