How to: Distress Your Denim (DIY)

by Jaime on July 3, 2009

Whether you love or hate the distressed style, it sure is popular. From Siwy’s Hannah distressed to the J Brand Zombie to… well, almost anything Current/Elliott, Distressed Denim is in now more than ever.

But, it’s not cheap. Getting some well-distressed denim can be a costly endeavor… but it doesn’t have to be!

Step One: Find the jeans you want to distress.

This part is pretty easy. For me, I chose a pair of Paper Denim & Cloth jeans that were a size too big, to go for a little bit of the boyfriend look. So, we have a pair of, in my case, size 27 Bootcut jeans (Note: If you really want to go for the cuffed boyfriend look best, grab yourself a pair of straight legged jeans. It will be a smoother look… less loose cuffing).

Step Two: Grab Your Tools

I experimented with different things, but here’s what you’re definitely going to need:

  • A pair of sharp scissors
  • Sandpaper (a rough grain)
  • A razor (for those spots that aren’t easily sandpapered)
  • A pencil
  • Optional: an Exacto knife, for smaller, precision cuts
  • Optional: Bleach

Step Three: Start Slicing

Decide where you want your marks and how many. Use the pencil to distinguish where they should be and cut them with the scissors (or the Exacto knife, if they’re smaller spots). Make all the slices first… the art comes later.

Step Four: Wash Away

Put your denim into the washer (following the instructions of the jeans, of course!) on a small load. Let the cuts you made unravel a bit in preparation for the next phase.

Step Five: Just Don’t Sandpaper Your Knuckles

… you think it’s a joke, but it hurts! After the jeans are done in the washer, take them out and lay them on a flat surface. The sliced areas should have unraveled a bit, but bust out your sandpaper to even them up. This is a great way to provide a little wear-and-tear to specific areas you want to cover (I recommend hitting at the upper and mid-thigh and around the shin). (Note: if you’ve got a sewing machine on hand, you may want to find a matching color thread and sew around your holes to prevent them from getting bigger. If you want larger tears, then you’re good… don’t worry about it).

Step Six: Bleach and Destroy

Step Six is purely optional… if you like a more distressed look, bleach away. I used a straw, got a small amount of bleach into it, and dribbled it along the jeans.

Step Seven: Enjoy!

Yep, that’s pretty self-explanatory. Cuff them up like I did if you like, or roll with them pulled down. Either way, you’ll end up with a nice, casual and stylishly distressed look that you will love even more because you did it yourself!

Love,
JP

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