McCall's 5857: Shorts

In my Summer Update, I mentioned I was working on a few pairs of shorts back in July. We'd had a hot streak of days in the 90's and I had only one pair of ready-to-wear shorts that fit me well enough to wear in public. In desperation, I went shopping, trying to find something cool to wear, even if I had to make alterations. No luck.

Two summers ago I tried Butterick 5036 a couple of times, but couldn't get the fit right and the side seam pockets made my hips look even bigger. That's around the time I decided I needed to take a class to help me figure out how to make pants that fit me. I wasn't even sure I'd identified the problems correctly at this point.

I did manage to install a mock fly zipper somewhat successfully, but the straight waistband gaped at the back and the shorts were baggy in the front and the back which led me to believe I needed to work on the crotch length and depth.

So, in early 2009, I took my first class at called "Build Better Pants" with instructor Shannon Gifford and used Simplicity 4366 for the class exercises. The class didn't specifically address fitting issues, but it was chock full of great sewing tips and techniques for inserting zippers and sewing pockets and all the other little details that make a garment look professionally made.

Following along in class I made a wearable muslin in khaki twill of the capri-length pants (view E), but since that view didn't include pockets, I also made view C in a brown linen-like blend fabric. They both turned out rather well, though I never did take any photos; I do hope to make this pattern again, so will try to remember to take pictures then.

When the class was over, I was resolved to take the Pants Muslin class the next time it was offered to try to fine tune my fitting issues. Last fall, I took Shannon's Skirt Muslin class (a pre-requisite for the Pants Muslin class), and discovered that a contour waistband was really the best fit for my shape. It was as if a light bulb went on in my head and I realized I could replace a straight waistband with a contoured band from a pattern I knew fit me. (Sadly, Shannon lost her fight with cancer earlier this year, so I won't be able to take her pants muslin class .... but if another instructor offers a class on that subject at , I'll be signing up.)

Fast-forward to this summer - and I'm desperate for shorts. Since there's less fabric invested with shorts than with pants, I'm willing to try again. This time around, I used the waistband from Simplicity 4366 that I know fits me. I started with the same khaki twill for the first pair - and they were just a bit baggy. Next I made a few adjustments and used white denim that's been aging in my stash since I made my jacket and they're just about perfect! They look good in the photos and feel good walking, but I feel like I need just a tad more ease when I sit down. The third pair (view F) are not pictured here, they were made from a stretch twill and still need some adjusting. Momentum was on my side!

Shorts Fronts:

Around that time, I had a little accident while walking the Pesties -- I tripped and landed face first on the sidewalk, so had to take a break from sewing and everything else for a few weeks while my (minor) injuries healed. I finally have gotten back to my shorts marathon and started the 4th pair in a stretch denim. A few new fitting issues have popped up that I'm working on now, so expect an update when I do get them finished. Plus I have plans for at least 2 more in other colors and fabrics.

Here's my review on

Pattern Description:
Misses' Shorts in four lengths; all views have mock front fly, slanted side seam pockets, back darts, waistband and carriers; views B, D have turned up cuffs; view F has side slits. Upper edge of waistband is at waistline for all views.

Pattern Sizing:
Misses 4-20

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes - I made view D, but omitted the cuffs and adjusted the pattern to achieve the same length. Also omitted the belt loop/carriers since I rarely wear a belt.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, but I used them as a guideline more than a precise set of instructions.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I decided to buy this pattern after reading a number of favorable reviews recommending it as a good fit for 'pear shapes'. They were right! My waist is proportionally smaller than my hips and I always have to make adjustments to patterns and alter RTW.

Likes: They fit and feel comfortable! I like that the waistband is at the natural waist.
Dislike: Can't think of anything.

Fabric Used:
I've made 3 shorts so far and am in the middle of the 4th pair now First pair was a khaki/tan cotton twill, second pair - white denim, third - stretch twill and 4th are stretch denim. I'm not sure if it's the stretch fabric or my skills, but the shorts in regular (non-stretch) fabrics seem to fit and drape better. I bought them all at JoAnn Fabrics, so could just be the fabric content ...

For the pocket lining piece, instead of the heavier twill or denim, I used a lightweight cotton, cut from one of my husband's old dress shirts.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
In addition to leaving off the cuffs and belt loop/carriers, I switched out the straight waistband included in the pattern for a contoured waistband that fits me better.

The first pair (khaki twill) I graded from size 16 at waist to 18 at hips. The fit was nice but the legs felt a little bit roomy, so on the second pair (white denim) I used size 16 throughout, but ended up using 3/8" seams in some places. These were just the tiniest bit snug in the crotch, so I'm still tweaking the fit.

I didn't use hook and eye closures; I made a buttonhole and used buttons from my stash. On the white denim, I used a jeans button.

In 2009, I took the Build Better Pants class by Shannon Gifford - I referred to the class notes while sewing and tried to incorporated some of the techniques from that class into the finishing of my shorts. Added interfacing to the slanted seam on the pockets and to the zipper facing. Also, added a fly guard to the zipper area. Used my serger to overlock all the raw edges of my fabric before sewing to have nice clean finished seams throughout.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, absolutely! I've got at least two more I'd like to try and I'm so close to having the fit feel and look perfect.

I've tried making shorts patterns in the past with mixed results; they fit but weren't flattering and didn't feel right. My skills have improved since then but I think having a well-proportioned pattern to begin with has helped. And this is a great basic pattern. I'd really like to try experimenting with changing the pockets - the angle of the slant or curved like jeans - and maybe adding some embroidery or embellishment.

One last note - I'm still planning to work on my Bark Park Carry-all for National Sewing Month, but it will probably be later in the month.  Among other things, I'm planning to resume painting my kitchen this month.


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