How to Add a Cargo Pocket to Pants or Shirts

Have you ever wished a favorite pair of pants or beloved shirt of yours had an extra pocket to carry things you need at a moment's notice? Adding a cargo pocket to a garment isn't as hard as it may seem. Give it a try! You'll probably be surprised how simple it is, and you'll definitely be happy with your new carry-all.

What are Cargo Pockets?

Cargo pockets are exactly what they say they are: pockets for carrying "cargo," that is, small useful items you need close at hand. A cargo pocket has an accordion fold on each side, which lets it expand to hold things.

Typically on both men’s pants and women’s pants, these handy holders are found on each side of the leg just above the knee. On a shirt, the cargo pocket design looks great as a typical breast pocket with a button or velcro closure.

Cargo Pocket Tutorial: How to Sew an Expandable Pocket

Here, you'll find a complete tutorial to help you create and sew your very own cargo pocket. Follow along step-by-step, and in no time, you can transform your pants into multi-tasking utility holders for all your outdoor and indoor projects and adventures.


Before adding a cargo pocket to clothing, first determine what type of material you’ll be using. Cargo pockets are most commonly found on pants made of a rugged type of cotton and usually created in utilitarian colors such as khaki and military green. The garment you choose should be sturdy enough to handle the extra weight of whatever you might store in those brand-new utility pockets you're adding.

These additions also work great on shirts for men. A sturdy flannel button-down is a good choice because it can manage the weight of added materials. Putting an expandable cargo pocket on a shirt gives it a workwear aesthetic, so it is both stylish and functional.

Step-by-Step Tutorial

Are you ready? Here we go! Follow these steps on how to make cargo pockets to transform ordinary pants and shirts into extraordinary ones.

1. Outline and cut out the cargo pocket

A typical cargo pocket is a rectangle shape with the short side on top. You can use a ready-made cargo pocket pattern, create your own, or draw the shape directly on the material you plan to use.

For the correct height, add 2.5 inches to your desired size, to account for the hem (1 in. on top), folds (1 in. each side), and seam allowance (1/2 in.). On the width, add 1 inch on each side for the folds and then another 1/2 inch on each side for the seams.

Draw straight lines to denote the various folds and hem, lettering each corner A, B, C, D, with A-B and C-D the left and right lengthwise and A-C widthwise.

2. Cut out the pocket

Cut the pocket shape out from the material, or cut around your pattern. Then, make a zig-zag cut on the bottom corners, starting where the fold lines begin, 1.5 inches in from the edge. Cut upwards 1/2 inch, outwards 1 inch towards the edge, then upwards 1 inch and outwards 1/2 inch. Do this on each corner. The pieces you remove will look like small Ls; on the left, a regular L, and on the right, a backward L.

3. Fold and press the folds and seam allowances

Fold on the lines you drew, and then use an iron to press these lines flat. This creates the shape of the pocket.

4. Stitch the top hem

Now you’re ready to stitch the top hem according to your pattern. Turn the fabric under one inch following the pressed fabric and stitch across widthwise to create the top hem. 

5. Stitch the corners

Pinch one corner of the cargo pocket together, matching the edges, and turn it inside-out. Stitch across the pressed lines to form the corner, trim off any excess fabric, then turn the pocket right-side-out again.

6. Sew to garment

Now you’re ready for the last step: attaching cargo pockets to your garment. Pin the pocket on the garment and stitch around the edges of the folded pocket, underneath the extensions. You can add a top flap if you wish, using a button or velcro for the closure.

Tips for DIY Sewing

In order to make your hand-stitching project a success, here are a few tips:

- Measure correctly and sew neatly around the edges

- Use the right size needle and correct thread for your fabric weight

- Iron the fabric before you begin

- Press the fabric accurately when ironing the folds and hemlines

Now that you know how to sew an expandable pocket, you can practice on different size garments and different fabric weights to explore your creativity with this new skill! If you’d rather go with professionally made products, explore UNIONBAY’s collection of cargo pants for men and men’s cargo shorts today! We also have a step-by-step guide on how to measure men's pants.