DIY: Get the Distressed Jeans Look in under 10 minutes

We love us a good DIY. 

One of my favourite trends is the distressed-jean look. A few examples below from several top brands. These jeans will run you anywhere from $150 - $400 a pair. 

I'm not against investing in jeans. If you wear them a lot, then your cost per wear is lower, and they last FOREVER if taken care of properly. Be sure to check where your jeans were made and from what to ensure you're paying for ethically-treated labour and good materials.

We heart distressed jeans
We heart distressed jeans by kristi-fashionpreneur featuring skinny jeans

So I thought, being a self-professed JEANS ADDICT, why can't I just take an old pair of jeans and distress them myself?

I wrote about a certain pair of jeans when I launched the cost per wear calculator. The jeans I'm using are an old, original pair of seven jeans that I bought in 2003 (yes, I know) when I was bartending at a nightclub in a resort town. I have worn these jeans hundreds of times BUT they are also bootcut, and looking a little dated. 

old jeans DIY repurpose your jeans

Tip: Choose a pair of jeans that fit but are your not your everyday favourite (in case your distressing goes awry!)

 

 

Tools I used:

Sharp pair of scissors

Sanding block and sandpaper

Hand-held cheese grater

Sharp paint scraper

Scrap piece of cardboard box

How to Distress an Old Pair of Jeans
 
STEP 1:

Decide what type of 'look' you want - do you want a few natural looking holes? Or a totally shredded leg? I'll show you the 'natural' look in this DIY. To get the extreme shredding, just do this over and over again.

Make sure you have a clean, clear, pet and children-free area & be careful. The scissors need to be sharp & we don't want anyone losing a finger over distressed jeans!

Begin by marking the spot for your first cut. I chose the knee (jeans wear naturally there). Put your cardboard inside the leg, underneath where you will cut so the cuts don't go through the other side of the jeans. I made a few cuts horizontally across the knee (not too big).

 

STEP 2:

Distress the pockets. This is another area that naturally wears. I'm using the block sander for this, as well, I used the sharp edge of the scissors to cut the pocket a bit. Make sure you put the cardboard under the pocket so you don't cut through the other side.

STEP 3:

A third area that naturally wears is towards the top of the thigh on jeans. I chose to use a grater to get that lived in look. Yes, this is a cheese grater! Put the cardboard underneath (inside the jeans) and bend it, so that there is a hard area to grate against. Run the grater back and forth a few times. I added a small cut with the scissors as well.

STEP 4:

The hemline typically also wears in jeans. As these jeans are older, I had a little wear but if you don't, use the scissors to cut horizontally along the hem, and the edge to fray it. You may also want to use the edge of the grater or sanding block for added effect.

STEP 5:

Generally, the only place you want to distress (for a natural look) is the back pockets. No one wants a full-on hole in the butt of their jeans but a little distressing around the edges and on the pockets, gives a nice worn-in look. Use the same technique is on the hem around the edges of the top of the pocket. Then, put the cardboard in the pocket, and use the grater or the scissors to do some small cuts across the pocket. I went with a more subtle look.

STEP 6:

The last step is to WASH the jeans. Put them in the washing machine, on the regular cycle (with or without detergent). I combined the jeans with a load of laundry I needed to do which is fine as well. After washing, put directly IN the DRYER. This will help finish the fraying. Once done, try them on. If you want more fraying, do it up, but best to start gradually, and add more (as if you add too much, you can't go back!)

THE REVEAL:

Here's my new (old) pair of distressed jeans. The look is subtle.. I might shred a bit more along the knee & upper thigh but they look great. Love!

Have you ever DIY distressed your jeans? Did you try this at home?

Leave us a comment below or join us on  Facebook  to keep the discussion going. Share with others by clicking the social buttons at the bottom of this post.

 

With gratitude,

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Encircled Size Charts
Please scroll down to find the size chart for each design. If you have any questions on sizing, please try out our online size recommender or click here to contact us with questions prior to ordering. Size charts are in alphabetical order based on design name.
If you're on our product page viewing the size chart, click anywhere outside of the pop-up (or on the X in the top right corner) to close the size charts, or click here to surf back to our main collection page.

