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diy for the epicly unskilled :: jeans to shorts


I've been itching for a pair of black denim shorts this summer, but a new self-imposed hiatus on shopping has temporarily put a halt to new acquisitions. I did, however, stumble across an old pair of black skinny jeans a few nights ago, and decided I should try my hand at DIY by attempting to turn them into a pair of shorts.

Now, when it comes to DIY and craftiness, my sister is the skilled half of this pair. She has dozens of books filled with instructions on how to make some really cool shit, and she has this innate ability to use her own brilliant creativity to extrapolate on these projects, making them infinitely cooler and prettier.

What I lack in talent, I make up for in sheer, bullheaded audacity. I have a tough time following (or understanding) directions - I have to do something for myself, or I just don't get it. I form a picture inside my head, and then start brainstorming the best possible ways to make it happen. Sometimes, that vision translates perfectly into the real world on the first attempt; but most of the time, it requires quite a bit of tweaking before it can be termed a successful venture.

So when I asked Princess if I could borrow her room (she has the best lighting in the house, though, as evidenced by these photos, still not exactly adequate) for a DIY tutorial post experiment, I'm sure you can imagine the look on her face. She was nice enough to acquiesce, though I suspect it was more out of a morbid curiosity than a desire to be helpful. She even helped me document the experience for your enjoyment – see the fruits of our labors below, and if you're too lazy or don't have the goods (or just needs some inspiration), check out these ready made options:

Dorothy Perkins ($21, slightly longer length)
MinkPink ($72, distressed, slashed & high waisted)
Marc Jacobs ($98, classic cut with raw edges)

the goal:
turn these black skinny jeans into cuffed shorts


step 1 :: acquire supplies
  • 1 pair of jeans; I used black skinny jeans, but you can (obvs) use any wash or fit you like. Your choice of jeans depends on what you have lying around and what you want your shorts to look like. You may want to experiment on a pair you don’t love before moving on to the real thing.
  • Something to mark fabric with; I used a chalk pencil from one of my sister's art sets, but if you're not lucky enough to have a sister with every crafting/art tool known to woman, you can also use a regular marker or steal a piece of sidewalk chalk from one of the neighborhood kids.
  • Sharp scissors; this is important, because old/dull scissors won't cut through denim very easily, let alone the heavy seams.
  • Something to measure with; a tailor's tape measure is best, though anything that goes up to about 18" will work.
  • Some space in which to work. My sister’s twin size bed and multiple lamps made an ideal work area for me.

step 2 :: prep work
The most important part to getting this right is to lay the jeans out as flat as possible before measuring and marking them. OCD types may want to iron them, but non-perfectionists such as me can just smooth them out and hope for the best. Pay attention to the waist band though; on jeans, the front typically curves down lower than the back when they’re laid out flat. I’m sure it has something to do with the cut, but make sure the waistband is even across the front and back.


step 3 :: measure and mark it
Take your measuring device of choice and first measure your leg to the spot where you want your completed short to hit. If you already have a pair that is the ideal length, you can measure those to use as a guide. I decided to cut mine off at 18”; this puts them at my knee, but I like the extra length because I can roll them and they’re still an appropriate length for the office. Whatever your choice of standard, add three to five inches (you can always cut more off, but it’s pretty hard to add it back on) and measure down the leg, starting at the top of the waistband, and mark each pant leg appropriately. A small mark will suffice if you’re confident you’re a straight cutter, but us mere mortals may want to mark all the way across the leg (just the front is fine).


step 4 :: snip, snip
Pick up scissors. Cut along line.
Note: Go a hair above the line if you used a marker that won’t wash out.


step 5 :: try them on & make adjustments
Once you’re done trimming, pull them on. Make sure the new edges are straight-ish, but they don’t need to be perfect. The beauty of unskilled DIYs lies in the imperfections. This is also where the extra length comes in handy, because you can make adjustments to the length as necessary, and even roll them up a bit to conceal a bad cut or give it a cleaner look. If you need to make adjustments, mark where you want to cut and snip carefully (after you’ve taken them off, though, k?). Once you’re done and have them rolled into place, you can use double stick fabric tape or iron them for a sharp fold and a crisp look, or just let them be for a lazy low maintenance, carefree look.


step 6 :: and… done!
This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected it to be, and I’m pretty proud of the results; look for outfit photos this weekend. Let me know if you try it out by sending me a picture of your new shorts and stay tuned for a possible part two, involving studs, a hot glue gun, umpth degree burns and (hopefully) better photography.

4 comments

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