How To DIY 3 Extra-Cute Pairs Of Cut-Off Shorts

Although it may seem super easy to craft a pair of effortless denim cut-offs, as anyone who's haphazardly tried (and inevitably failed) knows, there's more to the denim short than meets the eye. If you're looking to turn an old pair of jeans into your next pair of staple shorts, let us walk you through it, and save you from ruining a pair of jeans.
We'll start with the most basic cut-off (hint: cut at an angle for the most flattering hem) and work our way up to two unique (and ultra-chic) takes on the summertime classic. We promise, this guide won't come up short.
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The Simple Short — The casual equivalent to the Little Black Dress, the perfect denim short is your go-with-everything staple, but it's trickier to make 'em than you think.

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Here's what you'll need…

One pair of old jeans
One pair of shorts that fit you well (as a template for your new pair)
Ruler
Scissors
Tailor's Chalk (you can find this at any craft store or online)
Straight pins

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Step 1: Place the well-fitting pair of shorts over the pants. 

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Step 2: Make sure to align the crotches of both pants perfectly.

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Step 3: Pin the inseams together carefully so they do not move.

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Step 4: Once the pins are securely in place, align the ruler with the hem of the old shorts. Hint: if they are not already diagonal, angle the ruler so the lines are longer in the inseam for a more flattering cut. Mark along the ruler with a dotted chalk line.

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Step 5: Cut just below the dotted line so the short is at least a half-inch longer than you would want. Remember — with fraying, the length will shrink!

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Step 6: Once you've snipped off the legs, throw the baby in the washer and drier.

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Voila! The perfect simple cut-off.

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Our creative director Piera wearing hers with a flannel button-up and a lightweight trench.

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The Super-Distressed Pair — For your beat-up, already distressed boyfriend jean, a longer-length cut-off is the way to go.

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Here's what you'll need…

One old pair of jeans (even better if they have already started ripping)>
Ruler
Tailor's Chalk
Scissors
Course sand paper (make sure they're at least 60 grit)
Steel wool scrubbers 

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Step 1: Put the jeans on and measure two inches above the top of your knee. Mark one line with chalk.

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Step 2: Take the jeans off and place the ruler on a slight diagonal that is longer in the inseam. Draw a dotted chalk line along the edge of the ruler. 

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Step 3: Cut along your dotted line about 1/4 or halfway across the leg.

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Step 4: Rip the remainder of the line carefully. This will give a more naturally discheveled appearance, but use caution — you don't want the rip to get too out of hand. The perfect rip is controlled enough so the fabric tears in your desired direction, but looks chaotic enough to appear effortless.

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Step 5: Fold the shorts so that the cut pant leg acts as a template for the uncut leg (to ensure the two lengths will be even). Using your ruler as a guide, mark the hem with chalk.

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Step 6: Cut and rip the bottom of the second leg (repeating steps 4 and 5). If you find it difficult to control the rip, cut small slits with your scissors followed by small rips.

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Step 7: Now it's time to distress! Begin with a random spot (or spots) near the bottom of the shorts. Cut a small slit in the pants.

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Step 8: Pull at the slit with both hands to create a large slash. Repeat.

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Step 9: Use the course sand paper at the bottom of the hem to pull the fibers apart. This will become even more dramatic when you wash the shorts later, but this extra step gives them a running start.

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Step 10: Use scissors to cut carefully along the outside of the pocket. Make sure to cut enough to fray the fabric, but not too much to break the hem, which will cause them to unravel.

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Step 11: Using steel wool scrubbers, distress the line you just cut for maximum fraying power.

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Step 12: Choose more random spots (keeping in mind what you're comfortable exposing through the holes) and cut small slits.

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Step 13: Sandpaper lines into the fabric until the fibers begin to fray. 

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Step 14: Pull the threads from the holes the sandpaper made.

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Step 15: Continue the sandpapering-and-thread-pulling technique all over your shorts until you have reached your desired distressed look.

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Step 16: Toss it in the wash to make the cuts and snips look more natural.

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Check these out! Our NY editor Annie rocks her cut-offs with a sharp blazer and architectural sandals.

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The Lace Insert — A peek-a-boo bit of lace will heat up a regular pair of shorts. These look difficult to do, but it's just a few extra steps...

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Here's what you'll need…

One pair of denim cutoffs (we created our own using the steps for the Simple Short method)
Two pieces of triangular-shaped lace or a doily available at trim stores or online
Scissors
Pins
Needle and thread

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Step 1: Cut the lace pieces along the swooping edges in a rough outline of a triangle.

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Many of these lace pieces will come with a straight edge of ribbon, so make sure to cut that bit out.

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Step 2: Line up the tip of the lace to the side seam of the shorts and the bottom of the lace to the bottom of the shorts. Pin into place.

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Step 3: Leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on the inside, cut the fabric behind the lace and inside of the pins.

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Step 4: Remove the excess jean. The space behind the lace should be empty!

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Step 5: Thread about 12 inches of white thread onto your needle and tie a knot.

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Step 6: Beginning at the hem, sew where the lace and the shorts intersect, using a straight stitch. 

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Step 7: Go all around the short until the lace panel is secure.

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Step 8: Knot the thread tightly. Repeat steps 2 - 7 for the opposite leg. 

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No need to wash this pair before wearing!

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Our photo editor Christy paired hers with a striped tee, brown lace-ups, and a chambray shirt. Cute!

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