Leather jogging shorts a la Brooke Shields: McCall’s 8577

Brooke Shields in my wardrobe? She is now! I found her in this circa 1983 McCall’s pattern, complete with an iron on transfer of her signature. I left the signature untouched, but I did have a hack at those nifty running shorts on the front cover.

I made quite a few changes to my version, in part because I was sewing with leather, and in part to adjust for the very 80’s look those short were rocking. I’m talking baggy crotch, Harry high pant reducing adjustments: 

  • adjusted the side seam to remove the binding
  • I took a wedge out of the front crotch
  • straightened and shortened the hem
  • fully lined my version with china silk

Sewing with leather isn’t that difficult. I used a buttery soft Mirrabella lambskin from Tandy Leather. It is light and soft and perfect for making clothes. It’s the same type of leather that I used for my long joggers, trimmed top and armwarmers several months back.


I’m really only a newbie at sewing leather, but I have learnt a few things along the way. I suspect I will also be learning a few more things in the coming weeks when I have a bash at sewing a fitted garment.

  • You can safely fuse interfacing to leather using a low iron heat and a silk press sheet. I didn’t use interfacing on these shorts, but I did on my long jogging pants. The interfacing stops the leather from bagging out in the bum and knees, although lining them should help prevent this too. Interfacing also helps keep seams smooth if you are planning to top stitch them. I topstitched all the seams in my long pants and this worked beautifully because I’d fused interfacing to stabilise every pattern piece.

I realise now that interfacing the whole pants as well as lining them was probably a bit of overkill, but it did make for beautiful stable seams and after several wears now, these pants have not stretched out a bit.

Initially, I tried to topstitch the seams in my shorts, but seams stretched out terribly. Luckily, the style allowed me to trim the wavy side seams off and re-stitch a very narrow seam allowance instead. I much prefer my nice smooth side seams.

So the moral of this story is that leather can stretch. No interfacing equals no topstitching in my books.

  • Measure twice three times, stitch once! Once you stitch, that’s it. The holes are there forever. It is possible to unpick to repair mistakes, but even if you can’t see those former stitch holes, the leather will be weaker and more prone to tearing.
  • I am now the proud owner of a Teflon foot for sewing leather, but I couldn’t wait for it to arrive before I started on these shorts. I’m pretty sure it will make sewing leather easier next time. But in the meantime, it is good to know that it is possible to sew leather well with a normal sewing machine foot. Real leather is a dream to sew compared to faux leather!
  • I use a longer straight stitch (3.5) when I sew leather due to the thickness of the material. I also think the longer stitch may help prevent the leather tearing. 
  • Be prepared to add extra seams to your pattern. Depending on the size of your hide, you may need to piece your pattern together. I had to divide my waistband into two pieces to fit it into the leather.

Learning to sew with leather has been incredibly satisfying for me. I love that gives me another material to play around with in the sewing room. I also love that it has allowed me to add some classic pieces to my wardrobe that would have otherwise been well out of my clothing budget. 

22 thoughts on “Leather jogging shorts a la Brooke Shields: McCall’s 8577

  1. SewJillian

    Ahh you've done Brooke Shields proud. Oh how I adored Brooke as a kid! These have turned out great and thanks for the load of tips on sewing with leather. Hubby is still looking to sew me up a shoulder bag if I can ever decide on a style. I'll be sure to pass this along even through he is totally old school, working with thicker leather and hand sewing the whole thing 🙂


  2. Debbie Iles

    Jillian, for your bag inspiration 😉 I had my hubby buy me this tote for my birthday after I saw it online. https://www.madewell.com/madewell_category/BAGS/totes/PRDOVR~53228/53228.jsp?color_name=true-black
    It is seriously the simplest and best bag ever (never thought I'd cope without pockets!). It would be so simple to make – and for more than half the price! And perfectly suited to thicker leather and hand sewing (or machine sewing!). I'm seriously considering doing so myself at some point!


  3. Bellbird

    Ah this is great! I've just cut out the pattern pieces for a leather skirt. I am planning to fully line it, but it sounds as though I should think about fusing everything too. On your jogging pants did you use special topstitching thread or regular thread for your topstitching? I am on the fence about topstitching my seams, I'm planning to wait and see how crisp I can get them by using leather cement.


  4. Debbie Iles

    Oooh can't wait to see your leather skirt! The fusible interfacing does change the hand of the leather a little bit, just common sense though as you would expect. I used a really lightweight interfacing in my long pants. I just had a thought – you could use strips of fusible tape or Vilene tearaway along the seams you wanted to topstitch.That should stop them from stretching out. Otherwise, if the skirt is all lined, I wouldn't think you would need to worry so much about stretching out the bum. I just used normal thread for my topstitching.


  5. Kirsty

    What a great outfit. Agree with the others Brooke would be proud. Thanks for the tips re leather. I dream of a pair of jogging pants like yours! The shorts look great with your cross back top.


  6. Sharon Collins

    So I guess you are shocking some of those natives of Kansas with your new wardrobe additions! Of course you maybe lucky & some may know how tricky leather can be to sew. If you want to find good pieces of leather or wool shop at Goodwill. When they get too much they mark the items way down. I have gotten some nice leather skirts that would make you nice shorts, a bag, or even a jacket. I am waiting on pins & needles for your next project. In the meantime enjoy Kansas. It is a beautiful place!


  7. Debbie Iles

    Some great advice Sharon! I agree, Kansas is such a lovely place. We are loving it here! I did recently pick up a $13 leather midi skirt on ebay which I have been cutting up. I might have to check out Goodwill too.



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