One of the best parts of my job is having the opportunity to connect with a multitude of creative people in the industry. A few weeks ago I spotted the DIY project you’re about to see below on my friend’s Instagram, and I knew quite instantaneously I had to share with our readers. Olivia La Roche is a brand and content strategist and all-around lover of vintage. She took on the hefty task of creating her own deconstructed, Vetements-inspired jeans using old Levi’s, and the results are, no joke, awe-inspiring. If you’re up for the challenge, check out her journey, in her words, to denim greatness below.
I’m not one for knockoffs, but when I see something that I can easily make for myself, I have to give it a go. Enter the “Vetements” jeans project. First things first, I’ll say that a hot iron is your best friend in this endeavor. Sewing is made a million times easier when you have a clean, crisp edge to work with and a clear idea of where your seam is going to be. Keep that in mind throughout.
What you’ll need:
- Two pairs of worn-in Levi’s 501 jeans in a size or two bigger than your ideal fit. The bigger the difference in wash, the more contrast in the finished product.
- One pair of jeans (preferably 501s) that fit you perfectly as sizing example (will not be destroyed)
- Lots of inspiration images to feverishly check as you go
- Sharp scissors
- White tailor’s chalk or pen
- Tons of pearl-head or T-top pins
- A small seam ripper
- Plenty of thread in a denim hue.
- Pattern paper or cloth
- An iron
- An ironing board
- A sewing machine
- An endless supply of coffee and a weekend to devote entirely
Think of this project as taking a classical painting and cutting it into puzzle pieces then putting the pieces back together into something more abstract.
The first step is the most fun. Sit down and undo every major seam in your two pairs of 501s. If your base pairs are big enough, you can cut the side seams and inseam and then use the ripper to take out the waistband and back pockets. If you are worried about working with a smaller size (less material), use the ripper on all seams.
Once you have reduced the jeans to raw materials, you are ready to make your pattern. Set aside your pile of denim, and get those example pants out. Take the pattern paper or cloth (cloth is easier because you can usually see through it) and make an outline of the pair of jeans you know fit you well, working in quadrants; make sure to trace outlines of both the front and back and left and right panels, adding an inch all around to allow for your seams and space for error. Cut out the pattern and you should have four parts that, if put together, would make a funny-looking pair of papery pants. This step will make everything easier.
Now for the puzzle part! You can cut the pattern however you like, and those cuts will come back together in the same fit. Play with shapes and design; just make sure when tracing the pattern onto the actual denim that you add an inch all around for sewing. Once you’ve made your pattern cuts, take a moment to clean your work area of scraps to avoid any confusion. Set the finalized pattern some place safe, and get your denim ready!
Iron your raw materials into flat, organized panels, and decide what parts of each pair you like the best. Note that you will be leaving the front pockets and button fly alone and setting the removed waistband aside to reattach in the final step. Play with flipping the denim over to add a reversed texture to some of the panels. You have the parts of two pairs, but only need enough for one; using two gives you access to contrasting colors and character that lends a patchwork effect to the finished product. Once you have decided on the actual parts you are planning to use, set aside the excess.
Once you have your pattern cut and fabric ironed, lay the pattern down on the denim and trace your puzzle pieces. Remember to add an inch all around for sewing leeway. Double- and triple-check before making the cuts; then go for it! Most of the hard work is done.
After cutting all your puzzle pieces and laying them down in their prospective places, pin all parts together on the seam line an inch in from the raw edge to create a temporary closure, not unlike a sewn seam. Make sure to iron these patchwork panels to aid in the next sewing steps. By this time, you should have something that is beginning to look elegantly Frankenstein-like in that special Vetements way.
Time to sew! Make sure everything is ready to go on your machine, and start off by sewing the designed focused pieces together saving the inseam, side seams, and waistband for last. After you have created the quilt-like effect on both the front and back, you should be pretty close to done! Change the sewing machine setting to a wide-baste stitch, and loosely sew the inseam and side seams together connecting the final parts and giving you an actual pair of jeans you can carefully put on to test the fit. If they fit like a dream, simply tighten your stitch setting and go over the same seam again, fastening in a more permanent way. If things have shifted in the process, you may need to take the seams in a bit or get creative and add and extra panel. Fingers crossed you get it on the first try!
And now for the final step. You’re just about ready to pop those puppies on and hit the town. Take the waistband you’ve had set aside, and reattach it with a tight-stitch setting while leaving the raw edge exposed. Tack down the belt loops, and hit the streets!
Takeaway: These take some work, but after finishing them successfully, I felt like I could sew just about anything. Also, reworking preexisting garments is not only eco-chic but gives you a hands-on understanding of how things are made opening up so many DIY possibilities. Saving $1500 is just icing on the cake!
Keep going to see more angles of the jeans!