DIY High Waist Denim Shorts

In my opinion, thrift shopping shouldn’t ever be looked down upon. Before it was widely considered cheap, dirty, and second class, but now it’s chic and the ‘in’ thing to do. It saves money, it’s great for the environment, and if you learn the tricks of the trade, you possess the capability to make any article of clothing your own! Case in point: high-waisted shorts.

I realize that they’re very eighties but they are back in style and can be very stylish! Now, you could go shopping about and buy a pair for a ridiculously high price. And that pair would likely come from a brand that utilizes sweatshops and/or pays their workers unfair wages. So it’s a better and more ethical deal to do what I like to call ‘Thrificizing’: finding cheap used clothes and altering them.

There’s many blogs dedicated to this by women who are much craftier than myself, but I am slowly accumulating more skills. I’ve been wanting a pair of high-waists for a couple months and there was no way I was going to hand over $60 bucks for something that I realized I could easily make myself. So I hopped on over to Goodwill and started the hunt.

It’s actually much easier to make the shorts than you would think. Finding the jeans is the challenge. I had to try on about 20 pairs before I found a good match. And surprisingly enough, it was the men’s jeans that provided the best fit. Make sure that they fit you snugly in the hips and thighs, and that there’s little to no gapping in the waist area, because that’s not really fixable. I typically wear a size 8-9 in jeans and I found that a size 31 in men’s worked well for me. Levi’s are typically your best bet, but there are other brands that will work just as well. Once you find the best pair, it’s a piece of cake!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A pair of good fitting jeans
  • Scissors
  • White chalk
  • Needle and thread (optional)
  • X-acto knife (optional)


  1. Put on the jeans and look at yourself in a full length mirror. Gage how long you want the shorts to be and aim to cut a bit lower to make room for extra cutting and improvement.
  2. Take the chalk and draw a line where you want to make the cut.
  3. Fold the jeans in half and make sure both halves are evenly lined up. Cut along the chalk line and unfold.
  4. Some girls like to cut at a bit of an angle so that the shorts are higher on the sides for a more flattering fit. I folded the sides up a bit and found that it wasn’t very flattering on my body type, so I opted out but if it works for you, go for it!!
  5. One you’ve made adjustments in length and cut, you have a couple of choices. You can leave them as is and they’ll fray in the wash. Or you can fold them up a bit and tack them (meaning you sew back and forth in a couple places along the fold to keep it in place). The above pictures are the shorts I made. I folded them up and cut the pockets to let them hang a bit. There’s a myriad of options regarding folding techniques, so check some of them out!
  6. This step is optional. If you want jeans that are holey, take an X-acto knife and make horizontal cuts along areas that you want to distress. Make sure the cuts are closer together and there are multiple cuts next to each other. They’ll fray out in the wash. You could also dye them or bleach them, which is a possibility though not very good for the planet.

That’s it! High-waisted shorts that don’t break the bank (Goodwill jeans are $4.99/pair) and don’t further contribute to pollution and sweatshops. If you try making them,  let us know how it goes!


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