Designing DIY Denim



Megan and I

Growing up, I had the pleasure of looking up to my sister, Megan, who I would describe as an artistic genius. Now 26 and living in Nashville, Tennessee, Megan never fails to amaze me with her new creations whether it be a DIY terrarium or an abstract oil painting. She could sit across from you at a diner, eating a ham and cheese omelet, and could casually draw you on a napkin using the crayons supplied for the children’s menu word searches and tic-tac-toe games. Believe me- it would look exactly like you. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit these natural artistic skills such as drawing and painting like my older sister. I do, however, have a creative eye – which I’ve learned to put to good use in the fashion department.



Playing Dress-Up

Since a young age, I’ve enjoyed playing dress up, wearing everything from pink satin kimonos to bright pink lip gloss found in the bin in my basement. Always appreciating fashion, I’ve learned, as we all have, that trends are cyclical. They take some time off and then become as popular as ever some time later. This knowledge paved the way for my ongoing obsession with thrift shopping. Before I could drive, I would accompany my sister to our local Goodwill, where I would always be envious of my sister’s findings. She’s a natural thrift shopper thanks to her ability to find the perfect pattern, texture, or style.

After numerous years of practice, I’ve tailored my thrift store searching to specific departments to ensure time efficiency. Some of my favorite treasures include vintage Harley Davidson tees, a jean jacket from the 90’s, and a pair of eternally popular high top converse. Why am I telling you all of this? I’ve been asked, “Where did you get those shorts, jeans, etc.?” countless times. So, I wanted to share my latest shopping endeavor – a trek to the Lehigh Valley Salvation Army, my personal favorite thrift store in the area.


Uneven Hem

Before entering a thrift store, I always set some purchasing goals. I begin by doing some research. Because I am going to a music festival this upcoming weekend and know that fall weather is arriving, I knew I wanted to wear a pair of DIY denim. I researched denim inspiration everywhere from Rag & Bone to Urban Outfitters as well as numerous fashion blogs. Eventually, I settled on creating an embellished step-hem denim look. Finding the perfect pair of jeans to keep full length is always a challenge due to my 5’2’’ stature. My number one piece of advice while looking for any type of jeans at a second-hand store, whether you want to cut them into shorts or simply cuff them into boyfriend jeans, is to try on any pair that even remotely looks like they could fit. I try to not to get caught up in looking at the sizes since a size 8 in the 90’s is much different than a size 8 today.

Once arriving at the Salvation Army, I combed through both the men’s and women’s jean department. I then tried on close to 25 pairs of denim, ranging from dark wash to acid wash and finally found the perfect pair that fit my waist and length – a true miracle. I found two other pairs that didn’t fit in length but were perfect for cutting into jean shorts. I continued shopping for some vintage graphic t-shirts and ultimately left with three pairs of jeans, four tees, and a sweatshirt, which all totaled $19.67. Truly hard to beat.

Returning home, I began my DIY routine by putting on some tunes. With the step-hem in mind, I began to cut just above the bottom hem to create a frayed look using heavy-duty scissors. Next, I used a shoe box as my straight edge because I didn’t have a ruler to pencil the spot where the “step” would hit, and then continued to cut a square out of the denim to create this step effect. I repeated this on the other leg, ensuring the steps were of equal lengths. Because I wanted them to look lived-in and vintage, I embellished the left knee and just below the right pocket using a straight edge blade. My secret to getting perfect rips in denim is to use sand paper and a foot callus remover. These tools take away the perfect amount of denim fibers but they don’t rip the white cross-stitching that creates the ripped effect. The last step in creating the perfect pair of embellished denim is to wash and dry them, helping to remove any remaining denim fibers while creating an even rougher frayed look.

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The Final Product

I am beyond happy with my results and want to personally thank the original owner of these vintage Rider jeans for donating them to Salvation Army. I also want to the acknowledge the vast amount of inspiration taken from my crafty sister. These tricks of the trade wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to perfect if it weren’t for her. Constantly inspired by my older sister, I have loved creating clothing from vintage hand-me-downs. Shopping at your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or thrift store saves money. Perhaps more importantly, though, it allows us to create a one-of-a-kind fashion statements while recycling to help the environment. With practice, anyone can become a thrift store queen and DIY fashion designer. I promise- you’ll get a myriad of compliments, and you’ll be able to respond with, “Thank you! I made them myself.”




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