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How To Make A Shirt Look Vintage: Four Easy Ways

If you wish to turn one of your shirts into one that resembles a clothing piece from the 90s or earlier, the process is relatively simple and effective

Photography by ©Eddy Espinoza for MMSCENE

Nostalgia resurfaces in every aspect of life—even vinyl records are popular again! One way to honor the past is to bring back vintage clothing pieces from our parents and grandparents.

Most of us are lucky enough to have family members who kept their favorite garments that were all the rage in their prime. Those were times when materials were soft, flexible, and of the utmost quality. That may be why those pieces have been around for so long and are making a comeback.

However, what if you weren’t lucky enough to inherit some staple vintage items? There is always an effective method to recreate the look. If you wish to turn one of your shirts into one that resembles a clothing piece from the 90s or earlier, the process is relatively simple and effective.

Four Easy Ways to Make a Vintage-Looking Shirt

Retro & vintage clothing may be expensive to buy. However, there is no need to spend large amounts of money for a vintage-looking shirt when you can recreate the look yourself.

Simply follow these four methods to get the desired vintage look of your shirt.


You can use bleach for the creation of trendy and edgy design motifs. By removing the color from the fabric, the uniqueness of the design shines through. Sticking cotton shirts is always wise because some materials will not survive the bleach.

The ingredients you’ll need to execute this color-fading method are:

  • ½ cup of bleach;
  • Hydrogen peroxide;
  • Hot and lukewarm water;
  • Rubber gloves;
  • Bucket;
  • Washing machine.

Step 1: Using the gloves, submerge the shirt in a solution of lukewarm water and bleach. Let it soak for ten minutes.

Step 2: Dip the shirt in hot water. Then, use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water with a ratio of 1:10 to neutralize the bleach. Leave the shirt in this solution for another ten minutes.

Step 3: Wash the shirt.

Photography by ©Eddy Espinoza for MMSCENE


If you want a shirt with a distressed look, sanding is the way. Choose a shirt with a thicker fabric, and be careful not to rub too hard and destroy the shirt. This method works best on denim fabric.

For this method, you will need:

  • Cardboard to protect the work surface;
  • Sandpaper.

Step 1: Put the cardboard inside the shirt to avoid damaging any surfaces and the other side of the shirt.

Step 2: For a distressed look, sand areas of your choice. Rub until you get a fuzzy effect or until you create a hole. The amount of sanding you do relies on your style and the aesthetic you want.

Step 3: Wash the shirt to remove sandpaper debris and make the rubbing look natural.

Tearing and Cutting

The best way to make clothing look vintage is to tear or rip them. You can create a frayed look by tearing it at the hems or simply cutting off sleeves for a distressed look.

To do this, you must obtain:

  • A sharp razor blade;
  • Scissors.

There are no particular steps to the tearing and cutting method. Use the razor to create cuts in the shirt or the scissors to make holes in places like cuffs, hems, collar edges, chest, pockets, or any other area of your preference.

This method is not to overdo it. Less is always more! You wouldn’t want to have a shirt that is all holes. Instead, creating a random pattern is the key to being authentic.

Pumice Wash

The use of pumice rocks will give your shirt the same look as that of the sandpaper. It works best with pure cotton shirts.

For this method, you will have to obtain:

  • A cup of table salt;
  • Warm water;
  • Pumice stones.

Step 1: Submerge the shirt in a bucket of warm water and salt stir until all the salt dissolves.

Step 2: Let the shirt soak for three days for the shirt fibers to soften. Patience is the key here!

Step 3: Wash the shirt regularly and use the rocks to rub the shirt to create the desired look.

Vintage Requires Patience

The homemade methods for giving your shirt a vintage look require time and patience. The above methods show that we cannot rush nature and chemical reactions if we wish to get the desired look.

Finding a 20 or 30-year-old vintage shirt in good condition is difficult; therefore, use the proposed methods to create some one-of-a-kind and trendy vintage pieces. They may seem challenging, but they are a piece of cake to follow. The best part is that you can achieve a vintage look with your ingredients at home.

Roll up your sleeves and use one of these four cost-effective methods to create an authentic shirt that everyone will want to snatch from you!

Images from MMSCENE STYLE STORIES: Emmanuel Echavarria by Eddy Espinoza – See the full story here

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