Queens of the Neighborhood: A Tutorial

A denim-jacket DIY.

Mirren’s jacket

I was inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli, the 20th century surrealist designer, to make silk roses to sew onto the shoulders of my jacket. I made the roses out of a variety of pink silks. I used a cross-stitch fabric as my base, which I cut to form a circle (any thick fabric, like felt, will do). I then cut a piece of the silk in a petal shape, gathered it, and sewed it onto the thick fabric vertically to make the central bud of the rose. I wrapped a different pink around the rest of the circle horizontally to make the rose, sewing it in place as I went. Then I ironed the rose flat. I found that if I used a slightly too-hot iron in different parts, it discolored the silk a bit to give it a more aged look. Finally, I sewed my roses onto the jacket, being careful not to make the stitches too obvious.

On a recent trip to the Wallace Collection in London, I was inspired by the 18th century painter François Boucher to paint a Rococo-style scene on the back of my jacket. I discovered that it is possible to paint denim with acrylic paint–AND IT STAYS! (I even tested this for you by washing my jacket on a quick wash at a hot temperature.)

You can paint the denim jacket just like you would paint a canvas. If you’re going to have a go at painting a sky and you want it to look realistic, imagine the position of the sun and the direction its rays are coming from. On my jacket, I imagined the sun being in the top-left-hand corner, so the top-left-hand clouds are white, while the bottom-right-hand ones are the darkest. (This is a helpful tutorial.)

Finally, I safety-pinned some patches I had made to the front of jacket. The one above was a drawing I made, scanned, printed, and transferred to fabric using Dylon Image Maker. You could also use iron-on transfers. I then appliquéd this to a backing fabric and added trim. Finished!


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  • Aria August 16th, 2012 3:05 PM

    Totally awesome jackets! Will definitely try this at home.

  • rainysister August 16th, 2012 3:15 PM

    I love this! I have a denim jacket in my closet that I’ve been wanting to do something to for the longest time. This gave me lots of ideas.

  • Susann August 16th, 2012 3:17 PM

    Really cool and super creative!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • Adrienne August 16th, 2012 3:24 PM

    So inspired right now! This is my favorite DIY thus far, and the article includes every single detail which is really great. :) Thanks Eleanor!

  • Pearl August 16th, 2012 3:24 PM

    So many cool DIY ideas! I’m gonna try these soon on my vintage denim jacket.

  • larvaa_ August 16th, 2012 3:48 PM

    Yayy! I’ve been waiting for this tutorial, I’ll totally be trying bits and pieces on one of my denim jackets possibly even some old jeans?! \m/

  • streaked lights August 16th, 2012 3:52 PM

    After your Queen of the Neighbor shoot, I couldn’t wait for a tutorial. And now it’s here! DREAMS DO COME TRUE.

    Haha, anyway, I love love love Mirren’s jacket. The cherub painting + silk flowers had me screaming! And now that I know that you can actually paint of denim… well, the possibilities are endless!

    Anoosha Draws

  • kendallakwia August 16th, 2012 3:52 PM

    this is so fucking cool… I wish I had the talent to do stuff like this!

  • Ben August 16th, 2012 3:53 PM

    I’ve had a denim jaket for a while that I never wore and I wanted to customize it soon! Thanks for all the ideas!

  • Sea goddess August 16th, 2012 3:54 PM


  • Annie92 August 16th, 2012 3:55 PM

    This is the BEST DIY EVER!!! I’m totally gonna do this. Thanks rookie!

  • Rhiannon August 16th, 2012 4:21 PM

    I know you’ll probably think this is such a TERRIBLE CRIME but I….don’t. own. a. denim. jacket.

    So if I was to do this, do you think I should aim to find one in a charity or vintage shop (I’m in England and we don’t possess beautiful thrift stores) ?

    • dianeisnotmyname August 16th, 2012 6:10 PM

      Well… I live in the US, but I’ve always found really cheep denim jackets at Goodwill, so I guess your equivalent is a charity store. Check out the men’s section if you can’t find a good one in the women’s section- the men’s section is where I always find the best jackets and flannels.

      • Rhiannon August 17th, 2012 6:03 PM

        Yeah – thanks!! I’ll do that next week, mwahahahahaa
        When I eventually escape to the U.S, I will buy the entire contents of a thrift store.

  • Naomi Morris August 16th, 2012 4:47 PM

    wowzas, this is amazing

  • TCB August 16th, 2012 4:48 PM

    This is JUST. SO. RAD. I just finished fixin’ up my denim jacket a couple months ago ( but now i wanna buy ANOTHER one and do ALL of the bleaching and tie-dyeing.

    • Whatsername August 16th, 2012 7:46 PM

      Haha, loving the cake with the Hole lyrics! That’s adorable.

  • Flower August 16th, 2012 5:01 PM

    Customized jackets and kind of my passion. I wrote a story last summer about someone who uses a jacket to record their entire life (I did submit it to. Rookie but didn’t hear back. ) My favourite all have millions of patches and badges and this is so perfect.

    • mubymuu November 19th, 2012 12:32 PM

      I immensely adooooorre your blog and ive only just read the first post (which is generally a good sign) its got a gguuttspaa that i cant put my finger on.

  • firstcomestherain August 16th, 2012 5:46 PM

    I love demin! I need to try this.

