I don't know about you, but my go-to picks when choosing what to put on in the morning always seem to fall back on the pieces that look I've loved them and lived in them for years. (Actually, I tend to keep my wardrobe faves for a long time, so chances are I actually have been loving them for years, but that's besides the point). I like to feel at home in my clothes, to wear pieces that look effortless, so the distressed denim look is well aligned with my personal style.
Earlier this week I joined my favourite crew over at CTV Morning Live to chat about my top tips for recreating the trend at home; in preparation for the segment, I tried and tested a few researched methods as well as a few different garment options to see what works best for me. I realized quickly that working on my super stretchy skinny jeans was more of a challenge than I was looking for - the white 'weft' threads with stretch are much more prone to breakage from rubbing than with traditional denim - so I opted to work on a heavier fabric. My standard denim Talula jacket from Aritzia - which in truth has lived in my closet for a few years now without ever seeing the action it deserves because I felt it was missing a little authenticity - became the perfect subject for my DIY distressing adventures.
Once I had my project piece in hand, I had to decide what type of distressed look(s) I wanted to create and thus, which tools I would need to get going. After some serious Pinterest-ing, I gathered up the top-rated tricks of the trade - some I expected, like a pair of sewing scissors, a stitch ripper and a mat to cut on; however, some of the recommended items took me by surprise: namely tweezers, a lemon zester and a foot loofah (seriously?!). Other suggested tools were tailors chalk, a measuring tape and a sharp blade (which I ended up preferring over the scissors).
With your tools in order, the first step to a successful distress is to decide placement and style of 'wear' you're looking to achieve. To really figure where I wanted to distress my jacket, I borrowed a coveted one from my bestie and observed the aesthetic of it's natural wear marks to copy on my own garment. Just to be extra sure (as the saying goes: measure twice, cut once) I tried on my jacket and used the tailors chalk to mark out exact placement.
I started with the elbows, as it's the easiest place to achieve the worn-to-death look I was after. Also, it's the area requiring the largest amount of wear and tear, which meant it would be the base of the overall look, with the rest being detail work. Once I marked out where I wanted to start, I opted for the blade to make my initial cuts; I could have also used the scissors, but I found that I had more control over the size and delicacy of the slices using a handheld blade. For the cutting stage, it was suggested to insert a rolled up magazine into the sleeve (or pant leg, should you be distressing the knees of jeans) to avoid slicing through to the other side of the garment. I chose not to use the magazine because while it was smart in theory, I found that it made cutting with precision a little tricky.
Once all my major cuts were in place (note: I cut across the fabric, not down the length of it) it was time to employ the two most curious of the tools - the zester and the loofah. At the opening of the cut edges, I used these two tools to fray the threads apart and create some roughness around the clean slices; this not only created a little authenticity to the cuts, but also freed up the thread edges for the next step.
I found this next step to be the most finicky of all the stages of distressing; using the tweezers on the now-frayed cut edges, the trick is to carefully pull the blue 'warp' threads out from their weave within the white cross-threads - this part was easiest between two cuts as both thread ends are now already cut free from the garment. The result of this stage is the probably the most common of the distressed looks - a worn out opening left slightly covered by the white fabric threads.
With the elbow patches now complete, it was time to master the details that finish off the overall effect. While the elbows are a natural choice for distressing, choosing the more intricate areas to break down becomes a little more specific. After re-scrutininzing by BFF's jacket that I love so much (and a lifetime of thrifting on the hunt for the perfect lived-in denim jacket), I chose a few key areas that reflect the natural distress of a well-loved piece.
Using a stitch ripper to create the tears rather than the blade (in smaller areas I wasn't looking to create full fledged holes, but rather broken threads to show the 'wear'. I worked on the cuffs of the sleeves, the edges of the pockets and a few buttonholes, the lapels and collar points and, finally, the back of the neck at the collar scruff. Once I tore the threads, I once again reached for the zester to soften the rips and create an aged effect to the surrounding areas.
After I was done with the ripping and softening of the sliced edges, the final distressing step was to pick a few areas to just lightly rub... not to make holes, but rather just to give the effect of the area being a little worn in. I targeted under the arms, along the body sides and just before the side pocket inserts as what I thought to be most likely to get natural wear and tear. The loofah was the most effective at rubbing the fibres without tearing them, although the interior designer in me could see a rough sandpaper working beautifully as well.
After a quick cycle in the wash to remove the excess fibre fluff from the zester/ loofah action and to soften the tips of the torn threads -voila! I had successfully recreated the jacket I had spent years hunting down - the most perfectly worn-in, looks like it's been loved forever, distressed denim jacket. Happy dances all around.