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Turning Goodwill “Mom Jeans” into Trendy High-Waisted Shorts (Step-by-Step)


Who in their right minds would have ever predicted the comeback of the dreaded ’80s “mom jeans.” You know the jeans I’m talking about, the ones we can spot our moms wearing in all of our baby photos. The jeans that, not so long ago, we deemed a massive fashion faux pas. Thankfully, these jeans have been rebirthed with a little variation. Today, you can find these jeans in the form of trendy, distressed shorts.

I must admit, I was not initially a fan of the “mom jean” shorts. But like most new and unique fashion trends, it grew on me and apparently other girls across the nation. Once I realized the trendy potential of these shorts, I immediately set out to get a pair. I was shocked to find that a typical pair of these seemingly pre-worn shorts costs no less than $50. I refused to spend that much money on a pair of shorts I could easily picture a bum sporting on the side of the road. So, I set out for a cheaper solution.

Five dollars and an hour of simple scissoring later, I had a pair of my very own shorts. How you may ask? Below is my not-so-secret guide to transforming “mom jeans” into trendy high-waisted shorts — without draining your wallet.




  • Pair of “mom jeans” 
  • A good pair of scissors 
  • A pencil 
  • Access to a washer and dryer 
  • Box cutter


Embrace your inner Macklemore, and head to the nearest thrift shop or Goodwill. If you can endure the musky smell, you will easily find a perfect fit pair of “mom jeans” within the seemingly endless racks of pants. Make sure you check if the jeans are made with any spandex. Stretchy material is difficult to distress and doesn’t fray well; you want to find jeans made of thicker denim. Don’t be afraid to look through the men’s denim section, too. I have found smaller men’s sizes work just as well and are often times easier to find. I’ve found Levis to be the best brand name to use.

I don’t know about you, but “mom jeans” don’t look anything like any of the pants currently in my closet. It’s nearly impossible to pick up a pair and eyeball whether they will fit you right. It’s crucial that you try on the jeans you pick out to ensure you’re getting the right fit. When trying them on, look for jeans that aren’t too snug on the thighs and come up approximately right below you’re belly button.


Before you jump right into cutting away, make sure you outline where you’re going to make the cuts. Try the jeans on again at home and draw with a pencil where you want the shorts to fall on your leg. I’ve found it’s easier if you tie a piece of yarn around your leg, and then pencil along the line.

It’s time to put those scissors to work. Lay your pants out, and start cutting along the line you drew. Don’t worry if it’s not exactly perfect, fraying will hide any imperfections. Rather than cutting straight across both the front and back of the pants, cut each side individually. This is especially helpful if, like me, you have a curvier bottom and prefer your shorts a little longer in the back than in the front. After you’ve cut one leg, fold the jeans over and use the completed leg as a guide for your other leg; that way, both legs are as even as possible.


Now that you’ve got your shorts at an appropriate length, it’s time to give them some character. Everyone has different methods of distressing their shorts; my personal preference is sliding a box cutter through the shorts. It’s important to keep in mind where the holes will fall when actually wearing the pants, so I recommend trying the jeans on again and marking where you will make the slits. Avoid areas too close to the crotch or butt, otherwise your shorts will expose more than your trendy fashion sense. Also, try rubbing a pair of scissors or sand paper along the edges of the pockets for a more distressed look.


If, after your finished cutting, you feel like your shorts are still a little dull, add some personal flare to them. Adding studs or patches of patterned fabric can make your shorts more original. Another fun way of adding more character to your shorts is to dip-dye or bleach them.

After you’ve achieved the look you want, it’s time to wash and dry them. Washing the shorts will further distress and wash away any loose materials; plus, it’s probably a good idea regardless since you don’t know who wore them before you. I recommend washing them in warm water and drying them in the machine; however, keep in mind that this may cause the shorts to shrink depending on the material.


Voila! You have successfully made a pair of trendy, high-waisted jean shorts you can truly call your own, and it only cost you an hour of your time and a couple of bucks. When you get complimented on them while you’re out (and you will), girls will ask where you bought them. You have two options: lie and tell them Urban Outfitters (which they’ll easily believe), or proudly state that you made them yourself and bask in your creative/economical accomplishment. 



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