  • kendallkh August 16th, 2012 7:34 PM

    I’m so glad you guys made this DIY omg as soon as I saw those photos I knew I had to make a jacket like that

  • Whatsername August 16th, 2012 7:43 PM

    Great tutorial. I have a plain denim jacket I plan on screwing with once the weather cools down. Band patches all around, ayy.

    {I totally died laughing when you said each jacket is from Urban Outfitters though. Thrift stores are LOADED with denim jackets. Why waste all that money on overpriced “vintage”? Isn’t DIY about making awesome personalized stuff for cheap?}

  • Pollyana August 16th, 2012 7:52 PM

    I know this is a bit off topic, but I once sat behind a girl in my Geometry class who drew an exact replica of herself topless, the collar is where the neck started and yes, she even drew her nipples. :/

  • mar9ar3t August 16th, 2012 8:05 PM

    My mind was blown by this DIY! Using a coin purse to make elbow patches?? Pure genius. And the tie dying turned out so pretty!

  • Maddy August 16th, 2012 8:43 PM

    these are soo gorgeous and I adore the rose petals. they look real. i will have to puzzle through the tutorial for them later. I keep going to Saver’s to look for a denim jacket to do stuff to but I can’t find one! maybe st. vincent’s? anyway never considered using clothes as an outlet like this and it actually working! :)

  • Sphinx August 16th, 2012 8:53 PM

    I love DIY stuff like these!
    I wanted a jean jacket for the longest time, and I finally got one as a Christmas present last year…
    I customized it by putting spikes on the lapels, sewing a “Do It Yourself!” patch on one of the arms (like the Vivienne Westwood one) and filling the front with band pins.
    On the back I used safety pins to put a photo of Bikini Kill, with “I’m so sorry if I’m alienating some of you, your fucking culture alienates me” written over it, and I still want to write “Kamikaze Grrrl” on the top.

    (I love the Wallace Collection, the rococo idea is great!)

  • aliceee August 16th, 2012 9:37 PM

    beautiful. I must do this!!

  • LeatherStuddedFae August 16th, 2012 11:02 PM

    OMGOMG! Thank you for making a DIY tutorial on these! <3 I love you, guise.


  • nengmega August 16th, 2012 11:03 PM

    Omg Ava, your horse embroidery is total awesome. I also love the idea of the silk roses!

    living in daylight

  • Serena.K August 16th, 2012 11:09 PM

    i fell in love with eleanor’s jacket in that photo album! i’m so glad you posted a diy post for it! now i shall have a tie-dye denim jacket to call my own.

  • Jessica W August 17th, 2012 1:06 AM

    You have no idea how much I wanted this tutorial after looking through the Queens of the Neighborhood photos.
    Like I cannot begin to explain how much I wanted this tutorial…
    So in short, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!
    The Lovelorn

  • Lucille August 17th, 2012 1:09 AM

    So Rookie!LOVE it, gotta try it out!


  • TessAnnesley August 17th, 2012 2:13 AM

    omg can the mermaid tears have an australian division so i can join

  • ivoire August 17th, 2012 2:59 AM

    oh my!!!!!!L thses are so fab and girl gang-y!!!!!!! i am super excited to go and diy my mums old denims now. COIN PURSES AS ELBOW PADS:BEST IDEA.

  • AlicesPlatforms August 17th, 2012 3:50 AM

    Now, I’m off to find a jacket to bleach, tie dye and customize! @_@

  • Olivia August 17th, 2012 7:42 AM

    omg elle i didn’t even notice the belt collar piece!!! genius!! beautiful!!!

  • rockslita August 17th, 2012 8:04 AM

    Wow, this is SO amazing!

    Rosalie from

  • amazeedayzee August 17th, 2012 1:26 PM

    This is so cute ;_; Definitely my next project. I loved the Queens of the Neighborhood photos.

  • Rhiannon August 17th, 2012 6:08 PM

    I love Sasha’s custom Topshop shorts.!

  • SweetThangVintage August 17th, 2012 10:03 PM

    Oh my goodness! I need to send you guys a picture of the jacket I customized!

  • whodatgal August 18th, 2012 7:12 AM

    So fudging amaze <3 <3 <3 <3

  • willow August 18th, 2012 9:36 PM

    wahhh this is brilliant I’m so excited to try this! except I def won’t be getting my jacket at urban outfiters, they’re hella unethical and awful

  • guiltfreedonut August 20th, 2012 10:15 PM

    This is so perfect. I have a bunch of stuff I want to DIY. I love the mirrors on the collar!

    I did this to a Lady Gaga jacket. I feel super bad-ass everytime I wear it (not because it’s Gaga), but because of the super bad-ass skull pin I added on the front(:

    Here’s the link to where I made it:

  • marimba_girl August 22nd, 2012 11:06 AM

    What is the best way to hand sew patches on denim? I don’t have a sewing machine or friends with one and I am looking for the best approach.

  • Teal.Skye August 29th, 2012 11:32 PM

    This is really nice. Inspired to go distress, vandalize, and -love- my jackets now. <3

  • Loops September 17th, 2012 11:31 AM

    Something to do with the denim jacket decomposing in the back of my cupboard! :’)

  • linandunicorns September 23rd, 2012 9:50 AM

    Omg ! You are AWESOME !
    You have done an amazing job :D

  • April 29th, 2013 12:15 PM

    Oh dear, i love you so much for doing this.