DIY Distressed Boyfriend Jeans

Kathleen Barnes of Carrie Bradshaw Lied shows us how to achieve the distressed look for less

DIY Distressed Boyfriend Jeans #theeverygirl

Distressed boyfriend jeans are the key ingredient in achieving that "Oh, this old thing?" chic, off-duty look. But usually, that "old thing"—in particular, a pair of beautifully destroyed jeans—is not truly old. You'll have to make a trip to at least one store, or maybe a dozen. Which brings us to our next point: Those jeans are hardly easy to obtain.

First, finding a pair distressed to your personal liking can involve a tireless hunt. (Curiously resembling swiss cheese? Looking as if a bear had initiated a wrestling match? No thanks!) Then, once you do spot your perfect pair, the price tag immediately forces your eyes to widen in disbelief. Despite holes galore and thus, less fabric, the dollars and cents have noticeably increased. Catch-22, much? 

Yep, it's time to take matters into your own, fully capable hands.

We've enlisted the help of Carrie Bradshaw Lied blogger Kathleen Barnes, who owns mad DIY game and can transform a pair of ordinary jeans to the exemplary distressed pair we've been wistfully yearning for. See the proof below! Major bonus: The cost of the new-and-improved jeans (including project materials) will probably fall below your initial budget.


  • Denim of choice—how about the faded jeans you couldn't bring yourself to toss when you cleaned out your closet? We also recommend going to your local thrift store or purchasing an inexpensive pair of jeans. If you decide to shop for denim but aren't having any luck, get creative like Kathleen did: She found this pair of cheaper denim in the men's section of Forever 21 (and prefers the baggier "boyfriend jeans" fit, anyway)!
  • A sharp, brand new pair of scissors or more specifically, sewing scissors
  • Tweezers 
  • Sandpaper
  • Pencil/chalk (optional/not shown)
  • Washing machine and dryer (optional/not shown)


Step 1: First, try on the denim to have an idea of what areas you would like to distress. If you would prefer to make a mark rather than simply eyeball where on the jeans you intend to distress, use chalk or a pencil.

Step 2: Then, sandpaper over those areas for an extra worn look. Skip this step if you'd rather keep the distressing to a minimum.

Step 3: Cut straight, horizontal slits over the areas you want to distress. The slits should be 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch from each other, which will make pulling out the indigo threads (i.e., the synthetic thread of the dyed and manufactured denim material) even easier.

Step 4: Use the tweezers to pull the indigo threads, but only in the areas you've cut. It's OK if you can't get them all, or if you have blue fuzz in certain areas. It'll all even out in the wash—pun intended!

Step 5: Once you've cut several areas (and don't forget about those back pockets for an all-over distressed look) and have pulled most of the indigo threads out, toss your jeans into the wash. Ensure that you have selected wash on cold, not warm or hot. You can always hand wash/air dry if you don't have a washing machine or a dryer nearby; however, the step does add fantastic further distressing.

Step 6: Afterward, dry them (in the dryer or via air drying) as much as you can before wearing.

Pull on the rest of your outfit and voilà! You're ready to rock n' roll.

Get the Look:

Boyfriend JeansForever 21 (from the men's section)
Striped top: H&M 
Textured blazer: Nordstrom
Heels: Prabal Gurung for Target
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Aviators
Watch: Swatch
Lipstick:  Urban Decay 69
Chain-link bracelet: Derng
Stacked ring: Forever 21 

Follow Kathleen on Social:

Blog: Carrie Bradshaw Lied
Instagram: @kathleen_cbl
Twitter: @kathleen_cbl
Facebook: /carriebradshawlied

Have you ever distressed your own denim? Any tips that you would like to share?


Valerie Chen #theeverygirl

Valerie Chen


Based in Los Angeles. Digital Editor at TravelAge West and freelance writer elsewhere.