Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Leather Shorts, Repair to Wear!

I don't ever remember wearing shorts really, apart from in school PE class (shudder!).  I don't think I have ever owned a pair in my adult life.  So I'm straight in at the deep end with these cheeky leather hot-pants!  Ok before I go any further I have to say these are not handmade.  I've snapped them here on my cutting mat as it was a handy background, not because I have created them from scratch, I wish I was that clever.  I bought them damaged and repaired them.  

I have lots of leather trousers, which are an absolute wardrobe staple for me and all of which I love and wear regularly from autumn through to spring.  So I saw these shorts, which are made of the silkiest soft, fine leather, and immediately imagined them with opaque tights and worn with boots and a chunky knit for autumn.  Perhaps a big poncho or shawl over the top.... et voila! They were in the bag.

They are made of extremely good quality, supple leather, that is evenly perforated throughout.  They have a satin lining underneath, are belted and have a couple of funky zips at the front and pockets at the back.  Having been horrendously expensive in the shop, these designer hot-pants were reduced in price to an absolute snip because of a VERY large rip along one of the back pockets.  One of the downsides I guess to being made of such delicate, perforated hide is that it becomes vulnerable to tearing, although how on earth someone managed to make such a huge hole in these I just don't know. You can just see part of the rip here, above the right side back pocket.  I missed it at first, but then when I tried them on it was very obvious.

Repairing ripped leather means matching the edges back together as carefully as possible and trying to make it stay there with the least amount of visible evidence of mending.  It can be sewn back together if you can get the two edges close enough and then zigzag over the join, although of course you will be able to see this join and the stitching if it's in an exposed place.  The other way is the glue it together, adding something to stabilise the edges underneath and help provide a base layer for the glue.  Ideally this underneath layer would be a small piece of leather of similar weight and colour, or a stable piece of fabric that will hold glue.  The photo below shows how far the rip extends underneath the pocket, the entire top right corner has ripped away.

So I can't imagine this garment would have ever been bought by someone who didn't sew, as the damage would have been totally off-putting, virtually making them unwearable.  For this garment it was the last chance saloon before they were written off probably and thrown away. When I tried them on in the changing room, squirming around to see the back of them in the mirror, it was clear that the majority of the rip-line went along the right, back pocket seam and so with a bit of careful repair it might be secured back in place and almost completely hidden along the existing stitch line.  Worth a gamble at the price I reckoned. 

I decided at first to machine sew along the pocket line where I could get away with it and the stitches would be hidden, and then glue the rest of the rip.  However I then changed my mind and went on to hand sew over the top of the existing stitches, partly to make sure there was minimal chance of the needle itself causing further stress to the edges and partly because I didn't want to spoil the topstitching with a line of zig zag.  It would also have meant undoing the lining to get underneath the leather, and with hand stitching I could just catch the leather itself without going through the lining.  I used a small piece of soft black leather underneath the rest of the rip to stabilise the join where the glue was placed.  I used Uhu Textile glue on the underneath, suede side of the leather, and on the ripped edges.  You can dry clean garments after using this type of glue and it won't melt away.  (I've also used Copydex glue in the past to mend leather bags and this works well also, although I've never used Copydex glue on anything that needed dry cleaning so can't vouch for it's resistance to this). You can see below where the rip extends out from underneath the pocket piece onto the side back section of the shorts - the trickiest part to tackle as this can't be hidden.

Here's how the glue looked when I first applied it, you can see it very clearly seeping through the holes.

Fortunately with this particular leather finish, the perforations are already making the look of the leather quite textured, breaking up the surface and making any slight blemish or repair less easy to detect.  This wouldn't be the case with a perfectly smooth leather surface of course, where damage would be very visible against the surface sheen.  Here's a close up of the finished pocket after the glue had dried. You can see the fine seam-line of the rip under bright light, but it's a pretty good finish.  You can't see it at all unless you are very close indeed.

I'm not sure anyone is going to be THIS close to my bum!  Except for you guys, right now!

I'm really pleased with the results and am looking forward to chillier days now so that I can stride out in these.  I can visualise them with a chunky knit jumper and boots, or perhaps a fine cashmere top and brogues.  Even a tailored jacket would work to sharpen them up a bit and give them a smarter feel.  I'm wearing them here with my favourite shawl, which I can see getting a lot of 'air time' again this year.

Excuse the dull blurry photos, in true autumnal fashion it stopped being sunny and started to  absolutely pelt down with torrential rain the moment I got outside to photograph them.

I can't ever imaging toting anything around in the back pocket of these, so they won't be at risk of ripping again hopefully now they're fixed.  Let's face it, by the time I get my ample rear wedged in these bad boy hot-pants, there is barely be enough room for post-it note in there anyway.  So, can you wear leather shorts in your 40's?  Yeah, love 'em!

Black leather shorts by Edun at TK Maxx
Black cashmere jumper (neck embellished by me) from John Smedley
Shearling biker boots from Kurt Geiger
Vintage wool shawl in black and cream check is a hand-me-down


  1. What a brilliant piece of restoration work on what sound like beautifully made, but damaged, shorts. And as I read I wondered if there would be a photograph of you wearing them - and yes, there is - and you look amazing in them; well worth the time and effort spent in repairing them. And we'll done for flying the flag for the over40s!!!

  2. Thank you AWR! It was very much worth the effort, and actually ended up being quite a quick restoration job in the end. Sarah X