The Adiona Maxi Dress

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Front Length 45" 45" 45" 45" 45"
Back Length 55" 55" 55" 55" 55"

Fit Advice: The Adiona Maxi Dress fits true to size, but we recommend to size up if you are in between sizes. The length can be hemmed by a tailor, or adjusted by  bringing the waist higher up the body to accommodate many different heights. The elasticized waist will flex to fit different waist sizes within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the basic product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S), is wearing a size Extra Small in The Adiona Maxi Dress. Our model Kristi, shown in the styling shots is approximately 5'9" and a size 6-8 (M), wearing size Medium in the Adiona Maxi Dress.

 

The Chameleon Maxi Skirt

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M)
10 - 12(L)
14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Length 39.5" 39.75" 40" 40.25" 40.5"

Fit Advice: The Chameleon Maxi Skirt fits true to size. The wide waistband ensures no ‘muffin top’. However, if you are a bit smaller on the top and wish to wear it as a strapless dress, we recommend sizing down because the drawstring to adjust the length is in the hem. Hemming The Chameleon Maxi Skirt would be difficult. 

Model's Measurements: Marah is shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'11", and a size 6-8 (M), is wearing a size Medium in The Chameleon Maxi Skirt. 

The Chrysalis Cardi

Size
Garment Length (Laid Flat) Garment Width (Laid Flat) Bust 
(inches)
Waist 
(inches)
Hip 
(inches)
Height 

Regular

(xs - xxl)

38" 39.5" 32"-41" 25"-34" 35"-44" 5'2"-6'0"

Petite

(xxs - m)

35" 34.5" 27"-35" 23"-28" 30"-38" >5'4"

Maxi

(xl - xxxl)

43" 41.5" 41"-52" 33"-45" 44"-56" >6'0"

Fit Advice: The Regular Chrysalis Cardi is a one size fits most garment ranging from sizes XS-XXL or 2-14. It can be easily belted in multiple ways, however the Regular is not recommended for petite or shorter woman due to the volume of fabric - See Petite Cardi. The Regular is also not recommended for curvier/taller women due to fabric pulling around the bust or bottom - See Maxi Cardi.

We recommend watching the how-to wear videos to see how much fabric drape and length you would like in your finished garment. If you are in between sizes, it is best to size up and the garment can always be tailored shorter to better suit your look - you cannot add more fabric unfortunately!

The Petite is best suited for women 5'4" and under with a smaller frame, although it will also work on women above this height (depending on preferred length when styled). 

The Maxi is best suited for all women under 6’0” with a curvier shape to eliminate any uncomfortable fabric pulling, although it will also work on women who are a bit less curvy (depending on preferred length when styled). 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the Black Petite Chrysalis Cardi product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S). Mandy shown in the Slate Grey + Navy Petite Chrysalis Cardi product shots is approximately 5'2" tall and a size 0-2 (XS). Anthea shown in the beach shot is 5'4" tall and a size 2-4 (S).

*If you have any questions on sizing, please contact us - Remember it is best to provide us with your height and size range of garments that you already own! 

The Dressy Sweatpant

HIGH RISE FIT

Worn higher up with rise sitting at natural waist. Straight leg tapers from the hip to ankle opening.

Size XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16)
Waist (inches)
23" - 25"
25" - 28"
28" - 32"
32" - 34"
34" - 37"
Hip (inches)
32" - 34"
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
44" - 47"
Inseam (inches) 28.5"
RELAXED FIT
Slight drop-crotch look with rise sitting just above natural hip. Straight leg tapers to ankle opening.
Size XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16)
Waist (inches)
25" - 28"
28" - 32"
32" - 34"
34" - 37"
36" - 39"
Hip (inches)
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
44" - 47"
46" - 49"
Inseam (inches) 28.5"

Fit Advice: We recommend staying with your usual size if you are in between sizes. The cut on The Dressy Sweatpants is more generous and the fit is meant to be drapey and slightly harem. Therefore, it's better if they don't fit snug. 

