Refashioning a Jacket: Basic Altering/Tailoring Tutorial

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My other half was planning on throwing away this old military style jacket that he no longer wore, but I salvaged it because I saw the potential there for improvement and I knew I couldn't miss out on the opportunity for a refashion! As you can see from the pictures before the upcycle below, the jacket looks rather shapeless on me, and so I set out to turn this manly jacket into something tailored and feminine.

This particular jacket wasn't lined which made it a lot easier to alter so if you're going to try this I'd recommend using a lightweight, non-lined jacket also. This tutorial covers a couple of basic tailoring techniques, so all you'll really need for this refashion is the jacket you intend to alter, along with your sewing paraphernalia. I chose to embellish my jacket with some buttons and patches, but this is optional!

Jacket Refashion Tutorial
Firstly, lay the jacket you wish to upcycle out flat, and cut off the sleeves as close to the seam as possible. Lay your sleeves to one side for now. If you wish to crop your jacket, then trim away the bottom of it so that the overall length is 1.5 inches longer than the desired length. I would suggest trying it on before cutting away the bottom so you know how much to chop off.

To give it a slimmer, more feminine fit I needed to take in the side seams. To do this, put the jacket on whilst inside out and got a friend to help you pin it in so that it's a good fit to your own shape. You can do this yourself but it's slightly awkward!
Make sure that you start your seam from the bottom of the arm hole, bringing it in and making it smaller. Bear in mind that however tight you make the arm holes, this will be close to the final outcome.  Remember not to make it too tight as you'll want to make sure you can comfortably wear it over your clothes.

After I pinned it, I drew a marker in white tailors chalk as to where I would sew the new seam, and sewed it with a straight stitch. To hem the edges you can use a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine, or an overlocker if you're lucky enough to have one.

Now, keeping your jacket inside out, turn it over so you can work on putting 'dart seams' in the back. Dart seams help to make the garment nip in at just the right places, and require a little bit of basic measuring.
Decide how long they need to be, the dart should start where the jacket starts to get baggy so you will need to try it on again inside out and get someone to help you mark where the darts should begin. The lines I've drawn on in white show where you should sew (fold the jacket in the centre of the lines, and sew along the white lines).

Tailoring is a case of trial and error, so try it on again and check the arm holes. If they are too lose and baggy then sew a dart seam on the arm hole; start roughly in the centre and point the dart seam to the chest.

Now get the sleeves from earlier and lay them out flat, with the shoulder seam at the top. Lay the jacket arm hole across the top of the sleeve and mark the shape out with tailors chalk.

As you can see, I am losing quite alot of material at the top of my sleeve- this is because I want the sleeves to be shorter. Chop of along the dotted line.

If your sleeves need to be nipped in then fold them inside out, try them on and mark with pins where they need to be taken in. Mine only needed a slight nip tuck.

Pin the sleeves into position in the armhole, with right sides together. Secure with a straight stitch and overlock the edges.

I finished off the bottom seam of the jacket with a rolled hem & straight stitch...

...and voila! The finished refashion! I felt the jacket was a little plain so I embellished it with a couple of iron on patches. Also, I replaced the buttons with gold coloured ones for a proper military look.

Military Jacket Refashion- AFTER

Military Jacket Upcycle- AFTER

Now I have a cute, lightweight jacket I can wear for the not-so warm summer days. If you have any tips or ideas on projects for old jackets then I'd love to hear them.


  1. Nice one Jen I will be trying this idea the Do xx

  2. Fantastic! I love this tutorial! :) All the best from Rag DOLL

  3. Hi Lola!
    Muche better now! This jacket I would wear it!
    Kisses from Portugal!

  4. Great job! Great tutorial! So encouraging. I am curvy and have a tough time finding clothes to fit and am scared of darts. I think I can actually do this! Thank you!





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Hello and welcome to my blog! I'm a seamstress with a passion for refashioning clothing, and I've decided to document my creations and share my upcycling tutorials. My aim is to inspire people to re-use and re-love the clothes that they already own.

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