[SEWING] DIY Pleated Shorts with Pockets

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted but I’m back with an exciting project! I’ve been sewing quite regularly now after graduating back in May. I’m still working on my craftsmanship as usual but am improving gradually.

The summers in Boston have been pretty brutal because of the humidity so I figured I could whip up something practical and comfortable to wear in the sweltering heat. I never made shorts prior to this project so it was a great learning experience for me in terms of 1. installing an invisible zipper, 2. making pleats, and 3. making invisible pockets.

I also decided to make shorts because most don’t fit my figure, are too short, are too long, are too tight, and so forth. Practical pockets also seem to be an issue for pants in general so in reality this project was born out of frustration with a society that refuses to make shorts that are inclusive of all body types. With that I hope you find this post useful and perhaps inspire your next sewing project!!

For this project you will need:

  • 1 yard of fabric
  • 1 zipper (at least 6+ inches)
  • 0.5 yard of lining fabric (for pockets)
  • measuring tape, ruler
  • pins

Begin by finding a pair of shorts that fit you well. Trace the back and front panel of the shorts onto your fabric. To determine the new width of your panels, divide your waist measurement by 4 and add 2 inches. We will be taking in 2 inches on each panel for the pleats so double check your numbers for this step! You should have four panels in total. If your fabric has a right side AND wrong side make sure the panels are mirrored!!!

As for the length of the panels, you can make this as long as you would like. The leg of my shorts are ~ 2 inches from the crotch and has a total length of ~ 14 inches. Draw out a pattern for the waist band (final width ~ 1.5 inches), belt loops (4) and pockets (4, with lining fabric). Allow ~ 0.25 inches for seam allowance and cut + serge each piece as needed.

Sewing the Shorts

Basic shorts after sewing along the crotch and side seams

Start by sewing the two front panels together along the crotch (but not the leg), right sides together. Repeat this step for the back panels. Join the “legs” of the panels along the crotch and then the side seams to create basic shorts.

Creating Pleats

Pleat tutorial, from left to right

There will be four pleats in total, one on each panel. To create a pleat, mark out the midpoint of the panel. Mark out the 1 inch and 2 inch point from the midpoint for a total of five marks. This will help you align the pleats and keep them uniform.

Fold along one of the one inch marks and align the 2 inch mark with the midpoint mark and sew along the midpoint mark. In this tutorial I only sewed 0.5 inches, but for the front panels sew ~ 1 – 1.5 inches and the back panels ~ 4 – 4.5 inches.

Fold the fabric along the other 1 inch mark so that the stitches from the previous step are still visible. Sew along the pre-existing stitch and be sure to back stitch near the end to secure the pleat.

Repeat these steps for the remaining pleats. Make sure that the final waist measurement is correct. If the waist is still a bit large, take in the waist by tapering the new seam into the original side seam to give the shorts a flared style.

Shorts after creating the pleats. Again, note that the seam along the midpoint marks should be 1 – 1.5 inches for the front panels and 4 – 4.5 inches for the back panels

Adding the Waist Band + Zipper

Seam rip a few inches from the top of the joined back panels to make space for the zipper. Sew the waist band along the waist of the shorts, right sides together. Fold the band in half and topstitch along the top of the waist band. Topstitch the bottom part of the waist band. If you don’t have enough fabric to cut out the whole waist band, you can cut out three separate pieces and sew the long piece on the front panels and the other two on the back. Be sure to join the pieces together before actually attaching it to the waist of the shorts. Seam rip part of the top-stitching where the zipper will be added so the waist band can be folded over the zipper during the next part.

After adding the invisible zipper

To install an invisible zipper, sew along the seam-ripped back to the point where you want the zipper to end. Iron out the zipper and position it so that it begins at the middle of the band (~1.5 in from the waist). Use an appropriate zipper foot to sew the zipper along the edges, making sure that you sew the right side of the zipper onto the right side of the fabric. Fold the waist band and re-stitch the top stitches. Be sure to top stitch vertically/next to the zipper on the waist band for a clean look.

Adding Belt Loops

Belt loops

Fold the serged edges ( 0.25 in) into the center and iron them down. Serge the ends so that they don’t lose their shape while you sew the belt loops onto the waist band. Top stitch along the sides.

Attaching the belt loop onto the waist band

Sew the belt loop onto the waist band, right sides together. Fold the belt loop over and topstitch to help the loop lie flat. Fold the end of the belt loop of the other side and top stitch this part down so that the stitching is aligned with the waist band top stitching.

Finished belt loop

Adding Invisible Pockets

Pocket lining sewn onto the pockets

Sew the pocket lining onto the pockets as shown above. Seam-rip 5 inches on each side seam of the shorts (starting ~ 1 inch from the waist). Backstitch the corners of the opening to secure the hole. Align the right side of the edge of the pocket (the side with pocket lining) to the right side of the pocket opening on the shorts. Sew along this opening, start and ending about 0.25 inches before and after the opening.

One side of the pocket attached at the side seam of the shorts

When you flip the pocket over the pocket should be joined as shown above. Top stitch along the seam you just created. Repeat this for the other side.

After attaching the other side of the pocket, sew the pockets together and trim any excess fabric. Repeat these steps for the other pocket.

The finished invisible pockets

The Final Piece!

The finished pair of shorts

Hopefully at this point you now have a nice pair of shorts that fit you well and have pockets you can actually use. As a finishing touch, I sewed a small dart at the center front of the shorts so that the fold you created aligns with the seam that joins the front panels together. I love the fit and look of these shorts so I’m excited to wear them in the summer. I hope this tutorial is helpful for you! If you have any questions please let me know 🙂