25 In Styling Tips

Grab scissors and update jeans with a frayed hem

DIY fray jean hem
Sporting my self-frayed jean hem

Feel like shopping for something new? The latest thing you can do with your money is to purchase jeans with frayed hem edges where a machine hem used to be. Or, for no money at all, you can get the look with this DIY project using a pair of jeans you already own.

I must admit that when I first starting seeing frayed edges on jeans I thought, “Who’s going to pay good money for jeans with raw edges?”

I’ve resisted other trends and then fallen in love with them

In a short time skinny jeans became my favorite

I’ve had conversations like this in my head about other trends. For instance many years ago I thought, “Who’s going to buy skinny jeans? That’s crazy!” And who got herself into skinny jeans after moaning about them for months? Yours truly. The skinny jean went from being a trend to becoming a classic.

You can probably guess my answer to this question: Do I recommend owning jeans with frayed hem edges? Absolutely! When I got around to trying on a pair of jeans with a frayed hem, I had an instant falling-in-love feeling. I-n-s-t-a-n-t!

Today I think a frayed edge looks modern and fresh. Every client I’ve gotten into frayed hem jeans have been happy. They may not have tried it on without my suggestion, but when they see their reflection in the mirror, they love the new look.

The DIY way to get frayed hems

After buying, wearing and loving jeans that come with the frayed hem, I got the nerve up to create my own frayed edge jeans from ones I already had in my wardrobe.

For instance, last year I cut off the hem of my J.Jill orchid jeans. Oh, boy, that was an experience–not because of cutting them off, but … well, you just may have to read about that adventure. They turned out to be my go-to jeans last summer.

DIY fray jean hem
One of the ways I wore frayed hem jeans last year

I’m trying to build the point that frayed jean hems have been around a while now. You can dive in and enjoy them without feeling like this look will pass in three months.

Frayed hems make me feel like a rebel

This last week I performed hem surgery on a pair of jeans for a client of mine and did it for myself too. It’s funny; there’s a certain daredevil attraction to this act. I feel like I’m getting away with something which is one of my favorite feelings.

I know Mother would not have approved. With her Virgo sensibility, she’d have looked at the ragged, raw edge of my jeans and said, “Honey, you could grab the scissors in the knife drawer and cut those edges so the hem would at least be clean and neat.”

“I know Mom, but I like them this way.”

See? Such a rebel move for standing up to Mom!

Freaking Mom out with this DIY project

The thing that would have both scared Mom and wowed her two minutes later would be if she saw me actually cutting off the hem of my jeans right in front of her.

She’d have seen a jean like this, one I wore last Thursday pre-fray with a normal hem, and would have complimented me on them. She likes white jeans.

Pre-fray on Thursday in Berkeley

But then this would happen: Picture us at their lake home in Minnesota. She’d be in the front porch having coffee and reading the paper on the oversized couch. I’d go into the kitchen and pull out those scissors from the knife drawer, come out to the front porch and lay the white jeans on the oval-shaped table where we play Liverpool Rummy in the summertime. Her eyes would look up from the Lifestyle section of the Forum.

Maybe I wouldn’t even tell her what I was about to do. I’d lay the pant legs across the table and with the scissors, I’d start cutting off the hem.

DIY frayed jean hem
Easy to fray
DIY frayed jean hem
It takes a minute to fray the hem on your used jeans

She’d gasp and say, “Oh Brenda! For heaven’s sake, what are you doing to those jeans?” I’d say, “I’m turning them into a new, modern look, Mom.”

With the hem cut off, I’d start pulling at the raw edge with my fingertips to get the fraying started. If I wanted to make them fray more, I’d throw them into the washer with a load of laundry and then dry them.

MOTHER jeans on the left, Eileen Fisher frayed hem jeans on the right

She’d be shaking her head thinking I was reckless. That’s when I’d pull up some images on my iPhone of raw-edged jeans being sold in stores right now.

NOTE: The Eileen Fisher Soft Denim Raw Edge Ankle Jean above on the left sells for $188. The MOTHER ‘The Looker’ Frayed Ankle Jeans on the right is priced at $210. I love both these brands.

When Mom would see the prices of those jeans, she’d suddenly think I was clever for getting the look without spending the money. Her opinion of frayed edge jeans would begin to soften.

Just in case Mother was still balking, I’d show her the lengths companies go to out-do each other in the frayed jean hem department. “See these, Mom?” I’d say.

frayed jeans
Way frayed

She’d take one look, shake her head, and say, “Yours look so much better.”

“Glad you like them, Mom,” I’d say. “Do you want me to fray your jean hem?” I’d tease. “No, I’m not ready for that,” she’d say. “Let me get used to combining navy blue with black first and then we’ll see.”

Frayed jean outfits in action Saturday through Monday

Coming out of my daydream, I’ll tell you that we had four fun-filled days over a long weekend with four of our Minnesota girl relatives. I wore my new and improved Chico’s So Slimming frayed jeans on Saturday when we took them to the Ferry Building for the Farmer’s Market. It was cold. I wore socks and ankle booties.

DIY frayed hem on jeans
Frayed hem hits just barely above the ankle bootie edge
DIY frayed jean hem
Playing in SF at the Ferry Building

On Sunday we spent the day with them in warmer Petaluma and I wore my frayed hem jeans with a blue embroidered shirt, my jean jacket, and sneakers.

DIY frayed hem on jeans
Checking out my DIY frayed jean hem in Petaluma
Russ’ first selfie with Carly, me, Sydney, Wendy, and Maia from Minnesota
DIY frayed hem on jeans

And then on Monday while our relatives were hiking in Muir Woods and Erin and I were working with a client, I wore them again. This time I layered two mesh tops (a grayish one under a black one) and added my caper-colored Dressori kimono jacket, Cotelac sandals, and my go-to Rebecca Minkoff bone-colored tote.

Dressori jacket
Wearing white jeans with frayed hems to work

And on Tuesday, I gave them a rest!

I bet some of you have altered your jeans to look like this. For you readers seeing this up close and personal for the first time, would you be tempted to take scissors to a pair of jeans you already own and create a new look?

Let’s discuss!!


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  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Sorry to say, and absolutely no offense intended, and I hope you won’t take any,but I’m with your mother. To be brutallyl honest, I think it’s a silly trend: gimmicky and sloppy looking.

    • Reply
      Mary McDonald
      October 3, 2019 at 11:41 am

      I’m with you Cara. No to the frayed hems and ripped jeans. Just No.

      • Reply
        October 17, 2019 at 10:42 am

        Isn’t it great how there’s fashion for everyone’s liking? We always have a choice. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Great idea! Thank you! I was looking for a pair of frayed jeans that were not otherwise “distressed”. I bought a pair of Gap jeans in a nice wash with a normal hem (on sale!) I was considering whether to return the jeans and keep searching for frayed but now, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to cut off that normal hem!

  • Reply
    Christina Brauer
    June 20, 2019 at 6:35 am

    I like to think of cutting/fraying jeans as customization and have been doing it for years. I like a longer short but I also like cut offs….headed to Goodwill found a nice fitting, straight jean took it home and made the perfect, longer length, cut offs. This spring I altered some skinnies to the trendy high-low hem with a fray and received lots of complements. It feels risky to get out the scissors the first time but it can open up a whole new world!

  • Reply
    Michele Ferguson
    June 20, 2019 at 6:37 am

    Don’t like it and not going there! I think it’s one more way manufacturers can cut costs while still charging us the same or more for something “new and trendy.” Shame on them!

  • Reply
    Linda B
    June 20, 2019 at 7:14 am

    I may have had an initial reaction to frayed jeans as you did, and certainly to the price of them, but very quickly warmed to the idea. I adore fraying, and have both frayed some jeans myself, and bought some versions on one or two occasions (that were not spendy.) I have been a fiber artist in one way or another most of my life, and I think that is why having the fibery fringe as part of the texture of a denim garment completely floats my boat. There 2–re a number of trends I don’t feel like I can or want to try to pull off at almost age 62–but this is not one of them!

    All of the looks you created with your newly frayed jeans are fantastic!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 7:18 am

    Yes, I’ve done this with jeans that were too long – too lazy to hem them when cut/fray is so easy!!!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 8:05 am

    I’m great with scissors! Not only on trousers but also on t-shirts. Usually when they fit at my shoulders they are way to long. So I just put it on and in front of the mirror decide how long it must be to look ok. And then I pull it of and use my scissor. No hemming needed! After cutting it simply rolls itself and looks neatly enough for wearing.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 9:02 am

    I have a pair of aqua NYDJ jeans that are frayed and love them. I haven’t done a pair myself recently, but we certainly did in the ’70’s! Tempting – I think I might try it. But maybe I’ll get a pair at Good Will to try out first. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 11:55 am

    I’ve resisted long enough! At the age of 64 I’m willing to have FUN with my clothes… lol
    BUT… 2 mesh tops??? I just rushed to my dresser and now I have another new look. Thankyouthankthankyou, Brenda.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I remember taking scissors to my jeans every summer to make cutoffs. Those were the only shorts to own growing up. I’m not a frayed hem fan. The looks so unpolished even if it’s on trend. The same with ripped jeans. I just ask myself why would I? I have given myself permission to wear whatever I want so I might change my mind at some point as I’ve allowed myself that luxury as well. Your red patterned topper is so cute and really brightens your face! Best…Kathy

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    I love the look, and actually am wearing a pair of white frayed hem jeans today – but I bought them that way! I may have to go and fray some others!

