To DIY For: How to Create Your Own Denim Vest

08/20/2009 3:29 PM |

Finished jacket

Welcome to “To DIY For,” a weekly feature in which I attempt to make really cheap clothes look like they cost way more than they actually do. For my first edition, I made the ever-popular denim vest. I did this in the beginning of summer to an old denim jacket I had. It was so easy to make and I got so much use out of it that I decided to recreate it for you here!

I know the denim vest has been ubiquitous this summer and at this point you can pretty much walk into any clothing store and pick one up for cheap, but nothing beats having a unique item for about $20 dollars. Read on and learn from my mistakes.

A denim jacket — you may already own one that you no longer use or you can easily find one at a thrift store. Tip: be sure to check the children’s section. A children’s large is usually about the same size as a women’s small. I found this jacket in the girl’s section of Salvation Army for $8.99. As a jacket, the sleeves would be way too short (you’ll want to avoid fat guy in a little coat syndrome), but since we’re getting rid of those, this will make for a nicely fitted vest.

Denim Jacket

Rubber bands: I used about 30, but you may want to use more
Small plastic bucket
Rubber gloves
Studs: You’ll have to go to a trimming store in the Garment District to find these and they’re fairly inexpensive. You can get a small bag (roughly thirty) for $5 and I used about three bags.

1. Remove sleeves
After I painstakingly ripped the sleeves off seam by seam, I realized that I needed to cut the sleeves anyway to even out the discoloration on the jacket.

Seam tearing

2. Bleach denim

I didn’t actually research the proper way to do this and naturally, I screwed it up. Tie up small chunks of the denim with rubber bands — the more you use, the less bleach will soak through. I used about 30 rubber bands and still got a mostly bleached-out jacket. You can probably even double this number and get a more even color distribution.

Rubber bands on denim

Place your ball of denim in the bucket. (Here’s where I went wrong.) Apparently, you’re not supposed to just straight-up dump bleach directly on fabric. You should dilute it with water in a 1:4 ratio, four cups of water for every cup of bleach. Luckily, denim is a pretty strong fabric and even though it ate through a few parts of the vest, I ended up really liking the worn-in look of the piece. Pour your bleach mixture until all the fabric is completely covered.

Bleaching your jacket

The longer you leave the bleach on, the lighter the color will get. It only took a couple of minutes with undiluted bleach to reach this color, but when done properly, it should take about five minutes, depending on how light you want the finished product. Using rubber gloves, remove the fabric and cut off the rubber bands. Rinse out all the bleach with water.

Go to sleep and let dry overnight.

3. Add the studs

I removed the buttons at this point because I felt they clashed with the studs. I don’t think I’ll ever button up the vest anyway so I didn’t bother to replace them, but you very easily could. This is the really fun part! You can play around with different designs using studs.

Studs go in

I toyed with the idea of studding the waistband or the pockets, but finally settled on the shoulders. The denim was very pliable after being treated with bleach so you simply push the points through the front of the vest and secure them on the back by pushing down. I suggest laying out the pattern with the studs first to make sure it works — but don’t worry if you mess up because the studs can be removed and reattached.

The finished jacket

There you have it! Have fun creating your own!

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