Why are women's clothes so dreadfully poor at having useful pockets in them?? I was totally over carrying a bag or wearing a jacket just because I needed to put my phone, cash, and keys somewhere. So I fixed the glitch by making these undershorts. I have since worn them as: bike shorts, workout shorts, bathing suit bottom (swim, snorkel, surf!), and passport/wallet security shorts on international travel days. For me, they're a total wardrobe win!
- 1 yard of soft, meshy fabric
- 1 pair of thin, lightweight athletic shorts
- 2 6-inch, close-bottom zippers
- Sewing needle
- Straight pins
Help Me Bring These into Production!
I’ve been wearing my pair since February 2014 and I love them so much, I’m trying to get them produced through Betabrand. Yay! If you dig them too, please help me to make this happen by voting for them on the Betabrand page: https://www.betabrand.com/travel-underwear-shorts-with-pockets-womens.html
You rock and I'd love to see your zipper pocket underwear creations!
Step 1: Select Your Shorts
Go pick up a pair of lightweight, form fitting, athletic shorts. The most important factors to keep in mind are:
You’ll want these to be long enough so that your phone or passport rides below your hip crease when you’re sitting. A good way to test this is to sit down on a chair and put your phone on your thigh. Slide it up to your hip crease. Two inches longer than the bottom of your phone is the absolute shortest you’ll want to go with your shorts.
2. Lightweight & Comfortable
Since these will be worn under clothing, you’ll want to make sure the short isn’t too bulky but also not too constricting. You don’t want to be fantasizing while you’re wearing them about taking them back off.
3. Easy Fabric
If you get too much spandex in your blend, they will be harder to sew. Also, you’re going to need to rely on these shorts to be sturdy and machine washable. Choose a stretchy cotton blend. No linen, no silk.
Step 2: Select the Mesh Fabric & Zippers
The Mesh Fabric
When selecting your mesh fabric, choose something soft and sturdy. The fabric I bought was very thin (see pic 1), so I doubled it for strength. If you don’t have access to a store with meshy fabrics, another option is pick up a meshy fabric lingerie bag from the grocery store (see pic 2). Do NOT use the crunchy tool fabric that is often used to make tutus and poofy dresses. That stuff is plastic so it is scratchy, tears easily, and won’t machine wash.
In this prototype, I used two 6” closed-bottom zippers. When selecting zippers, the most important factors to keep in mind are:
- Easy Glide: You don’t want to ever struggle to zip or unzip. These things should slide like butter! FYI The concealed/invisible zippers look nice, but they're a lot harder to zip.
- Plastic/Nylon: to avoid rusting or setting off any metal detectors
- Low Profile: they will be under your clothes, so you don’t want a big toothy zipper with a big honking zipper pull.
If you have some zippers around the house, the proper way to measure a closed-bottom zipper is from stop-to-stop. Do not measure the extra cloth hanging off the ends.
Step 3: Measure and Cut Your Mesh Pocket Fabric
- Put on your shorts. With the zipper in the zipped-closed position and the zipper pull facing the outside (hip, not crotch side) of your leg, place one where you will want it to be. I recommend putting it a couple of inches below the top of the waist band.
- Make sure it is straight and even, then carefully pin it into place using straight pins.
- Take off the shorts and place the other zipper on the other side, measuring to keep it even if you have to.
- Mark where you'll be cutting the zipper slit by carefully drawing a line on the shorts just under the teeth of each zipper.
- Measure from the top of the zipper fabric (not just the teeth) all the way down to an inch above the bottom of the shorts. This is how long your finished pocket will be. I made mine 9.5” long.
- Multiply that number by 2, then subtract 1/2. In my example, that came to 18.5”.
- You will then measure and cut a rectangle that is 6” wide and 18.5” (or your number) long.
Step 4: Sew the Zipper to the Mesh Fabric
- Unpin your zippers from your shorts. Do the next steps for both zippers.
- Set the zipper on the table in front of you so the zipper pull is face down on the table. You're looking at the underbelly of the zipper.
- Center one of the 6” ends of the mesh fabric on the top edge of the zipper.
- Sew along the top edge of the zipper, securing the mesh to the zipper fabric.
- If you have a sewing machine, sew a straight stitch ⅛” of an inch down from the top then sew a zigzag stitch along the edge to bind it.
- Flip the mesh fabric up, creasing it.
- Rotate the whole thing 180 degrees on the table in front of you. The zipper is still on top (face down) and the newly attached fabric is towards you.
- Loop up the bottom edge of the mesh fabric and line it up with the top edge of the zipper. You're essentially doing the same thing to the other side of the zipper.
Step 5: Assign Zipper Left/Right and Sew the Sides
Once you've fully attached the mesh fabric to each zipper, it's time to assign sides and sew the side seams.
- Lay out the pocket pouch on top of the left side (where your right leg goes). With the zipper closed, you will want the zipper pull to be on the outside (hip side).
- Do this for the right side too.
- Now that you know which pocket will be which, you may want to label them as "left leg" and "right leg".
- Smooth out the pockets so they're nice and flat.
- Then sew down the side seams of each pocket. You will want to sew through the zipper fabric.
Step 6: Install the Pockets
- Do one pocket at a time.
- Carefully cut the slit for one of your pockets.
- Slide the pocket inside your shorts and line it up to the slit. If slit needs to be a little bit longer, in order to comfortably fit the zipper stopper and zipper pull, make the slit a little longer.
- When the slit is the right length, cut 4 vertical slits (1/8 inch high) at the ends of the long horizontal slit. In the end, you will have created a horizontal I-beam shape.
- Tuck the top flap in and carefully stitch the top flap into the zipper fabric beneath it. *** BE CAREFUL NOT TO SEW THE TOP LAYER OF THE SHORTS TO THE BOTTOM LAYER
- Once the top flap is in place, unzip the zipper, then tuck and sew the bottom flap. Again be careful not to sew the pocket shut or to sew the two layers of the shorts together. It's a little tricky, but you can do it!
- Tack the bottom corners and center of the pocket to the top layer of the shorts. This will keep you from pulling the pocket fabric out when you're fishing out your passport.
- Do the other pocket.
Step 7: High Fives!
Put these bad boys on and enjoy your new-found pocket freedom!
Other Design Considerations
Bottom Entry Zipper: This pair was my prototype. When I make version 2.0 I plan to install a second zipper at the bottom with bottom entry access in each pocket. This is much more subtle for wearing dresses, so you don't have to flip your dress up as high to get at your stash o' cash.
More Fun Colors! Though you can't go wrong with black for versatility, it is rather boring. I'd love to make several pairs in fun prints because, hey, underpants don't have to be boring. Also, if people are going to see these things (and they will because I wear them regularly as just shorts -- and sometimes a skirt gets to flapping in the bicycling breeze) they may as well be fun. Reclaim the underpants shame and upcycle it to underpants fame!