Introduction: D.I.Y. T-Shirt Techniques

Distressed, ripped and faded t-shirt are a popular fashion trend but buying them premade can easily cost between $25-$80, depending on the retailer or if you purchase them through a seller who handmakes them themselves.

The advantage you have in creating your own is being able to choose your own graphic tee (consider using an old band t-shirt, or a souvenir t-shirt you bought while traveling) or giving new life to a t-shirt you can find at a thrift store. I’ve also applied this to XL mens shirts turning them into a dresses- so consider the possibilities you have using a t-shirt that’s oversized!

Today, I’ve chosen to use a few t-shirts to demonstrate all of the different techniques you can use in customizing your own t-shirt, including an old plain white men's t-shirt.

Step 1: Consider the Shape of Your T-shirt

Most distressed t-shirts are cut at the bottom to give a raw hem bottom, easily changing the style and impression of your old tee. For this example, I cut the hem off an old men's t-shirt, turning it into a more feminine style crop top.

To do this, you will need a large sharp pair of scissors that will easily cut through fabric. I choose to use chalk to ensure I’m cutting a straight even line off the bottom of my t-shirt.

Step 2: Detaching the Neckline

You can detach the neck and create slits through out the t-shirt using scissors. Make your cuts small to start, and cut more if needed after trying on the shirt.

Tip: For a more organic looking slit, cut a small hole then rip each side.

Step 3: Bleach

This can be a tricky step to master, so my advice to using bleach is starting out with bleach that is diluted with water and using an easily controlled tool (as opposed to using typical tie dyeing techniques) like a fine misting spray bottle to add more signs of fading to the shirt.

For this t-shirt, I used a spray bottle and randomly misted over the whole t-shirt. I used the spray slowly and close to the fabric for the concentrated spill spots, as pictured. The longer you let the bleach sit on the fabric, the lighter the fabric will fade- so when you’re happy with the color make sure to put it in the washing machine with detergent to prevent further fading.

Tip: You will probably want do this step over an old or white towel and in a bleach safe environment like on tile counters/flooring, or in a shower.

Step 4: Clothing Dye

Make sure to pick up a fabric dye suited to the type of fabric you’re using (polyster, cotton, etc.) and follow the directions on the package. I’ve chosen to use a liquid dye to dip-dye a white t-shirt- first dipping the shirt half way up then slowly pulling it out to let only the bottom of the shirt soak in the dye for the full 30 minutes.

Safety tip: I used a stainless steel pot to prevent staining, as directed on the bottle of dye. It’s important to boil the water before adding the dye, but do NOT leave the stove on while dying your t-shirt!

Step 5: Adding Additional Signs of “wear and Tear”

Using sandpaper, I like to roughen up the neckline and sleeve hems to create a worn-and-loved effect. You can also use sandpaper to add more intentional holes through-out the shirt, or to soften the slits you might have made in the t-shirt with the scissors.

You should also consider the direction you’re sanding the holes in the shirt- it will reflect in the final result!

Step 6: Final Result: