These Pants Were Made for Wearing: Changing your Kids’ Wardrobe without Changing Your Kids’ Wardrobe

By Rita Chavez


Summertime.  If you live in a place with multiple seasons, you know that this means one of many things: a new wardrobe for the kids to enjoy the warm weather.  And if you have small kids, and they are anything like mine (growing), they probably aren’t going to be fitting into their summer wardrobe from last summer.  Unlike adults that can rotate the same arsenal of clothing year after year since we aren’t growing, our kids seem to go through clothing so quickly, and before they are able to use it for the next season, they have either grown out of their clothes or worn them out before the season has even ended! 

My oldest daughter, Amelia, is almost six years old, and started kindergarten last fall.  Since it was her first “official” year in school, we celebrated by shopping for a new fall wardrobe, with lots of cotton leggings and jeans, and cute long sleeved shirts since the weather was starting to cool down.  Since Amelia is really tall and thin, we ended up purchasing jeans with the adjustable waist band, so we could cinch them in but still have the length for her long legs.  Cotton leggings were more comfortable to her, but they were always “almost” too short as pants.  But she still insisted on wearing them and she got through her first semester of kindergarten in style.  Now, I am not sure what kind of activities kindergarteners do on a daily basis, but by the spring, almost every pair of leggings and jeans were starting to wear down at the knees, some already with holes in them.  I felt like she wore through all of her pants quicker than when she was crawling!  So, each pair of pants that had holes worn into the knees were banished to the “play clothes” drawer as I would find them while folding laundry.  At this point, she had more play pants than good pants!  I was really bummed because I couldn’t save these pants for her little sister when it would be time for her to wear them. 

Toward the end of spring, I knew it would be time to start changing out Amelia’s wardrobe for summer, so I went through her dresser to make room for shorts and tees and tanks.  As I sifted through her clothes, I pulled out all her holey pants and long sleeve tees that had stretched out sleeve cuffs or too short sleeves, and by the time I was done, I had a full laundry basket of clothes.  I looked at the pile and thought, “Wow, it really stinks that I can’t save any of this for the baby or even donate any of it,” and then it hit me.  I grabbed the basket and went downstairs and promptly went for my sewing box.  Amelia still fit all of her jeans and pants in the waist, and aside from some sleeves being a little short or stretched out, all her shirts still fit, too.  I dug out my sewing scissors and soft measuring tape, and laid a pair of jeans flat out on the floor.  Once I smoothed down the jeans, I folded each leg up to the tear in the knees, used the soft tape to measure each leg to be sure they were the same length, and cut straight across each fold. VOILA.  I knew right then that I already had part (if not most) of her summer wardrobe in that basket.  I cut all of her pants, folded the legs out twice to make cuffs and to hide the raw cut edges, then ironed the cuffs to help them stay folded.   With the cotton leggings, I used a sewing needle and some thread to make two small stitches on the inside and outside of each thigh to prevent the cuffs from unrolling in the wash.  This resulted in slightly above-the-knee shorts and leggings, which are a great length for a girl or a boy.  I also did the same with her long sleeve tees, laid them out on the floor, folded up the sleeves and measured to make sure the folds were even, and cut straight across the fold.  I cut sleeves on some shirts shorter than others, and I rolled and stitched a few. Raw edges on cotton tees tend to roll up after a wash, so I wasn’t too worried about the “finished” look of her “new” short sleeved shirts. 

If you are looking for a simple and cost saving solution to a summer wardrobe for your kiddos, upcycling their fall clothing is definitely a great option.  If they have outgrown their fall clothing completely, a great alternative to purchasing new clothes would be to check out your local yard sales.  Summer time is a popular time of year for yard sales, and I have been on the hunt for more jeans for next school year.  I’ve come across many kids’ pants, and they are usually priced anywhere from 25 cents to 2 dollars, but I also come across a lot of pants with the knees really worn down, if not already with holes or tears.  These would still make great options for summer shorts at such a low cost! With the rate our kids go through their clothes, purchasing new clothes for each season can get expensive, but thrifting and upcycling can definitely help curb that cost significantly.  Since I was able to upcycle all of Amelia’s pants, I have not had to buy a single pair of shorts for her this summer, and I can now pass them on to her little sister when she is ready to wear them.


Rita is an Army wife of ten years and a mom to two little girls.  She graduated from University of Hawaii: West Oahu in 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Public Administration, but has a passion for helping animals and most recently worked for the oldest no-kill animal shelter in San Antonio, TX.  As a recent military move led her family to bid goodbye to San Antonio, she now volunteers with The Carrying On Project in Fort Drum, NY, where she shares her love and knowledge of babywearing with other caregivers.  When she is not volunteering, Rita enjoys taking photos of her daughters and dogs, and her hobbies include cooking and crafting.

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