Free Pattern,  Pattern Reviews,  Sewing Tips

“Shorty Shorts”: don’t cut that inseam TOO short!

According to the Wall Street Journal the other day, this is the summer of the Shorty Shorts  (sorry you may need an online subscription to read the full article). According to the story:


This is the accompanying visual to the article:


The photo brought back a memory from college days (yes, in the ’70’s!): my summer-school roommate, Sue Kent  tried 3 times to cut off jeans into the perfect summer shorts. The first time, she started cutting from the out-seam, estimating the shorty length she wanted, going straight across the cross-grain and ended up with no crotch at all:


Those went in the trash.  The second pair, she again cut from the out-seam but lower down….still cutting straight on the cross-grain:


….this time there was a crotch inseam left (yay!) but she wasn’t happy with them:

  1. She still felt they looked too long
  2. The tiny 1″ inseam didn’t cover her panties
  3. The crotch seam fell completely apart in the laundry!


The third time I advised her to start at the crotch (NOT at the side-seam) measuring the least amount of inseam that would cover her underwear (about 2 1/4″), but she wasn’t happy with the out-seam length (not shorty-short enough):


The trick of course is to cut the hem at an angle, and curved, to expose the upper thigh a la Daisy Dukes (if this is indeed the look you are after, which she was):


Sue Kent was able to tweak the third pair into just the short-on-the-thighs look she wanted.

So, for anyone interested in making your own shorty-shorts (unless you want to spend $30 at the mall stores where they sell them already cut off):

  1. Start cutting from the crotch NOT the side-seams
  2. Make sure you leave enough inseam to cover your panties, keeping in mind the denim will fray in the wash
  3. To get the shorty look, cut at an angle or on a curve, not straight along the cross-grain

What about making shorts from fabric? You still should pay attention to inseam length, to make sure that undies are being concealed: 2 1/4″ is the shortest that the mass-makers are going this season for kidswear.  I wouldn’t grade that any shorter for toddler/infants sizes either (more on babies shorts in a second). And in the same concept as the shape and angle of the jeans-shorts leg opening above, keep that curve and angle in the hem when sewing shorts from scratch.

Covering the undies is especially a problem in little kids’ clothes: often in patterns, the inseam is graded shorter and shorter as sizes go down…even through the infant sizes, which require MORE crotch coverage for diapers. On of the biggest complaints I read about from moms is that bloomers and rompers don’t cover the diaper at the crotch. Babies aren’t known for “sitting lady-like”!

Here’s an example of an inseam that is not going to work: the super-popular “Coachella” short from Striped Swallow has a finished inseam measuring 1/4″ after deducting the rise seam allowance and the hem  in the smallest size (6 months). That is IF you could actually stitch that hem….which you can’t….it is physically impossible to stitch a 1/2″ hem on a 3/4″ seam:

CORRECTION 8/20/17: although the pattern piece says 1/2″ hem, the instructions say 3/8″, so it is indeed possible to sew this ….you will end up with a 3/8″ inseam:



Obviously a 1/4″ inseam is not going to cover a diaper. So if you want to maintain the side-seam length for shorty-shorts, you can cover the diaper by increasing the inseam; just curve the hemline and adjust the inseam as shown:


Now you will have an inseam that better covers your little’s ones’ undies! (You also now have a trued 90-degree hem corner.)



Another example: Bella Sunshine’s “Tess Tulip” short: this finished inseam is longer at about 3/4″ but still too short to cover a diaper:



Curve the hem to increase inseam length


….and you’ll get a longer inseam with better coverage (and again , the corner is now trued at a 90-degree angle):


Going slightly off-topic now from the original idea of shorty-shorts, if you sew for toddlers and infants you may realize here that covering a diaper at the crotch is probably easier with a bloomer than a short, since a bloomer has elasticized leg openings. As with the above angle/curve of the hem concept, a bloomer pattern with a curved hem generally fits best, because it can cover the diaper while not being too long at the side-seams.  With their little legs, it’s easy to get swallowed up by too much fabric….this poor kiddo can hardly move!:


Compare the shape of these free pdf’s  along the hemline.  To cover the crotch yet be short on the side-seams, the straight-hem pattern on the LEFT (Marie Claire) will not fit as well as the curved-hem pattern on the RIGHT (  from Creativa Atelier ):


Creativa Atelier goes up to 12-24 months sizee.  For sizes 2 and up I’d suggest  the curved hem design by Duchess and Hare “Free at Last” (free to members of the FB group):


The only tweaks I’d make to these patterns are these:

  • Creative Atelier seems too long in the rise, I removed 1″ from overall length:


  • Free at Last, I tweaked the angle of the inseams to create trued right-angles at the hemline :


These two patterns, Creative Atelier for infants and D&H “Free at Last” for toddlers and girls, are very similar in shape and should make a nicely fitting bloomer!



Stayed tuned for a related post on the difference between bloomers and diaper covers…


Happy Sewing!

Best, Janet









  • Theresa in Tucson

    Good points. I had noticed the curve in the hem on a pair of my husband’s shorts I had torn down to copy. Had to laugh at your roommate’s predicament. We have all done something similar.

  • JustGail

    I was there for the 70’s short-shorts fad. I don’t remember cutting from the inseam to out seam, but I do remember running a line of stitching a short distance away from the cut so the fraying didn’t go too far. I never did have purchased short-shorts (Mom wouldn’t hear of it), but “saving” jeans by cutting them off that short was ok.

    A half inch hem on 3/4″ inseam? Did the instructions specify folding the hem twice, or were they thinking serge the edges and turn up once?

  • [email protected]

    Good point, stitching does help the fraying! The fraying was what ruined my roommate’s second pair since the inseam was soooo short. I double-checked the Coachella shorts: the pattern pieces say 1/2″ hem, however the instructions say 3/8″….so it is possible to stitch. I’ll correct the post.

  • [email protected]

    Yes I’ve had my share of upcycling messes! As long as you learn from the mistake it’s all good. True that, a lot of shorts do actually have a curved hem, but our brain “thinks” of shorts like any pants or skirts, as having a horizontal hem. It’s a natural reflex to cut straight across!

  • Marti Sears

    I am wanting to make Angel Gowns but I have no patterns nor any way to print them off. Could you send me all your various size patterns because I want to get the sizes correct. I will gladly pay postage and fees for the patterns

    Thanking you in advance
    Marti Sears

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