Denim Mania: 25 Stylish Ways to Transform Your Jeans

Denim Mania: 25 Stylish Ways to Transform Your Jeans


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Denim Mania: 25 Stylish Ways to Transform Your Jeans by Carmen Webber, Carmia Marshall

Designers Carmen Webber, a contestant on Season 4 of Bravo's Project Runway and Carmia Marshall, aka Sistahs of Harlem, have created a sensation with their fabulous blend of street couture and uptown chic, as seen in the pages of many fashion magazines and on the backs of many style-conscious fashionistas.

In Denim Mania Carmen and Carmia teach you to make 25 of their hottest designs, with patterns and instructions so easy you can start the project in the morning and wear it out that night. With their unique blend of vintage and couture designs you can transform your denim, both old and new, into fabulous tops, bottoms, jackets, and accessories. Their designs reflect a fusion of many influences—-including the sassy street style of New York City, distant world cultures, and the rich cultural legacy of Harlem.

Full-color photographs, how-to illustrations, sketches, and complete step-by-step instructions accompany each project. Denim Mania shows you how to transform basic blue jeans into sassy denim couture in no time at all—-so you can make it today and wear it tonight!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312359911
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/04/2008
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 8.84(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

CARMEN WEBBER and CARMIA MARSHALL, fashion entrepreneurs and style innovators are Sistahs of Harlem. They got their start selling handbags and revamped shirts at street fairs in New York City. Capturing the attention of the international fashion press, they have dressed celebrities such as Alicia Keyes. Carmen was a contestant on Season 4 of Bravo's Project Runway and Carmia is a feature film wardrobe stylist. They both live in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Denim Mania

25 Stylish Ways to Transform Your Jeans

By Carmen Webber, Carmia Marshall, Derrick Gomez

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Sistahs of Harlem (Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber)
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7300-1



A Brief History of Denim

Denim is defined as a coarse, durable, twill-weave cotton fabric. The first denim came from a French fabric of silk and wool. Made in Nîmes, it was called serge de Nîmes. Jeans originated in Genoa, Italy, when the city was an independent republic and a naval power. The Genoese navy required all-purpose trousers for its sailors that could be worn wet or dry and with legs that could easily be rolled up to wear while swabbing the deck. Jeans were laundered by dragging them in large mesh nets behind the ship, and the seawater would bleach them. It is possible the French term bleu de Gênes, from the Italian blu di Genoa (blue of Genoa), referring to the dye of their fabric, is the origin of term the blue jean. Today jean, blue jean, and denim are nearly synonymous.

The prototype of the American-made work trouser was made originally with a cream-colored cotton duck fabric. As the cream color did not, however, disguise the soil and filth from the normal workday, an indigo-colored denim was introduced to camouflage the unwanted grime. The durability of indigo as a color and its darkness of tone made the best choice. The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, was one of the first mills to make a blue denim fabric, in the late 1800s, using a dye made from fermenting the leaves of the indigo plant. It was a time-consuming process, requiring an overwhelming amount of labor. Synthetic indigo was later developed in the laboratory to create the same color as the blue-producing plant.

Today everyone wears denim — from the superstars of Hollywood to the sanitation engineers of New York City. Denim is well cultured and exposed to myriad lifestyles. It's nonjudgmental and effortlessly maneuvers from the poorest to the most luxurious atmosphere. Denim, at some point of its existence, has represented the working, the rebellious, the young, the old, the intellectuals, the artists, and the free.

Denim's versatility is amazing. Denim is ingrained in American culture. To disregard its impact on the glitzy, fickle, and ever-changing world of fashion would be simply silly. The role of denim is profound. It is the "rebel fabric," the fabric of the working class, the fabric that endures wear and tear gracefully without noticeable damage, the fabric of freedom and self-expression. Overrated? We think not!

Shades of Denim

Denim comes in so many shades of blue, it is almost impossible to create a universal color chart, since the colors of denim change from brand to brand. From our observations on the street, we've determined that the darker the denim, the more dressy the feel. The lighter shades of blue are more casual. But, the more casual blues can be upgraded to a more elegant look by pairing them with an upscale button-front blouse, beaded tunic, or tailored blazer with silk camisole.

