How To DIY Your Denim, Part One: Put A Stud On It

Summer's almost over, so let's max out one of the biggest trends of the season before it dies in the Urban Outfitter’s clearance racks.
Publish date:
September 1, 2013
studs, denim

Summer is almost over. I’m not gonna pretend I’m not thrilled about that fact. I prefer pumpkin lattes, crunchy fall leaves, and bearded men in sweaters to the sweaty, garbage armpit that is summer in Brooklyn. I’m already on board with my fall wardrobe, but what to do in that weird almost-fall-but-still-totally-summer period of time?

How about we max out one of the biggest trends of the summer before it dies in the Urban Outfitter’s clearance racks? You KNOW I’m talking about those cut-off shorts that are studded, spiked and distressed to shreds. It might be tacky, but I love the look of these summer staples over a pair of opaque black tights, paired with some badass boots.

I’m going to drop a knowledge bomb here and let you in on the embellishment secrets that F21, Urban Outfitters, and Modcloth DON’T want you to know about. For just a few bucks, a few household supplies, and some time/wine on your hands, you can outsmart those stores and their pre-destroyed crap and make your own! We can take the same DIY techniques over to denim vest town. I hear that Lesley is Queen there.

So, in the first of a three part series of denim destruction and decoration, let’s make some studded and spiked cut-offs and DIY the living hell out of our beloved denim vests.


  • Denim! (jeans, a vest, a jean jacket, dude jeans for cut-offs etc.)
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Seam Ripper
  • Washable Fabric Marker (or a serious light hand with a Sharpie!)
  • Ruler
  • Studs/Spikes/Rhinestones


So I want to start with the basic cut-off tutorial. You don’t need anything fancy. I like a pair of super-worn and grungy man Levis. The more dirty and worn, the better. Extra points for button fly, worn wallet marks in a back pocket, or pre-existing distressing. All of these elements will add some serious personality to your cut-offs and make the distressing/embellishment part super easy. The pair I scored at the Salvation Army were totally grungy and nasty, but they were pre-worn in such an amazing way. I washed out the grossness, but kept the look.

The fit is up to you, but I prefer high-waisted and sort of baggy. Short shorts seem to feel better when they aren’t squeezing. Save the skin-tight for your jeans later in the fall. Consider rocking some underbutt, like Olivia, if you are feeling extra saucy.

1. Try on the jeans (after washing of course!) and mark where you want the shorts to end. I suggest marking the fronts and backs, in order to make your cutting process much simpler. Be sure to make tiny marks if you aren’t working with a washable fabric marker like me.

2. Take off the jeans and get ready to cut. BUT WAIT! Start cutting about 2” below where you marked, just to be sure. You obviously can cut off more, but you can’t un-cut! Snip a tiny incision at the side seams and cut across the denim.

I find that shorts are a bit more flattering when they are longer in the back and shorter in the front. Bonus points if you angle the front so that the pockets hang out a touch. Keep trying on the cut-offs between cutting, in order to insure a perfect fit.

3. If you got the fit right with these few steps proceed to the next step. If they still aren’t perfect try slicing open the side seams to create little vents. Take your seam ripper and carefully snag and rip out the seams. Go slow here because there is the risk of poking yourself!

Old man Levis have multiple rows of stitching, so you are going to have to get through loads of those tiny stitches. Once you are done, and have repeated on the other side, try them on one last time! This is it! Wash them again and we can move on to the fun part!


I am a sucker for the studded and spiked. Seriously, I would cover all of my clothes with studs and rock every outfit like armor. But I live in the reality of teaching and grad school, where this might not be appropriate. Whatever- a gal can dream.

This is a great DIY skill to have in your arsenal because you can bust it out when you are getting bored with your drab basics. If you can dream it, you can stud it.

Check out Ebay or Amazon for studs. My personal Garment District favorite is M&J. OMFG, they make my inner Project Runway reject swoon. If you aren’t in NYC, do not fret. Dear heart, they have a ridiculous website and a subscription box service, Project DIY, for DIY junkies!

1. First select what you want to embellish. You can begin with the cut-offs from above, or go nuts on anything else. I would recommend starting with something thinner than leather to start, since it is a tough material to poke through. Denim is ideal because it can stand up to the weight of the metal.

Beware thin knits or stretch fabrics because you might end up with holes in everything. I learned this lesson long ago when I took my Be-Dazzler to all of my t-shirts. RIP middle school wardrobe.

Word of caution here: That gizmo might seem like a great option for DIY, but it is hard to get precision and comes with some mediocre studs. You have been warned. Please learn from my mistakes!

2. Choose your own (stud) adventure! I have an old denim vest that I have been dying to be-dazzle, so I chose some small gold pyramid studs. These little guys pack some punch! My friend Linda wanted to jazz up her vest too, so we chose large distressed brass pyramid studs that matched the buttons on the vest.

I took my cut-offs and selected some bullet-shaped spikes to add to the side seams. I wanted something super tough looking that wouldn’t be a hazard to others or myself. Some of the spikes were 3” long. I totally respect anyone who can pull these off!

3. Mark where you want to stud. Take your fabric marker or Sharpie and mark the spot where you need the center of the stud to go. I strongly encourage measuring out these spots to make your DIY look professional.

4. Gently push the prongs of the stud through the right side of the fabric into the inside of the garment. You need to make sure they all get poked through in order to secure a good and lasting grip. Bend the prongs down with your pliers. Check that they are really in there to avoid scratching yourself when wearing your creation.

If you are using a screw-back spike, poke a hole with your pliers or scissors through the points you marked. Please be careful. Spikes are hardcore, but DIY blood loss is not.

Stick the screw from the back through the front. Place the front part on top of the screw and secure. You may or may not need a screwdriver for this step. Tighten it up to secure.

That is it! Once you master straight, well placed lines, you can start to stud things into more abstract shapes. Don’t ever underestimate how much of a punch a well-executed row of studs can pack. What do you want to stud? I want to hear your DIY fantasies in the comments!