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    June 20, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    I haven’t tried fraying, but I inherited a pair of jeans from one of my daughters that was too long for her and had the back hems walked on so much they were worn through – a fray-as-you-go look. I love wearing them. They are still too long, still getting walked on, and I love the casual feel of them as well as the occasional lift I get from walking on the ragged hems! Unlike you, Brenda, I hate the feel of air on my ankles, so long and frayed is more to my liking than cut-offs.

    And Happy Birthday!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    June 20, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    I haven’t frayed any yet, but only because I don’t think I have quite the right pair. Perhaps this warrants another trip to the local thrift store. Any excuse will do for me!

  • Reply
    June 21, 2019 at 3:46 am

    I love the red patterned coat you’re wearing in the outdoor pics! Hope you had a great time. I am plucking up courage to fray my jeans: I might experiment on an old pair.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I have bad veins down there so NEVER!
    Must be covered!
    Only the pets GO THERE and lick away………they must smell the blood running through!

  • Reply
    Kathy E
    June 21, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    I have been reading for several months and working backwards into your archives, Brenda. Having lots of fun and getting new ideas. Love fashion and have been fraying for several years, but I will share 2 ideas that always garner compliments.

    *** Saw this in Instyle about 3 years ago. Buy a used Levi jacket at a thrift store. Cut off the collar about an inch above the seam. Then cut each sleeve about 2-3 inches below the elbow to remove the cuffs. Wash,dry, and trim off anything scraggly-looking. It is the cutest little jacket, even in the summer.

    *** My newest favorite was copied off a cute pair of KUT from Kloth boyfriend jeans. Take an old pair of well-fitting straight leg, longer jeans that you still love and try this trick. Fray the hem as you did above. Then turn the hem up on the outside about 3 inches to form a generous cuff. You can secure it by sewing below the fray or just tack it at the seams. They suddenly look so modern.

    Love your blog!

  • Reply
    June 26, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Gotta admit…I was part of the “why would you pay good money for that?” group. After reading this post, I took out a pair of white Chico’s Girlfriend Crop pants that I bought last year. Only have worn twice – they came rolled up a couple rolls – I tried unrolling, rolling more – just didn’t love them. Pulled out the scissors today, cut, gave them a tiny fray, put on with my star spangled banner top and my husband even liked the look! I don’t think I’ll make it to the torn open knee look, but I like these “new” pants so much better. Yay for something new at age 58!

  • Reply
    Mary B
    June 27, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Love this post. I just was “handed down several parties of jeans from a friend and did this with a pair at ankle length. May do another a bit shorter.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    When I first noticed this trend I took a jean skirt that was a little shorter than I wanted and took out the hem thus causing
    the frayed look. It is a trendy look and I don’t see wearing this skirt in two years but it is fun for now.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 5:14 am

    I lately discovered your blog and absolutely love it. Especially that your outfits are made for real life. I love to see you wear comfy shoes. I always wonder about the bloggers with high heels at our age. Maybe some of them can really wear this, but I believe the majority can not. So what we want are comfortable and stylish shoes. Sorry, this has nothing to do with this post …

    I fell in love with this Dressori kimono jacket you are wearing. Do you know where I could get it? I’m living in Spain and I have never seen this brand in Europe. Tell me if you ever want to sell it. 😉

    Kind regards

    • Reply
      October 3, 2019 at 6:51 am

      I have a fantasy of one day wearing those high heels (while sitting down, of course) and being photographed in them and then putting on my AGL oxfords so I can walk away from the set. So happy you discovered the blog! Oh, I wish I did know how to get that Dressori top in Spain. There’s a local store here in Sonoma that carries it and I’ve only seen it there. Have you tried their website? Maybe you can get a customer service person to help you. Thanks, Susanne!

  • Reply
    Le Anne Miller
    October 3, 2019 at 6:41 am

    Just bought my first pair because you said it’s ok!

    • Reply
      October 3, 2019 at 6:47 am

      Good job, Le Anne!!! I bet you’ll love them. You’re so creative. They’ll fit right into your style. xx

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