Here's our basic color primer with our take on how to wear denim for maximum impact:

DARK MIDNIGHT BLUE: Almost black, in this color you're moving in and out of swank environments. In fact, people have to look twice to realize that you're wearing blue jeans. The midnight blue is great for upscale casual; it's very urbane.

INDIGO BLUE: This is the basic, and prime, jean color. Simple, unadorned, plain-finished indigo blue is the classic color for denim jeans. A dark, rich blue that moves from day to night, this color is extremely versatile as well as the most popular. You can wear it anyway you want — dress it up with a special blouse or jacket, or play it down and basic with a T-shirt or zip-front sweatshirt. It all depends on your place of action!

TRUE MEDIUM BLUE: Can move from day to night; this is a good transitional color

PALE LIGHT BLUE: Usually worn during the day; it's light and refreshing

ALMOST WHITE: Very pale blue, almost white, this is a great color for the beach. It's extremely light, airy, and fresh. It is a surprisingly good night color during the warmer months of the year, and a great color to wear during the day.

WHITE: White jeans, worn with an upscale top, are a class act.

OTHER COLORS: Denim comes in every color imaginable — kelly green, eggplant, charcoal, red, copper, white, black, rust, Bordeaux — the colors available are limitless. These colors are fun to wear and are especially good for casual environments.

Glossary of Denim Styles

Straight leg
Bell bottoms or flared
Hip huggers or low waisted
Pedal pushers
Capris or clam diggers
"Daisy Dukes" or hot shorts

Denim Washes

You can create an aged appearance or enhance the softness of denim by washing it. There are different ways to wash denim, each producing a different final color and fabric finish. The technology used for various washes is taking the humble blue jean to a new plateau of sophistication. By the time you read this book, more first-class innovative washes will, of course, be on the market. A new denim trend will be sweeping the racks of stores near you.

ACID WASH: A method of soaking pumice stones in bleach and then adding them to a dryer full of denim to create "random" bleach spots

DIRTY ANTIQUE WASH: The fabric has been softened, shrunk, and faded, and excess dye has been removed, creating controlled fading in some areas, such as on the thighs and rear. Irregular appearance looks homespun, worn, and gracefully aged.

STONEWASH: Stones are used to create abrasions, whiskers, chevrons, or other damage marks on parts of the garment and the seams.

Other Denim Finishes

Washing is not the only way to change the look and feel of denim fabric. Abrasion, dyeing, cutting, and bleaching can also make denim look well aged and give it a softer hand.

INDIGO BLUE: Once harvested from plants, indigo dye is now generally synthesized from chemicals. But pure, genuine indigo can produce deep brilliant blues that cannot be duplicated with any other dye.

OVERDYEING: The garment or fabric is re-dyed with another color, one color layered over another. Most frequently used on indigo or black denim fabric, which is overdyed with black.

RIPPED AND TORN: An aging process involving fabric abrasion, where the denim is actually shredded and torn

HAND SANDING: A way of reproducing such patterns as whiskers, chevrons, or other damage marks in localized areas, simulating long-term wear

SANDBLASTING: Jeans are sprayed with sand by hand in specific areas before washing to create a used look in those areas.

SUN BLEACHING: A combination of sandblasting and bleach gives the denim a very soft and powdery feel.

Types of Denim

Known for its sturdy twill weave, denim is a genius fabric. The weave contributes its strength. The blue/indigo yarns are the lengthwise or warp (parallel to the selvage). The white yarns run across the fabric width (the weft threads). Denim is traditionally woven with 100 percent cotton fiber, but today it is often blended with Lycra (for stretch) and polyester (to prevent shrinkage) and other materials to manipulate the life span of the eternal fabric.

Understanding the weave and blends requires some studying. Grab a pair of jeans and just look at them. The terms will start to make sense. Touch your jeans. Experience the hand (the feel of denim — from soft to coarse) of your denim as you determine what works best for you. Here is a simple summary of the most popular denim blends used today.

Organic Denim

These babies are all nat-u-ral!

No pesticides or other artificial chemicals are applied in the farming of the cotton that is used to produce the denim. For the fashion and ecology savvy, organic jeans come in a variety of styles for men and women. Certified organic denim undergoes strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations.

