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Fashion trend: distressed, downscale denim

Light-wash denim jeans feature a rolled hem and

Light-wash denim jeans feature a rolled hem and a hefty dose of distressing; $110 by One Teaspoon Chargers at Mixology stores and Credit: Mixology

Fashion is getting totally ripped this summer -- and shredded, frayed, hole-punched and generally destroyed. Battered-looking clothing -- with denim taking the biggest hit -- is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

At Roslyn boutique Transitions, owner Leslie Cohen, 45, can hardly keep the distressed stuff in stock. She not only sells shabby chic, she wears it herself. "In my world, I'm pairing ripped jeans with a crisp white button-down, navy blazer, Hermes belt and pumps," says Cohen. "It's a very classy look that's not only for day or for the very young." Cohen says the power of the ripped and frayed is twofold: it looks edgy and is comfortable. "I've sold it for many years, but this season, it's become a staple. And there's much less resistance to it. It's not like you turn 50 and have to stop wearing ripped jeans. It's more of an attitude."

Stylish Serda Acemoglu, 30, of Hicksville, who's a salesperson at Intermix, was feeling pretty good about her FRAME jeans, shredded from the thigh down. That was until her dad "asked me if I needed money for new clothes."

That perception can be a problem, says celebrity stylist and fashion expert Robert Verdi. "It's a small dose wardrobe item. Wear it in a modern way, like a tattered tee under a tux jacket. But don't wear a holey T-shirt and ripped jeans, or you'll look a little crazy and your friends will start asking, 'Is everything OK?' "

Despite the potentially downscale look, rips, tears and holes don't come cheap -- many brands of jeans cost in excess of $200. Perhaps that's because the "aging" process doesn't come easy. At high-end denim company, 3x1 -- a fave of Gwyneth Paltrow's -- founder and jeans maestro Scott Morrison says that distressing jeans is usually done by hand in two stages: dry abrasion and wet processing. First a Dremel tool, sandpaper, or a knife slashes the jean. Next, jeans are thrown into a washing machine along with a "mixture of resins, enzymes, pumice stones, potassium spray, rubber balls and softening agents to name a few," says Morrison.

Distressing is not a new look, but a beloved one. "There's always been an incredible appeal to things that are well-worn -- a threadbare rug, a burnished, leather chair and distressed jeans," says Verdi. "The ripped, tattered and shredded reflect a very human passage of time. But these days, we don't keep things long enough to get to that point, so much like the instant Internet connection, it's instant road-worn," he says. "So easy."


"There's a reason all those distressed jeans are so expensive," says Nancy Sinoway, owner of the Denim Hospital in Port Washington, where she spends more time repairing precious old jeans than destroying them. "It's extremely labor-intensive to make them," she says.

But, fear not, says Sinoway. "If you have a couple of hours you can definitely get something similar to that look." So, hold on and don't toss those dreaded mom jeans or castaways that are piled up in your closet just yet.

Start with a pair of old jeans that fit you, but, ideally, you don't care about that much (that way, a mistake won't slay you). Sinoway says light jeans are better for shredding and fraying than dark ones, and for best results, prefers to use jeans with little or no stretch in them.

Here's a guide to getting frayed knee-holes and hems:

1) Put your jeans on, bend, and place masking tape slightly above and below the knee.

2) Mark a horizontal line (you can do more than one) in the middle of the tapes with chalk or pencil. For an authentic look, the lines don't have to be matched up -- you can make one higher or lower, but keep them between the tapes. Fold the entire leg in half (vertically -- as if it were a seam running down the middle) and use sharp scissors to cut across once or more, depending on the level of distress you want.

3) Wash the jeans and dry in the dryer.

4) You'll see some white threads coming from the cuts. These run horizontally, so, with tweezers, gently pull the white threads up or down. It takes awhile, says Sinoway, so she suggests, "sitting in front of your favorite TV show to do it." Keep checking the holes and the fraying because you want to maintain some of the threads' connection to the jeans, but you can fray as much as you want.

5) For frayed hems, slit the very edge of the rolled hem with a small scissors and wash. Do the same sort of thread-pulling as you would for knees.

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