The Ultimate Cargo Pants

I have always found it fascinating the way trends seem to come in and out of fashion. The return of tie dye, short shorts and vans from the 80s, baggy graphic t-shirts and small sunglasses from the 90s, and most recently, I have noticed a huge resurgence of Y2K fashion trends, including the return of the legendary cargo pant. I am personally a big fan of these comfy, utilitarian garments and think that they have played a very interesting role in the return of looser fitting pants and the popularization of wearing functional garments, like work shirts and gore-tex rain jackets, as fashion statements.

In this image you can see the kind of look that I was inspired by when ideating my project. I love the baggy bottom heavy look of the silhouette, as well as the emphasis of the large pockets that define the pants. These features are specifically what I knew I wanted to incorporate into my design moving forward.

So, as I progressed with the design process for my pants there were a few defining qualities that I knew the pants needed to have. First and foremost, I wanted the aesthetic of the pants to fit nicely within the Y2K aesthetic that I mentioned above. Secondly, I wanted the pants to be baggy and give the wearer a bottom heavy silhouette. Lastly, I wanted the pants to feature as many pockets functional pockets as I could manage. With all of that in mind I was able to begin envisioning the project and thinking about what materials I would upcycle in order to fabricate them.

The first thing that came to mind when I thought about gathering material for my project was thrifting, and something that I have noticed when I go thrifting is that most thrift stores have an abundance of oversized cargo shorts sitting on the racks. This realization gave me the idea to create my pants out of several different pairs of cargo shorts. This would allow me to have an abundance of pockets, and gave me a bit of flexibility as to how I would create the bottom-heaviness of the design.

As you can see in my sketch, my design consists of three different pairs of cargo shorts. The top pair of shorts is both the lightest in color and the best fitting pair, and the second of third pair of shorts get darker in hue and larger in size as you move down the leg. My intention with this gradient effect is to make it appear as though the pigment of the pants has sunk into the bottom, reinforcing the ideal bottom heavy silhouette both through form and color. My target number of pockets with this design was 12: 6 from the top pair, 2 from the middle pair, and 4 from the bottom.

My first step in the fabrication process was sourcing the cargo shorts. Like I said there is typically an abundance of these style of shorts at any given thrift store, so this only took one simple trip to my local Goodwill.

Next, I had to cut the shorts into the desired shapes that I would need in order to mesh them together in the manner that I laid out in my sketch. Once I had these shapes cut out, I turned them inside out and stitched them into tubes that I would then proceed to stitch together to form the legs of the pants.


Once I had these main portions of the legs fabricated I laid them out to see how they would fit together.

The final step in the process was the assembly of the different sections. This was by far the most difficult part of the entire process. I learned the hard way that stitching together two separate tubes of fabric is no mean feat. Maneuvering the amount of fabric that I was dealing with around a standard tabletop sewing machine while trying to maintain decently straight stitches was a huge challenge. Thankfully, I got the hang of as I went along and I ended up being very pleased with the results.

Here you can see me wearing my final product and as you can see I got pretty close to my initial drawing.

In my opinion, the final product definitely satisfies my functional goal of creating a pair of pants with as many functional pockets as I could muster. The goal that I set with my original design was 12 pockets and the final pair of pants actually ended up with 13 (it would have been 14, but I unfortunately lost one pocket during the fabrication process.).

I also believe that these pants fit super well into my aesthetic. They have the desired bagginess and the gradient effect turned out really well. I feel like the form of the pants combined with the colors achieves my goal of creating my desired silhouette as well as achieving a Y2K look.

This was the first ever clothing garment that I have made and I thoroughly enjoyed the process and would like to delve further into fashion design in the future. Moving forward I would like to improve my sewing skills and develop my own patterns from scratch.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Brewster Beck von Peccoz
    February 26, 2023 10:43 pm

    These pants are epic. You definitely succeeded in function and aesthetic. If you’re trying to achieve a pair with even more pockets, you could potentially sew on additional pockets from other pairs of shorts in any bare spots. From the mirror selfie the sewing lines look really good/straight which is impressive for the first clothing you’ve made on a sewing machine!

  • These are awesome. the tones work great and emphasize that bottom heavy feel. Definitely impressed by the stitching, and curious if you’ve thought of a concept for a top to go with them?


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