How to Rip and Bleach a Denim Vest

by Grace Riley
Layer your distressed denim vest over a dress for an edgy evening look.

Layer your distressed denim vest over a dress for an edgy evening look.

A deconstructed and discolored denim vest is a statement piece that you can add to myriad outfits. Although the ripped and bleached aesthetic gives the impression that the vest hasn’t received a lot of tender loving care -- and even looks abused -- it actually takes some precision to create the perfect worn look. Fortunately, by following these precise but easy-to-follow techniques, you can give your vest a “destroyed” look that is so devilishly sublime you’ll be dying to give more denim the same “tough love.”

Ripping the Vest

Choose a spot on your denim vest where you want to create a rip. Draw a vertical line with chalk to mark the desired length of the rip.

Draw a horizontal line across the center of the vertical line to mark the desired width of the rip. Draw parallel horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the vertical line. You should have three horizontal lines. It’s fine if the lines are not perfectly even.

Pinch the marked denim between your fingers so that the fabric folds along the vertical line.

Snip the pinched denim on the three horizontal lines with scissors. Lay the vest down and rub the cuts in the denim with your fingers to fray the vertical threads.

Pull the short and frayed threads out with a pair of tweezers until each hole is the size you desire.

Repeat the process across the vest until it is sufficiently ripped.

Bleaching the Vest

Cover a solid work surface with trash bags to protect against bleach damage. It is best if you can work outside as the fumes from the bleach can be potent.

Secure the corners of the bags with weighted objects, such as paperweights or rocks.

Prepare a vinegar solution in a plastic bucket by mixing 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water. There should be enough solution that the whole vest can be submerged. Set the bucket to the side.

Set the second bucket on your work surface. Lay a rod or yardstick across the top. Place the vest on a hanger. Hang the hanger on the rod so that the vest is in the empty bucket.

Decide how much of the vest you want to bleach so that you know how full you want the bucket to be. Mark that depth on the inside of the bucket with a marker. Use a grease pencil if you don’t want the mark to be permanent. Set the vest and rod to the side.

Fill the empty bucket approximately 1/3 of the way to the mark with water. Put on latex or rubber gloves to protect your skin. Pour bleach into the bucket until the resulting mixture reaches the mark.

Lay the rod across the top of the bucket. Dip the vest into the bucket and hang it on the rod. Soak the vest until the submerged section is the shade you desire. It will take approximately 30 minutes for the denim to become white. Check it frequently if you don't want to bleach the color out that much.

Place the bucket with the vinegar solution on your work surface beside the bleach bucket.

Pull the vest out of the bleach once it has reached the desired color. Remove the vest from the hanger and place the vest in the vinegar bucket. Soak it for 10 minutes.

Remove the vest from the vinegar bucket. Wring it with your gloved hands to remove excess liquid. Hang the vest to air-dry.

Wash and dry the vest to remove excess solution before wearing it. Wash it alone so that it doesn’t stain other items.

Items you will need

  • Denim vest
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Trash bags
  • Weighted objects
  • 2 plastic buckets
  • Rod or yardstick
  • Hanger
  • Marker or grease pencil
  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Vinegar


  • Be sure that no young children are around you while you treat the vest with bleach.
  • Dispose of used bleach in a sink while the water is running.

About the Author

Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.

Photo Credits

  • Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images