The Thrifty Kid – How to make Harem Pants from a Tank Top

The Thrifty Kid - Acrobat pants

Today I’m showing you how to make harem pants, the easiest pair of pants ever! With only two cuts and two seams, you can make a pair of trendy harem pants from any old tank top or t-shirt.

These pants are so comfortable to wear and allow for lots of movement, so they are great for babies and toddlers in nappies.

Bigger kids will love them too, especially in summer as they are quite breezy, and because there is no front or back, kids can just pull them on without any fuss.

This is quite a unisex style and depending on the fabric will look great on both boys and girls. I made this pair for Emma as a cropped style and she wore it quite a lot during Summer. They were perfect to wear on holidays, especially after swimming.

I’ve called them Acrobat Pants as they allow for unrestricted movement, perfect for active kids.

The Thrifty Kid: List of clothing refashion tutorials

Turn a tank top into kids harem pants - how to make harem pants

How to choose a garment for this project:

Style – T-shirt or tank top with side seams and hem in good condition
Fabric – Stretch fabric knit or jersey which may have some spandex. Lightweight fabric will gather best at waist.
Sizing – Large and XL sized tops are best suited for older kids. The larger the top, the longer and wider your pants will be. A shorter top will result in cropped pants. Smaller tops will make great baby sized pants.

Garment features to keep

Side seam and bottom hem – This top will only require two main seams so it’s super quick to whip up.


  • Suitable tank top or t-shirt
  • A pair of old leggings that still just fit your child to use as a template
  • Elastic for waistband (2cm/1″ wide and the length of your child’s waist)
  • Scissors
  • Large safety pin
  • Sewing machine
  • Stretch/jersey needle for sewing machine is recommended
  • General sewing supplies (thread, pins etc…)

Note: I’ve used a normal sewing machine to make these pants. You will need to set your stitch to a medium length very narrow zig zag which will allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the stitches. Here is a handy post about sewing knits with a zig zag stitch, don’t worry about fancy sewing machine feet at this stage, your normal foot will work fine.

How to make Harem Pants from an adult top:

Yellow dotted line = Cut
Red dotted line = Sew

Harem pants cutting guide

Make harem pants from old tank top

1. Cut across the top just under the arms and a semicircle to form two legs. The top of the semicircle should be over the knee. Use a pair of leggings or pants to use as a guide. The front and back of these pants will be the same.


sewing harem pants

2. With garment inside out, sew inside leg seam. You can either use a narrow zig zag stitch, or because this seam will not have much pull on it, a straight stitch is ok. That’s what I’ve used here. Make sure to back stitch neat the hem so the seam doesn’t open up near the cuffs.

stretch seam


making an elastic waistband

3. Measure the width of the waistband elastic against the top of the pants, this will give you a guide as to how much fabric you need to fold over.


4. Fold the top of the fabric inward (to the inside of the pants) and with a narrow zig zag sew all the way around leaving about a 3″ gap to feed elastic through.

 making an elastic waistband

making an elastic waistband

5. Attach large safety pin to one end of elastic and feed through waistband. Take care not to lose other end into waistband as you pull.

making an elastic waistband

6. Sew elastic ends together securely. Make sure the elastic isn’t twisted.

making an elastic waistband

7. Sew gap closed.

All Done! I told you these were easy to make.

make Harem pants for kids

make Harem pants for kids

how to make Harem pants for kids

That was actually only 2 main seams, that’s almost no sewing at all.

Have a go at making a pair of these. Striped and patterned tops make super cute and very trendy pants, so keep an eye out at the thrift store for fun patterned tops that would make great harem pants.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. There are plenty more refashions to come in The Thrifty Kid series so stay tuned.
x Cinti


  • Katia says:

    Great! Your ideas are great! Special!!! I really think you should pubbliche a book or an e-book with these incredibile tutorials!!!

  • Sarah Helene says:

    HOW CLEVER & COMFY . . . young girl’s acrobat pants sewn from an adult tank top! LOVE this idea of repurposing clothing. Your SIMPLE tutorial has only 2 cuts & 2 seams, the top for elastic waistband & the bottom between legs . . . in 7 EASY steps. REALLY UNISEX FOR ANY KID. LOTS of LOVE sewn into these versatile pants by MOM! Thanks for sharing, Cintia. Sarah in Minneapolis

  • Randi says:

    These are soooo amazing!! Think it would be possible to sew these by hand? Or is that just crazy??

  • D.Rae says:

    I have a ton of shirts that I’ve been itching to upcylce. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow! Your directions are simple yet detailed.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  • HR says:

    This is brilliant & fabulous!
    I didn’t think I would have the time to venture into stitching something for my 9.5 month old who is crawling all over the place…but these look totally do-able! (These pants would help protect her skin against the carpet)
    Plus I have some bright coloured tanks that I never got around to wearing…they would be perfect for my baby!
    Thanks again for the lovely detailed photos & instructions!

    • Anne-marie guiban says:

      C’est top !! J’ai moi aussi beaucoup de vieux vêtements à recycler que je vais enfin pouvoir valoriser grâce à vos tutoriels. Merci pour ce partage

      Translated from French – It’s great !! I also have a lot of old clothes to recycle that I will finally be able to value thanks to your tutorials. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sarah Henry says:

    And you could use the semi circle you cut out to make a baby hat (or hat for a baby doll). Awesome tutorial! Thank you!

  • Moran, D says:

    Have you tried it yet? Do you have any old tanks? Use lots of pins before you begin to sew.

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