How to Alter a Jacket

Jackets are nice to wear with a lightweight sweater or T-shirt underneath, but a well-fitting, modern jacket can be elusive to find off the rack. Instead of leaving that too-big jacket with the nice fabric in the dressing room, take it home instead. With a few simple changes, you can make it fit perfectly.

Things You'll Need

  • Seam ripper
  • Dress form (optional)
  • Measuring tape
  • Washable marking pen
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine with a universal 90/14 needle
  • Coordinating thread
  • Pinking shears
  • Iron and ironing board
  • 1 package of coordinating 1/2-inch double-fold bias tape
Alter a too-big jacket to fit perfectly.
Alter a too-big jacket to fit perfectly. (Image: Beth Huntington)

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Step 1

Try on the too-big jacket and decide how you'd like to modernize the silhouette. For example, perhaps you want to make it a cropped jacket.

Try on the jacket.
Try on the jacket. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 2

Start by removing the shoulder pads, lining and sleeves with a seam ripper.

Remove the shoulder pads, lining and sleeves.
Remove the shoulder pads, lining and sleeves. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 3

Put the jacket on inside out, or put it on a dress form. Measure the new hemline with a measuring tape (or have a friend do it if you're wearing the jacket). Mark this new line across the jacket with a washable marking pen. Cut along this line with a sharp pair of sewing scissors.

Cut off the extra length.
Cut off the extra length. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 4

Pull up the shoulder seams to fit, and pin.

Pin the new shoulder seams.
Pin the new shoulder seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 5

Next, pull the side seams in, and pin to fit the waist. Pin with a little leeway so the jacket isn't too tight on the waist.

Pin the new side seams.
Pin the new side seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 6

Use a 90/14 universal needle and a medium pressure to sew along the pin lines on the shoulders and sides. Remove the pins as you sew.

Sew the new shoulder and side seams.
Sew the new shoulder and side seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 7

Use a pair of sharp pinking shears to trim the extra fabric away from the new side and shoulder seams. Leave a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Or if you'd like to finish the seams in a different way, you can find out how in this article.

Trim the seams.
Trim the seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 8

Press the seams open with a hot iron.

Press the seams open.
Press the seams open. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 9

Finish the bottom of the jacket by sewing coordinating 1/2-inch double-fold bias tape to the unfinished edge. You can purchase premade bias tape at the fabric store in many colors, or if you prefer, learn how to make your own bias tape in this article. You can also learn how to attach bias tape to an unfinished edge in this article.

Attach bias tape to the hem.
Attach bias tape to the hem. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 10

Use a seam ripper to take out the hem on the bottom of the sleeves.

Unpick the sleeve hem.
Unpick the sleeve hem. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 11

Turn one sleeve inside out and slide it onto your arm. Have a friend mark the new seam line with pins. Pin with a little leeway so you can take the sleeve off. Take the sleeve off and sew along the pin line, removing the pins as you sew. Repeat this process on the other sleeve. Trim the new sleeve seams with sharp pinking shears, and leave a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

Pin and sew the new sleeve seams.
Pin and sew the new sleeve seams. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 12

Press the new sleeve seams open with a hot iron. Finish the bottom edges of the sleeves by attaching bias tape in the same manner you attached bias tape to the hem of the jacket.

Press the sleeve seams open.
Press the sleeve seams open. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 13

Turn one sleeve right-side out and slide it back onto your arm. Mark with a pin where the new shoulder seam will be.

Mark the new shoulder seam with a pin.
Mark the new shoulder seam with a pin. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 14

To make the new shoulder seam, cut a curved piece off the top of the sleeve with the pinking shears. Use the pin as a guide to show you how much to cut. This will reduce the length of the sleeve. Use the cut sleeve as a pattern to mark and cut the top off of the other sleeve.

Cut off the top of the sleeves.
Cut off the top of the sleeves. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 15

Place the top of one sleeve inside the armhole of the jacket with the right sides together. Match the side seams and the shoulder seams. Pin in place and sew with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Repeat this process with the other sleeve.

Pin and sew the sleeves into the armhole of the jacket.
Pin and sew the sleeves into the armhole of the jacket. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 16

Turn your custom-fit jacket right-side out and wear it with jeans and a lightweight sweater. Or, for a more professional look, wear it over a dress.

Altered jacket
Altered jacket (Image: Beth Huntington)
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