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80’s jackets

Alexandra | Posted in General Discussion on

I have 2 jackets made in the 80s with big shoulders and fabulous materials.  One is Italian linen  with cream blue and red stripes which is the more traditional style with long lapels and tapered into the hip from the wide shoulders.  The other is a printed linen jacket with the dreaded wide shoulders, contrast lapel with banded bottom buttoning under my crotch point. I love these jackets because of the fabric and now that I can fit them again, I wonder if there is any way to make these current or do I just chuck them.  There is just no wearing them now with THOSE shoulders, but would love to get more life out of them.  If I had bought them I wouldn’t fuss so much, but I get so attached to all the me that went into them, not to mention the mula!

Alexander, dispite the name I am woman.


  1. edgy | | #1


    I don't know how to change big shoulders, but before tossing that beautiful fabric, could you turn them into vests?


  2. Theodora | | #2

    Well, 80s styles are supposedly coming back into vogue........God help us.

    Altering to put a smaller shoulder pad in, is possible. But quite complex. You would need to redesign the entire shoulder area, including the sleeve cap. How are your pattern fitting and tailoring skills? Unless you are quite skilled, you could really botch the job, and then you'd feel terrible.

    I think the vest idea is a great one, especially if you could make use of any really nice details like pockets, lapels, etc., that are already there.

  3. Elisabeth | | #3

    Cutting down is always possible. I have a quilted silk droopy long jacket a la 90's that I am eyeing for a rework into a Prada-ish short jacket. I can't bear to part with the fabric (and it was from RTW!) so I know what you are talking about. Do you still have the patterns that you made the jackets from? Perhaps a comparison of a pattern you like today with those from the 80's would give you and idea of how to start. Just comparing a new pattern with the jackets should work too. I would keep in mind that the whole jacket was designed along with the monster shoulders so minimizing the shoulder line might make something else need to be reworked too to keep a balanced design.

    Isn't it funny that we wore those shoulder pads? When I see pictures of that era's jackets I wonder - what were we thinking! Uh, I guess personally was thinking I was kind of cool...

    1. Jean | | #5

      We needed big shoulders to balance out the big hair??

      1. Elisabeth | | #7

        Hahaahaaa, that is funny! I forgot I had a perm back then!

  4. SewTruTerry | | #4

    What if you took the jackets apart and used new patterns to complete another jacket from the material that is left over?  I think that since there was the big shoulders and all that extra fabric up there that you could cut it down keeping the grain line in mind when doing it and come up with something useful.

    1. Alexandra | | #6

      These are good suggestions, especially having another pattern in mind when considering the remake.  I was looking at how to minimize the shoulders but that would throw off the other elements as was suggested.  Or maybe just procrastinate long enough until they are back in style. cringe.



      1. TERISEW | | #8

        All you have to do is narrow the shoulders. Pinch in the amount that you want the shoulder to come in and pin it. Mark where the shoulder seam and sleeve head match.Take out the sleeve within two inches each side of the underarm seam. Measure the amount you pinched in at the shoulder seam. Mark this amount from the edge where the sleeve attached toward the neckline. This establishes your new shoulder/sleeve head mark. Thread trace the amount the sleeve moves in, front and back. Reset the sleeve. Trim excess fabric. Cut down the excess shoulder pad. Reset the pad. Viola!

        1. Alexandra | | #10

          If I read your instructions correctly, the sleeve is moving in towards the neck.  So I leave the sleeve attached under the arm and gradually move the sleeve armsye seam in (both at the back and the front) to meet the deepest point at the shoulder.  The sleeve armsye sa remains the same but the jacket armsye sa is reduced?  Is this what you are saying and will the seams still fit one another?

          1. TERISEW | | #12

            The armscye sa remains the same, but the rest of the sa from the new position on the top of the shoulder is gently pushed away from the original to align with the new shoulder point and underarm. It is a gentle curve that if you shape with the thread tracing you will get the picture. You may also draw the new curve with your armhole shaping tool, french curve, I use a skinny soap sliver, it steams off easier than chalk.Draw and shape from the new shoulder to the armhole stitching on the jacket. That is the new sewing line. I have seldom changed the shoulder seam itself though. Stitch with the sleeve on top so you will follow the original sa on the sleeve. It does not change.

      2. louise | | #13


        Another option is to take them to a tailor rather than an alterationist or dressmaker.  No disrespect to my sister seamstresses, but tailors are more adept with alterations to the should/neck/arm areas as a rule and probably cheaper and more reliable.


        -I'll duck now!

        1. TERISEW | | #14

          Did you have any luck with your shoulder-narrowing- adventure? :)

          signed chopped liver

  5. Imzadi | | #9

    I agree with TERISEW. I have bought many RTW tops & jackets that were a size or two larger because the price & the material were so great. That means many droopy, baggy shoulders, too wide sleeve holes.

    If the jackets are not too tailored, (and they shouldn't be considering the era) the shoulders can be cut in deeper and the sleeve edge readjusted. You would also have to adjust the slope of the top shoulder seam. They won't be as tailored & formfitting as the jackets today, but they should get by. That looseness may fudge those other elements you were talking about.

    Also, there was an Altering  RTW thread a while back. Ask the OP of that thread for advice. Even though you had originally made the jackets. For your purpose, it is a RTW now. 

    1. Alexandra | | #11

      I agree the shoulder seam needs to be reduced as well as the sleeve coming in towards the neck, my concern is getting the sleeve to still fit the jacket hole when I do that.  The really expensive Italian linen jacket is very tailored, albet stylized, and the sleeve armsye needs to be smooth.  The other jacket I can ease or tuck any excess but I can't help but think I am going to have excess fabric in the sleeve cap that I don't know what to do with.


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