Raw Denim

This is pure cotton that has not been treated, distressed, washed, or broken down in any manner, other than dyeing it a color.

Raw denim usually has a very hard, stiff look and feel until it is completely broken in. It has very little or no stretch; it normally molds to the body after wearing several times. The best examples of raw denim are the oldies from 1940s and 1950s. These babies could survive any natural disaster and still maintain their beauty.

Blended Denim

Often, denim is combined with other fibers to manipulate the durability of the denim.

Stretch denim is a mixture of cotton denim and a stretch fabric, for example, Lycra or spandex. It helps create superb form-fitting and body-hugging jeans. Polyester is added to prevent shrinkage. Ramie-blended jeans are known for their ability to hold shape and their reduced wrinkling, and ramie introduces a silky luster. The types of denim blends are endless. And it's not unusual to find a blend of several different fibers, such as a ramie/cotton/poly/spandex blend.

Premium Denim

Generally used on designer jeans, premium denim provides a superior fit and styling.

The denim is higher quality, often coming from Japan and Italy. The different washes can add to the cost of a pair of jeans. Premium denims are not just limited to a great fit and different washes. They are detailed with different cuts and ornate with very intricate appliqués, topstitching, and diverse curving seams and layering.

Caring for Your Denim

Denim requires some attention when laundering. It bleeds, it fades, it shrinks and stretches, and it frays naturally. To prevent it bleeding onto other garments, wash it separately until you notice the wash water remains clear. To preserve the color and maintain the finish, wash inside out and add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse.

Embellished denim is best cared for by hand washing or dry cleaning to avoid color loss or damage to ornaments. You also might want to wash a new pair of jeans before wearing them to eliminate any sizing in the fabric, which can create unwanted stiffness.

Breaking Down Your Denim

Great denim finishes and washes are cool but often costly. You can break down your denim in the comfort of your own home. All you need is fabric softener, your denim, detergent, a clean sneaker, and a little patience. By this inexpensive and effective method, your jeans will feel softer and look older. A terrific characteristic of denim is its ability to naturally distress itself. Washing breaks down the fibers, creating a softer, more comfortable feel and fit.

Easy as pie, follow these steps:

1. Fill your washing machine with hot water and add the fabric softener of your choice.

2. Place garment into machine, let soak for 12 hours or more, add detergent, and run through wash cycle.

3. Machine dry and, for additional distressing, run the garment through dryer cycle along with a clean sneaker.

4. Repeat until the hand of the denim feels great to you.

Keeping Those Special Jeans Forever

If there is history behind your jeans, a special moment of your life when you wore them that makes it impossible for you and your jeans to part, you may hesitate to cut them up. Please don't fret. Look at your old denim as a catalyst for preserving the old while creating the new. You will be making something individual and more current, while preserving a piece of your past.

Best Jeans for the Bottom Half

When we hit the jackpot, the perfect pair of jeans will lift our buttocks (superb), elongate our legs (nice), firm our thighs (perfecto), and shape our hips in perfect proportion to the rest of our body. They get nonstop usage in our wardrobe. Here's a quick rundown on the styles that transform your body type into a work of art.

The Hourglass

A curvy body type with balanced hip and shoulder width and a defined waist.

We want to applaud your curves with hip- skimming styles. Try low-waist, flat-front jeans that ease into a full straight-leg trouser or boot cut. Avoid skinny and cigarette legs — they'll make you look wide hipped and heavy bottomed.

The Triangle

A pear-shaped body type with shoulders narrower than the hips, a slim torso and ribcage, a small waist, and full lower hips.

Wear boot-cut jeans, wide-leg and trouser jeans, wide-leg culottes, and cargo jeans. The slightly flared bottom minimizes thighs and behind, and balances out a wide hip or rear. Creating the balance is what we love. Wear low-waist, flat-front jeans with minimal details. Try a straight but full leg that gives you a relaxed fit through the hip and thigh. Lose the extravagant front and back pockets, as they bring unwanted attention to the hips.

The Inverted Triangle

A boyish athletic frame, with average-to-broad shoulders wider than your hips, and a straight, narrow waist.