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size small in Black, Navy, and Smoke Dressy Sweatpant. Daria is 5'4" tall and a size 0-2 (XS) and is wearing an extra small in the Slate Grey Dressy Sweatpant.

 

The Evolve Top

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M)
10 - 12 (L)
14 - 16 (XL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist 20-22" 23-25" 26-28" 32-34" 35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
Fit Advice: The fit of The Evolve top is drapey but tapers towards the hip. It tends to fit large. We recommend for you to size down from your normal size if you are unsure. The fabric on The Evolve top has a natural stretch that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 
Model's Measurements: 
Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) wearing a size extra small in The Evolve Top.

 

 

The Flipside Legging 

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"
Inseam 28" 28"
28"
28"
28"

Fit Advice: We recommend sizing down if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The Modal fabric on The Flipside Leggings is not as 'taut' as synthetic fabrics like polyester, so if you prefer a snugger fit with your leggings, size down. The Flipside Leggings are pre-shrunk.

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) wearing a size XS.

 

 The Minimalist Legging

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"
Inseam 28" 28"
28"
28"
28"

Fit Advice: We recommend sizing down if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The Bamboo fabric on The Minimalist Leggings is tighter than the Flipside Leggings. The Minimalist Leggings are pre-shrunk.

Model's Measurements: Kristi, shown in the product shots is approximately 5'9" and a size 6-8 (M), wearing size Medium in the Minimalist Leggings.

 

The Nomadic Crew Neck

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5"
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

 Fit Advice: The Nomadic Crew Neck fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Jamie shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'4" tall and a size 2 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Nomadic Crew Neck.

 

 

The Nomadic V-Neck

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

Fit Advice: The Nomadic V-Neck fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Anissa shown in the product shots is approximately 5'2" tall and a size 0 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Nomadic V-Neck.

 

The Reversible Pencil Skirt

Size
XS (0-2)
S (2-4)
M (6-8)
L (10-12)
XL (14-16)

Waist (inches)

23" - 26"
26" - 29"
29" - 32"
32" - 34"
35" - 37"

Hip (inches)

32" - 34"
35" - 38"
38" - 41"
41" - 44"
45" - 47"

Length Total (inches)

20"
21"
22"
23"
24"

Fit Advice: The Reversible Pencil Skirt fits true to size, but it's suggested to size up if you fall between sizes. The pencil skirt offers a smooth silhouette that slightly tapers from waist to hips and down through to the hem, hitting just at knee length. A pencil skirt should smoothly skim your curves, so to get a perfect fit, first identify your largest measurement then choose the size offering that range while still allowing for some stretch. The fabric on The Reversible Pencil skirt has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown.

Model's Measurements: Monica shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'6" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size extra small.  

 

The Revolve Dress

 
Size
0-2 (XS)
2-4 (S)
6-8 (M) 10-12 (L) 14-16 (XL)
Bust (inches)
27.5 - 29.5 "
30.5 - 32.5 "
33.5 - 35.5 "
36.5 - 38.5 "
39.5 - 41.5 "
Waist (inches)
23-24 "
25-26 "
28-29 "
30-31 "
32-34 "
Hips (inches)
30-32 "
33-35 "
36-38 "
39-41 "
42-44 "
Length (inches)
At longest, 38.5" Adjustable
At longest, 39" Adjustable
At longest, 39.25" Adjustable
At longest, 39.5" Adjustable
At longest, 39.5" Adjustable

Fit Advice: The Revolve Dress is designed to fit drapey that tapers towards the hip. We recommend staying with your typical dress size. If your hip measurements are above the guide, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. The fabric on The Revolve Dress has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown.

Model's Measurements: Isabel shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'10" tall and a size 2-4 (S) is wearing a size extra small. 

 

The Wanderer Sleeveless T 

Size
0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
42.5 - 44.5"
Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
35-37"
Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
45-47"
Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"
28"

Fit Advice: The Wanderer Sleeveless T fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 

Model's Measurements: Jamie shown in the product and styling shots is approximately 5'4" tall and a size 2 (XS) is wearing a size extra small in The Wanderer Sleeveless T.