Photo Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Nicole Miele
ModCloth, Inc.
2250 Roswell Drive #1
Pittsburgh, PA 15205

Nicole Miele is a lot of things – fashionista, mama, music aficionado, writer, and most importantly, a friend (with fabulous taste in tattoos and makeup art). She’s also a fashion copywriter for the Pittsburgh-based online fashion retailer ModCloth ( and essentially loves anything dealing with clothing. Nicole also knows a lot about making her own fashion – she’s been distressing her own denim for a decade. Read on for Nicole’s five handiest tips for making your beloved jeans look ragged, worn, and, in a word, cool.

Pick The Perfect Pair Of Pants

Nicole says that a pair of genuinely distressed jeans happens over time, as routine wear helps to break down the natural fiber of the denim. In order to achieve this appearance in a short amount of time, the jeans you start with must be at least vaguely worn. Stay away from dark washes, Nicole recommends, and if possible choose a pair that has been worn already. A medium or light wash pair that has been softened by time is perfect for this project. Visit a thrift shop (or to pick up a pair on the cheap if you aren’t willing to destroy a pair of your expensive designer jeans.

Choose Where You Want The Distressing To Be

Jump in the jeans of your choice and take a pencil or washable pen to where the holes and distress marks should be. Mark the location and the size of each patch or tear that you want to create. When you take the jeans off, you will have a visual blueprint for how much distressing you need to do.

Choose Your Tools Carefully

Distressing your jeans can be done utilizing a bevy of tools. Nicole’s personal favorites are an old shaving razor, cheese grater and X-Acto knife. Don’t limit yourself, though, as sandpaper, scissors, pumice stone, cement or a serrated knife are just as effective.

Make Your Holes

Instead of using scissors to neatly cut holes in your jeans, which results in an un-frayed cut, try to move one of the tools in vigorous motion so a hole is formed. Once one appears, roughen up the edges with a nail file or sandpaper.

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Soften And Bleach

Soften or add fraying to rear pocks, knees or hemlines. Use a pumice stone to make the grain look less parallel and fuzzier. For extra distressing, repeat this motion over areas where there’s a stitched seam. Add bleach. Doing this to certain parts of your jeans will make them look extra worn, Nicole states. A cool trick is to moisten a sponge with bleach and dab it around the outer edges of holes, or put some bleach on the bristles of an old toothbrush, then use a finger to flick the bristles so that the bleach splatters on the pants.

Reinforce Your Patches

One of the keys to finalizing on-point distressed jeans is securing the holes and patches that you made to prevent a lot of tearing in the future. Holes that go without reinforcement run the risk of widening into gaping holes after a few months of wear and use, become a little less trendy and a little more… well, showy. Use an off-white or denim-colored thread in a cross or straight stitch around the edge of any holes that you made to keep them from spreading. If you have a particularly large hole, add iron-on tack (or backing) to the inside of the leg and stitch over it. This will solidify the rip and keep it at your desired size.

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Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at