DIY Tutorial: How to Make Your Own High Waist Cut-Off Shorts

Denim cut-offs are a summer staple and one of the easiest things to make yourself. Yet, I’ve tried on probably two dozen pairs this season in search of the perfect ready-made shorts. After coming up empty-handed and balking at the high prices, I decided to save money and get exactly what I wanted by making my own. Cutting off shorts isn’t rocket science, but to get the current style (high-waisted, short, with angled, fringed hemlines) demands just a little more skill. So, I put together a cheat sheet of how to nail it on your first try:

  1. Use a pair of vintage 100% cotton jeans that are on the heavy and stiff side. Why? They’ll keep their shape and they make the most flattering shorts. Heavy, stiff, 100% cotton jeans are usually found in abundance in the local thrift store and typically cost less than ten bucks (I made this out of a pair of 80s Gitanos that were $7.50 at Goodwill). “Mom jeans” with a high waist and full legs and men’s vintage Levi’s work particularly well.

  2. Use another pair of shorts that you already own and love the fit of as your rough guide for the length of your cut-offs. You can always go shorter, but you can’t take back material after you cut your shorts too short, so it’s good to have a pair of shorts that you feel confident in to use as a guide.

  3. Use a tape measure or another straight edge to mark your lines for cutting. You might tempted to eyeball a straight line, but trust me your hem will look wobbly and very obviously uneven if you don’t draw out your cuts.

  4. Use tweezers to fringe the hem of your shorts! Some folks like to toss their shorts into the washer and dryer to fringe them, but I think the tweezer method works better. To create the fringe, pull on the contrasting white or light gray threads and pull in the opposite direction as the weave. This is the most time consuming step with the biggest pay off. Fringed shorts look great.

  5. Rely on YouTube DIY experts for the details. If you’re looking for ultra short, very angled cut-offs or booty shorts, I highly recommend the two videos at the very bottom of the page. These girls will also help you get past little bumps in the road: Like how to line up the hem from the back to the front of the shorts.