How to Distress a Shirt:

There’s always room for a distressed shirt (or five!) in your wardrobe. They’re comfortable, trendy, versatile across all seasons, and can be worn casually or dressed up to suit your mood.

From bold slashes to understated holes, design options are limitless. But if you don’t know how to distress a shirt yourself, it’s easy to end up paying over the odds for a branded version.

To make your own unique DIY distressed shirt, all you need is a few household items and a bit of imagination. Here are our top tips for techniques and designs.

4 DIY Distressed T-Shirt Techniques

Why throw out a t-shirt just because it’s a bit last season or looking a little jaded? Instead, discover how to distress shirts using one of these easy methods, and reinvent it into a trendy work of art!

How to Distress a Shirt with a Razor

Razors are great for making scratches and worn patches. Make sure you have a new razor with a sharp blade, then start experimenting.

  • Drag the blade down horizontally to create long slices.
  • Keeping the fabric taut, pull the razor straight down to make lots of small holes.
  • Use a solid edge like the corner of a bench or book to create a line of straight holes.

Top tip: Make sure you use a thin piece of cardboard on the inside of the shirt so you don’t accidentally cut both the front and back or damage the surface underneath.

How to Distress a Shirt with Scissors

Want big holes or slices on your DIY ripped shirt? Then scissors are your friend! Being careful not to cut yourself, simply snip lines of various lengths. For less severe cuts, open the scissors and just use one blade to swipe gently backward and forward across the fabric.

Top tip: If you want a naturally worn look along the edges of your cuts, try rubbing a pumice stone across the material before using the scissors.

How to Distress a Shirt with Sandpaper

Sandpaper is the ideal tool to give your distressed shirt a tired look. Using a paper with coarse grit, rub along any edges that would naturally become more worn than others. From there, you can move onto the main body of your shirt.

Top tip: Try to create clusters of worm patches and scratches. After all, if your shirt was naturally ripped in one area, you’d expect there to be other scrapes and holes nearby.

How to Distress a Shirt with a Cheese Grater

If you want frayed edges and a random element to the holes in your shirt, then a cheese grater is the best tool. Simply hold the material taught with some cardboard underneath, and grate in whatever direction you choose. 

Top tip: Cheese graters are harder to work with than other cutting tools, so do be careful not to inadvertently create a goth look by grating your fingers.

Tips for Distressing a Shirt

Making DIY ripped shirts is a practical and resourceful way to revitalize your wardrobe. It’s all about trial and error and finding the style that’s right for you, but here are some pointers to get you started.

- For the most natural look, cut holes in shirt pockets and focus your distressing efforts on areas of natural wear like the hems and collar.

- Try to balance the spacing so that holes and rips are neither too scattered or too busy.

- Avoid making cuts or holes anywhere around the chest area to avoid a fashion fail.

- Try a bleach wash to make your shirt look extra vintage.

Styling Ideas

You can design your distressed t-shirt with holes, scrapes, and slashes to match any style that’s in vogue. Here are a few of our favorites.

-T-shirt dress - Is there anything more versatile when it comes to casual clothing?

- Layering – Cut slices that make a shape (like a heart or question mark) and wear a brightly colored cami top underneath to make the design pop.

- Choker/neckline cut – Leave the collar intact but cut an inverted triangle towards the chest area to create a funky V-neck.

- Tank top transformation - Cut off the sleeves and collar to make a tank before you start distressing.

- Experiment with fabrics – Denim and sweaters are just as fun to distress as t-shirts.

Take Your Style Further with UNIONBAY

We hope you’ve given you some great ideas and inspiration on how to make a distressed t-shirt. Now it’s time to decide what to wear with your new masterpieces!

DIY ripped shirts are adaptable to many different styles, so it’s time to get creative. Combine with your favorite trendy pants for women, shorts for women, or clean and ripped jeans for women for the ultimate in casual chic. You can always choose to pop on a skirt and a pair of killer heels for a more edgy look, too.

Shop UNIONBAY today for the best women’s clothing collection to suit your style.