DIY Fashion: Acid Washed Jeans Under $15

Recently, I was trying to style a little fashion shoot and I really had a hankering for some cool retro looking acid washed jeans to go with a fun vintage top.  Due to the time crunch I was in, I had to keep it local and I searched all over.  Out of desperation I even went to the mall and found nothing.  The few pairs I found were way too short, or too grungy and distressed within an inch of their life. I ended up settling for a cute pair of dark jeggings, but still really wanted a pair of cool, acid washed jean shorts.  Since I couldn’t find what I wanted I decided to make them myself.  Here are my tips, triumphs and tragedies.AJ Post 1


1 or 2 pairs of jeans (I purchased mine at the Goodwill and spent a total of 6.84 including tax for two pair)

1 bottle of generic bleach ($1.00/gl depending on brand)

1 sponge (Optional)

1 pair of rubber Kitchen gloves ($1.50 depending on brand)

1 seam ripper (Optional, but makes things easier for later distressing. Price is $.99 + depending on how fancy you want to go)

garbage bags

Step 1.  Find a location outdoors where you can work.  I don’t recommend using bleach on your cement as it can stain it and you don’t want to use your yard since it will kill your grass and vegetation.  I went to a vacant lot near my home to set up my little makeshift workshop.  Depending on your design plans you might be able to use your kitchen sink or a rubber tub.

Step 2.  At first, I moistened the sponge with bleach and patted down the jeans to reveal some strategically placed bleached spots, but after some time I decided to just go wild with a fun, but careful, splash approach.

  • TRAGEDY: I put a little bleach in a  small spray bottle and wanted to try for a water droplet type design.Tragedy 2  To my dismay it didn’t really take.  The spray was too light, but I think if I would have stuck with it and had a spray bottle with a larger nozzle it would have turned out really neat.  If going with the spray bottle, make sure you do not stand down wind!


 Step 3. When you are satisfied with your acid wash look, place your jeans in the garbage for easy transport to the washer.  Be careful not to drip a trail of bleach!  I let my denim set for about 10 minutes just to make sure they were good and bleached before I washed them.

  • TIP: After your jeans are washed make sure and rinse out your washing machine by running the rinse cycle or running the clean cycle.

Step 4. If you are planning on making shorts, take measurements so you know how long or short you want to go.  Measure your inseam and outside length and make small marks so you can easily draw a line for cutting. I used another pair of shorts as a make shift pattern to figure out the length I wanted to go.  When you have your line ready, cut. (Optional: keep the legs of your jeans for the next upcoming DIY Fashion)

  • TIP: I gave myself an inch allowance, just in case I made a mistake. I figure when I go to fringe the ends I will have some wiggle room to make the fringe look a little more natural.

Step 5. Time to distress your jeans.  There are a lot of different things you could do to make your jeans look rough.  I knew I wanted some fringe and a higher cut on the side.  I also wanted some nicely placed worn areas, but I didn’t really want to show too much skin.

  • AJ 12Fringe: I used my seam ripper and went to town on the edges making them nice and stringy.  I also threw them in the washer again to mute the bleach smell one more time and to make my fringe a little fluffed.



  • Hidden Hole: Denim is a weave of dark threads and white ones.  The white run horizontal while the colored threads run somewhat vertical.  I wanted a fun distressed area higher on one of my legs, but without revealing too much so I went in with my ripper and popped all the blue threads, pull them out of the weave, but not cut them off the denim, leaving only the white Distressed Holehorizontal threads so you can’t see my skin too much.




  • Distressed: For this look I again cut the blue threads, but in a random pattern leaving some in the weave of the fabric.  This Basket Weavecreated a cool “basket weave” looking design.




Step 6. Time to finish your jeans or shorts and fix up your fringe and maybe trim up the areas around the distressed parts.  Maybe you like it long and shaggy or maybe you want to show a little more skin and decide the make it high and tight.  It’s up to you and isn’t that the best part!

Trim the Fringe

TIP: I thinned my fringed by cutting it vertically to avoid a manufactured blunt look.  Use the same type of technique your hairstylist does to thin the edges of your hair.



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**Pricing information for supplies will vary by location.