Choose from a gamut of styles. Your boyish figure welcomes the variety: boot-cut, skinny, wide, relaxed, capri, and straight legs. Unlike most body types, inverted triangles can wear cigarette or skinny jeans. The slender cut at the calves makes hips look wider and adds curves to a flat behind. Counterbalance skinny jeans with a voluminous top, and always accompany them with a higher-heeled shoe such as a knee-high boot, classic pump, or strapped sandal.

The Rectangle

Straight up and down with hips and shoulders balanced and no defined waistline.

Wear denim with wide, flared, boot-cut, or straight legs. Avoid jeans that flatten your bottom. Stay away from jeans that are either too tight or too loose.

The Circle

Full figured and voluptuous, hips and shoulders are balanced with no defined waistline:

Wear jeans at your natural waist. It lengthens your legs as well as your torso. Hipskimming styles with full legs and relaxed styles through the leg (wide leg, classiccuts, trouser denim, boot cut, or subtly flared legs) complement you. These styles create balance and the illusion of a defined waist. Avoid pleats or anything with tapered ankles, and hip huggers, low risers, cigarette or skinny legs, and high-waisted jeans.

Understanding the styles and cuts before revamping your denim is essential. We have chosen authentic vintage denim jeans for the projects in this book. Therefore, the waists are a little higher than their low-riding counterparts. Not to worry, all the styles look fierce on a natural waist as well as the low hip.

Adorn Your Denim

Release your inner fashion designer, pour your heart into your denim canvas, and self-express, even if you are not ready to destroy and remake your denims. Here are things you can do without cutting the fabric and if you don't want glamorous, strategically placed hot-girl rips in your jeans. Adorning your denim is just as serious as the jean itself. Embellishing your denim can be as exciting as purchasing vintage jeans or finding an old pair in your closet! Here are techniques you can use when decorating your denim. Dare to add your flair.

A Basic: Transferring Designs to Denim

First, draw your pattern, shape, or image on paper.

Then, place dressmaker's tracing paper between the denim and the original drawing, with the ink side of the tracing paper facing the denim. Roll over the lines of the original drawing, using the tracing wheel. You can also sketch directly on the denim, using tailor's chalk (it's good for sketching because it's easy to erase mistakes). Freely mix and match any of these techniques. You can then adorn the denim, following the tracings, using paint, stitching, glue, beads, studs, fabrics, appliqués, trims, etc. Lay low or exaggerate your adornment. Blank denim gives voice to our innate desire to share and be heard.


Excerpted from Denim Mania by Carmen Webber, Carmia Marshall, Derrick Gomez. Copyright © 2008 Sistahs of Harlem (Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber). Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


A Brief History of Denim,
Shades of Denim,
Glossary of Denim Styles,
Denim Washes,
Other Denim Finishes,
Types of Denim,
Caring for Your Denim,
Breaking Down Your Denim,
Keeping Those Special Jeans Forever,
Best Jeans for the Bottom Half,
Adorn Your Denim,
Supplies and Equipment,
Measuring Basics,
Tips for Sewing Denim,
Gluing Basics,
Sewing Shortcuts,
Preparing Denim Garments,
Deconstructing Extra Denim Layers,
shirts and tops,
Puffed-Sleeved Shirt,
Denim Accents Shirt,
Bow-Tied Halter Top,
Ruffled T-Shirt Top,
Boat-Neck Pullover,
V-Neck Shirt with Crossover Collar,
skirts and bottoms,
Skirt with Pickstitched Detail,
Ribbon-Trim Miniskirt,
Ruffled Miniskirt,
Pants with Ribbon Detail,
Bias Trim Short Shorts,
2-in-1 Capris,
Flirty A-line Skirt,
jackets and vests,
Long-Sleeve Jacket with Ruffles,
Shaped Sleeveless Vest,
Cropped Jacket with Sweater Trim,
Kimono Jacket,
Cinched-Waist Jacket,
Jacket with Sweatshirt Sleeves and Collar,
Deconstructed Scarf,
Large Clutch Bag,
Fanny Pack,
Choker with Ribbon Trim,
Obi-Style Wrap Belt,
Stitched Headband,

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