Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DIY: Distressed Denim Overalls

Whoever said denim overall (shorts) weren't back in style clearly didn't know how to DIY.

I'll admit it; a few months ago, I was on the fence about denim overalls. And especially for a trend that I wasn't sure on, I wasn't about to go and pay $128, $148 or $248 for a pair to wear this summer. Absolutely not. For a pair of denim jeans I might like? $20 maximum.

That meant only one thing - it was time to hit the thrift store for another DIY project!

I'll be honest with you. Of all the DIYs I've done, this is one of the projects that took a bit longer than the others. But the result? Totally worth it.

Thankfully, I had a few of my favorite lady bloggers to help me out (Free People and Drifter and the Gypsy). With their help, a few hours and $20, I was able to make my very own pair of dyed, distressed denim overall shorts. I never thought I'd say denim overall shorts are a summer must-have, but by golly, I think I'm converted.


Thrifted denim overall shorts
X-Acto knife
Sandpaper or sandpaper block
Washing machine
Laundry detergent

Spray bottle


Purchase a pair of denim overall shorts. I purchased mine for $5.99 at Goodwill. The brand is Xhilaration (90s throwback!)

Gather your bucket and bleach.

Fill your bucket 3/4 full with warm water. Next, add bleach. Depending on the color you'd like your denim, add more or less (general rule of thumb is to use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water). My overalls were a medium-tinted denim, so I used roughly 2 cups. Stir the mixture.

Submerge your overalls into the water and bleach mixture, but make sure you're wearing gloves! Bleach can irritate your skin.

Make sure your overalls are completely submerged. Monitor your overalls as they lighten color. Since I wanted my overalls to be a very light denim, mine were submerged for nearly two hours. This can vary between 30 minutes and 3 hours depending on the tint of your denim and the end result you'd like to achieve.

Once your denim is the color you'd like, take them out of the bleach mixture and run them through the washing machine on cold. I did this twice to minimize the stiffness from the bleach.

If you don't want to distress your denim, the DIY-ing stops here! Just make sure to wash your overalls in warm or hot water to completely remove the stiffness and the harsh scent. 

If you're going for the bleached and distressed look, it's time for your X-Acto knife and sandpaper. These tools will help you age and distress your denim.

For the ripped look that you'd normally see on the knees of denim pants, use the X-Acto knife and make horizontal cuts. Before making your cuts, make sure you place a piece of cardboard in the leg you're cutting to ensure the cuts don't penetrate through the back layer of fabric. I chose to make these near the bottom of the shorts, where wear and tear would likely have occurred. For a natural look, make sure the lines are uneven, but parallel. 

Right now they'll look like cut jeans (just wait until you wash them - you'll see the distressed effect!)

Use the X-Acto knife to make similar "distressed" cuts on pockets and seams, where excessive use would occur. The X-Acto knife is great for slash marks on the tops of pockets (see below), while the sandpaper is great for creating a truly aged denim look (slight wear and thin denim spots on the edges of pockets, near buttons etc.) Feel free to really "sand" your denim; you really can't go wrong when distressing.

If you're looking to add a bit more bleach to your overalls, grab a spray bottle and fill it with bleach only. Take your overalls to a safe surface (i.e. a patio with newspaper underneath your denim) and spray selected areas with bleach. I chose to spray the right leg and left side. I wanted my overalls to look like they'd really been worn and used, but this is totally optional.

If you do opt for this look, give your denim 30-40 minutes to dry. At this point, the bleach will be vibrant against the denim. 

Now it's time to give your overalls a good, solid washing and drying! This will help complete the distressing process. Wash and dry your denim twice (I washed them on warm water to complete the bleach effect and rinse the jeans of their stiffness). 

Then, get ready for the grand finale...frayed and distressed denim!

After two cycles of washing and drying, the white fibers of your denim should be exposed, and the cuts/sanding marks you made during the distressing process should now be visible. If you chose to spray your dyed denim with additional bleach, these stains will now be even more vibrant than before. 

The metal from my overalls even added to the distressed effect with rust stains. Really, anything that you do during the distressing process will only add to the final look. There really is no way to mess up.

Now, enjoy your final product! Lived-in, vintage and just the perfect amount of distressed, these overalls are the perfect addition to any outdoorsy summer wardrobe.

I wore mine on our camping trip this past weekend. They were comfortable, easy to mix and match with my favorite camping attire (flannel and Birkenstocks), and I didn't feel guilty about getting them dirty. My new favorite shorts!

|| Photos are property of Twentyapolis. Must give credit. || 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! This seriously looks so simple and easy, and the outcome is super nice <3 So awesome!

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