Thrift Flip Tutorial: DIY a Maxi Skirt & Cargo Skirt From Old Pants

by ModernModiste
9 Materials
2 Hours

There are two major skirt trends for 2023 - the denim maxi skirt and the cargo skirt. You see them everywhere!

I really wanted to see if I could make them from thrifted pants, and this turned into a very beginner-friendly project.

Basically, you'll learn how to turn pants into a skirt in general, in a few straightforward steps.

Tools and materials:

  • Wide leg stretch jeans for the denim maxi skirt
  • Elasticated waist loose cargo pants for the cargo skirt
  • Seam ripper
  • Ruler
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Serger (optional)
Choosing pants

Denim maxi skirt

1. Choose your pants

You want a pair of wide leg jeans with at least some stretch. The ones I found are perfect for this project.

They have enough fabric to work with and they don't fit too tightly around the waist and hips.

Opening leg seams

2. Open the leg seams

Cut open the inner leg seams close to the stitching line. Also cut the center front seam from the crotch to the zipper.

Pinning the front seam

3. Pin the front seam

Pin the center front seam so it overlaps at the top near the zipper. 

Continue to pin the front together, overlapping as far as you can while keeping the zipper area flat. 

Pinning the front seam

Try the skirt on when you get to this stage. I left a slit from just above the knees, so I could actually walk in the skirt.

Pinning the back seam

4. Pin the back seam

I wanted to make a straight seam down the back. I could do that because my jeans have some stretch in them and they're not too tight. This may not work on rigid jeans or ones that fit very close to your body.

Unstitch the waistband from about an inch each side of the center back seam.

Seam rip the center back seam open completely.

Turn the jeans inside out and use a ruler to draw a straight seam from just above the crotch to the hem. Curve the top section from the waist to the butt.

Cut off the excess fabric and pin the seam.

Sewing the seams

5. Sew the seams

Stitch the front and back seams in place. 

Try your skirt on and if you're happy with the fit, serge or zigzag stitch the raw edges of the back seam and re-attach the waistband and belt loop.

Shortening the skirt

6. Shorten the skirt

I use this method, which keeps the original hem.

Fold the bottom of the skirt to right above where you want the hem to sit. 

Stitch the fold in place right at the edge of the existing hem. 

Shortening the skirt

Cut off the excess fabric and finish the raw edges. Top stitch just above the hem on the right side.

DIY maxi skirt

And your DIY maxi skirt is finished! Mine has a little flare at the bottom which gives it some mermaidcore - and that's also very much on trend right now.

Cargo skirt

Finding pants

1. Finding the pants

For this project you need slightly baggy elasticated waist cargo pants.

Front and back seams

2. Front and back seams

Cut open the inner leg seams and turn the pants inside out.

Draw and pin a straight seam at the center back, remembering to create the waist to butt curve.

Pin a completely straight seam at the center front, without any curve.

Opening the waistband

3. Open the waistband

Seam rip the waistband from the pants at the center front and back only. If you need to make the waistband smaller, pull the elastic out of one side.

Sew the new seams.


4. Fitting

Try on the skirt to check the fit. Mark the length where you want the skirt to finish. I made mine midi length, to just below my knee.


5. Finishing

Cut your skirt to the new length, plus a hem allowance.

Try on the skirt again and mark where you want the back slit to come to. Open the back seam up to that point.

Cut off the extra fabric from the front and back seams and finish the raw edges.

Thread the elastic back through the waistband and sew the ends together, adjusting the length as needed.

Cut off the excess elastic and stitch the waistband closed.


Press open the seams either side of the back slit and top stitch them.


Press and pin the double fold hem and sew it in place.

DIY cargo skirt

Making this skirt was even easier than the denim maxi so if you're a complete beginner, you may want to start with this one. 

How to turn pants into a skirt

I'm really thrilled with how these both turned out. For a few dollars, I ended up with two of the hottest skirt trends 2023.

Let me know in the comments if you make either or both of these, I'd love to hear how you get on!

Make This Trendy Paper Bag Skirt From Old Pants

For more upcycling ideas, check out this tutorial on how to turn pants into a cute skirt!

Suggested materials:
  • Wide leg stretch jeans for the denim maxi skirt
  • Elasticated waist loose cargo pants for the cargo skirt
  • Seam ripper
See all materials

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