Ask A Denver Expert: How To Distress Your Jeans

April 8, 2014 7:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Distressed denim is a great way to add some edge to your everyday look. When done correctly, it adds an urban vibe to any outfit. However, quality pairs of distressed jeans can be pricey. Achieving the look yourself takes some time, but it can save you some money. Denver-based fashion designer Mona Lucero shares tips on how to distress your own jeans.

Mona Lucero
Fashion Designer and Style Consulant
Mona Lucero Design Studio
1644 Platte St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 458-0090

A lifelong artist, Mona Lucero has worked professionally in the fashion industry for more than 20 years. In addition to designing clothing, accessories and handbags, she also offers styling services and wardrobe consultation. Lucero has owned and operated a retail boutique since 2002, located in the Highlands. A passionate advocate of upcycled clothing, she often repurposes existing clothing to create one-of-a-kind pieces, which she sells in her boutique.

Start With a Stylish Pair

For the look to be successful, Lucero advises beginning the process with a pair of fashion-forward jeans. “You’ll want to start with a pair of current jeans. Find a pair of skinny or close fitting jeans in a lighter wash.” She also mentions that by distressing jeans yourself, you’re not paying for a pair that is already ripped. Start at a vintage store and try on several pairs until you find one you like enough but are comfortable destroying. Lucero recommends using light to medium washes as darker washes may not look as natural when distressed.

Mark Up the Jeans

Before you start going to town with the scissors, Lucero offers tips on how to make the look more natural. “Try the jeans on, and look for the natural wear pattern. Using a pencil to mark up areas around the knees, on the pockets, the belt, tabs, hems or close to the seams.” Look for areas in which the fabric appears thinner, or places in which it would likely fray. The most important thing is to mark these areas while you’re wearing the jeans, so you know how they would distress on your body.

Start With Small Punctures

First, Lucero advises adding a support inside the jeans. “The best thing to use is a rough sandpaper block. If you don’t put a backing into the jeans, you can end up distressing both sides. Rough sandpaper offers resistance, making the fabric easier to fray in a natural way.” You’ll want to start with small holes and smaller rips. Using the point of a pair of scissors, make a small cut as horizontally as possible. The denim will continue to rip as you wash and wear it, so don’t make the holes too big.

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Add Natural Looking Frays

After you’ve successfully punctured your jeans, Lucero states, “Use a safety pin to pull fibers down from both of the edges for natural fraying. If you want a softer look, use a sandpaper block and sand the denim until the color starts coming off.” It can be helpful to step back or try the jeans on a few times to make sure that your rips and holes look natural. By fraying carefully, you end up with a look that is more intentional and fashionable, rather than looking as if you merely cut some random holes into your jeans. The sandpaper block is good for areas on the jeans where you merely want to begin the fraying process, rather then completely ripping them.

Throw the Jeans in the Washer

To complete the look, wash your jeans. Lucero recommends setting the washing machine on a longer wash cycle with heavier tumbling. “More agitation makes the denim softer, and takes the work out of distressing.” Once they are perfectly distressed, you can add them into your wardrobe. Better yet, pick up a few pairs of jeans and start the process over again. Find a practice pair so the pair you actually want to wear will look high end and polished.

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