Dolce and Gabriella

Little thoughts from the Big Apple

Make the Most Bad-Ass Bomb-Dot-Com Jean Cutoffs of Your LIFE


Can you tell from the title that I’m excited about today’s topic? It’s because I have a jorts problem.

tobias 1Image from the Arrested Development wikia page

I own an embarrassingly large number of jean shorts. At least a dozen pairs. I can kind of halfway justify it because of where I live, except that I owned most of them before I ever got here. There’s something about a pair of soft, broken-in jean cutoffs that makes me so happy. Actually, all denim makes me happy. I own the WordPress and Tumblr handle “denimfetish” and seriously considered it for this blog. See more about my denim problem here.

I think I’ve bought two pairs of jean shorts in my life. All the others, I’ve made myself from jeans I’ve found at garage sales and thrift stores. I’ve ruined many a pair trying to cut them super-short-but-not-too-short, frayed-but-not-too-frayed. Luckily, I’ve developed a technique that returns custom-fit, absolutely perfect shorts every time. And it couldn’t be simpler. (Warning–lots of pictures in this one!)

how to make jean shorts

If you’d rather do this thang on your phone, I made a great Steller story with the same content.

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First, you’ll need an old pair of jeans. I went to Goodwill and found a pair with a half-off tag for $3. Try to pick something non-stretchy with a high cotton content–it’s much more difficult to distress polyester and spandex. Then, grab scissors, a marker, a ruler, a utility knife and a piece of cardboard.

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Chop off the legs of the jeans, leaving the shorts 1.5-2″ longer than you’d like to wear them. Then put the jeans on.

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Fold the hem of the shorts up. Look in the mirror and make sure that with the fold, the shorts are the exact length and cut you want. Play around with it…try folding at different lengths and angles and see what’s most flattering. On many people, shorts that slant subtly upward toward the outside of the leg look best.

Make sure they’re the right length. I like my shorts pretty short, but they have to cover the necessary stuff.

tobias 3From WiffleGif.

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Once you’re happy with how the shorts look, get your marker. With one hand, pinch the fold you just made; with the other, run your marker along the edge of the fold. You want to make a line that traces exactly where you’ve folded the fabric. Go all the way around both legs.

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For a more precise line, you could pin the fold, take the shorts off and press the crease with an iron. I’m too lazy for that.

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Take the shorts off, turn them inside out and cut along the line you just made. Don’t cut the front and back of the shorts together–the whole point of this method is making a more flattering asymmetrical cut.

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Et voila! A pair of Daisy Dukes custom-made for your booty.

Now let’s distress them!

I used to painstakingly fray my shorts by pulling out individual threads with a seam ripper. It was tedious beyond belief. Luckily, I found a great alternate method in a video on the Free People blog. Basically, it involves cutting slits in the denim with a knife, creating narrow strips that fray and degrade with wear.

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First, we’ll fray the hem. Insert your cardboard into the leg opening to protect the fabric on the other side. Start your cuts a half inch up the legs of your shorts, using the ruler to make them straight-ish. The slits don’t have to be evenly spaced or run the entire width of the leg; you’re just creating lots of narrow strips at the bottom of the shorts.

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Now let’s make some natural-looking distress marks on the jeans. Cut some little slits at the top of the pockets, front and back, where your hand would rub against if you reached into the pocket over and over. Sometimes I also make little slits on the belt loops and the bottoms of the back pockets.

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To “break in” the front of the shorts, drag your blade across the denim until little pulls and holes start to form. Lightly glide the blade over the fabric with just enough pressure to snag the top threads. Don’t overdo it; the holes will get bigger in the wash.

Then, throw the jeans in the laundry. I put them in for the longest, heaviest duty cycle and then let them tumble in the dryer for at least half an hour.

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Just one wash later, you’ve got a perfectly distressed pair of jean shorts. And they only get better with time and more washes.

Happy chopping!

Any other jorts junkies out there? I want to hear your best tips!

Linked up with: Style Elixir, Walking in Memphis in High Heels


22 thoughts on “Make the Most Bad-Ass Bomb-Dot-Com Jean Cutoffs of Your LIFE

  1. Thank you so much! I really needed a post about this, thanks for sharing.

  2. This post is actually amazing. I have tried (and failed) making my own cut-offs, but your tutorial is perfection! I am going to attempt to make them again, this time following your tips! Thanks!! 🙂

  3. I love my Gap 1969 jeans in the 10,000 colors I have them in. I will have to consider this though when they’ve seen their better days.

  4. I was almost going to be very sad you cut up a perfect good pair of GAP jeans but then when I saw the result I was impressed!! They look really good 🙂

  5. Ok you are a genius!! Or a “jeanius” I should say haha I’m so cheesy. But seriously, these look amazing! Great tutorial!!


  6. Love love love this tutorial! I have a pair of Gap jeans I could definitely do this to!
    xo, katie

  7. These look amazing! I’ll never buy another pair of jean shorts again! Have you ever sewn lace into the side of them before? I would love to see a tutorial for that!

  8. The asymmetrical cut is a great tip! I also like to rip up slits and patches near the pockets so that a hint of leg peeks through.

    Another Beautiful Thing

  9. Those look freaking fantastic! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I think I’ll go raid my jeans right now for a pair to chop into jorts! Can never have too many 😉

  10. Awesome post! Some people seem to have cutting jeans into shorts into a science (like you!) and I’ve always envied that! The techniques you have going here are pretty impressive. I am so bad at any kind of craft project, especially involving clothes. But I’d really like to try this, because I could use a new pair of custom distressed jean shorts. Also, I have to say- I may just cuff them and leave them, I like the way that looks also!

    ♥ perfectly Priya

    • Thanks so much Priya! It took a couple years (and more than a couple pairs of wasted jeans) to figure out a method, but it works pretty well now. Cuffed shorts are really cute too–it’s a little more of a pulled-together look than letting the edges fray.

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