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Altering a Men’s Suit Jacket to Women’s

Kate_W | Posted in General Discussion on


I tripped through a thrift store while on vacation and picked up a beautifully detailed, tailored wool men’s sport coat.   (Hong Kong address for the tailor.) In J. Crew catalogs, fashion magazines, I see that the “Boyfriend jacket” is back, and so …

I am looking for advice, suggestions, thoughts on making the jacket more feminine, adding embellishment.  Do I have to take the jacket apart and do some fitting? do I make some Kenneth King fabric flowers? change the buttons?  Add wide lace?  The jacket is a dark grey pinstripe.

If you’ve ever modified a garment, what changes had the biggest bang-for-your-time, wear factor pay-off?  

I appreciate any suggestions, ideas, thoughts.

— Kate



  1. starzoe | | #1

    On several occasions I have retailored a man's jacket to suit myself. It is a long process, requires an almost total remake. The shoulders require the most work and thus the sleeve cap, armscye, etc. etc. I wouldn't do it again, it was the fabric that seduced me into it. If you love to play with puzzles, this project is for you. A dress form would be an asset, although I didn't have one at the time. I don't think I wore the jackets much but I learned a lot in the doing.

    1. User avater
      Kate_W | | #2

      In thinking about this project, I keep coming back to your conclusion that I need to take it apart. When I bought the jacket, part of me thought that I would take it apart just to see how the professionals put things together. I'm also thinking of keeping the lapel part of the jacket and turning it into a vest -- keeping the breast pocket ... I was seduced by the fabric, the label, (made by a tailor in Hong Kong), the $3 price tag, the pristine condition ... For the time being, I think I'll stick to my straight-up sewing. If and when I do this, I'll post results. Probably in the 2011-2012 time frame, (grin).When, or what made you decide to invest in a dress form? I don't know if it's age and I expect a better fit now, or age and I'm not an exact pattern size any more, or if it's the current styles that aren't as loose and accommodating, but I'm thinking I need one and not just for this project ... Threads had an article on dress forms a while back. I will revisit.Anyway, thank you for your considered response. It is giving me pause, (a good thing).

      1. starzoe | | #3

        I have sewn without a dress form for the better part of 60 years and I just happened to see this one advertised locally at a very good price and in new condition. I really don't use it for fitting except in small ways, mostly it is used as a model when assessing proportions, etc. The one main fault is that the bust height cannot be changed and I think this is true of all the dress forms I have seen. That's a really important shortcoming.If your jacket gets lost in the stash you could consider, down the road, felting it and making a bag out of it - could be a real fashion statement - and pretty original.

        1. User avater
          Kate_W | | #4

          Ah!  Excellent suggestion.  The jacket is fairly long on me (almost to my knees), I might be able to do both -- top becomes a vest, bottom is a bag.  Also, Martha Stewart Living, who for my tastes is usually way over the top (Thanksgiving dinner in my house barn ... I don't have a horse barn) just published an article on felting.  It looked like fun.  Who doesn't love poking holes in things?

          Again, thanks.  I've been sewing 35+ years and am always learning something new.  60+? Wow!  It's all good ...

        2. sewluving | | #5

          I too have sewn for about 50 yrs now.  I bought a dressform about 10 yrs ago.  I agree with you about the bust height.  As we age (me anyway....I'm 64 today) our busts are not in the same place as at age 20 or 30.  Would be nice to be able to adjust that on the form too.  Same thing with the derriere.......LOL

          However, I do like the form as it is nice to put your top/jacket/blouse/dress etc on it to see it sort of 'in real life' rather than holding it up or trying on and using mirrors to see the back etc. 

          Since my sewing 'room' is in one half of our loft and my dress form sits where it is seen from the main floor I always have 'her' dressed in a pretty 'evening type' dress that I made back about 12 or more years ago.  Adds a nice touch.

          Heather in Calgary

          1. User avater
            Kate_W | | #7

            OK, it sounds like it would be easier to surgically modify my bustline to fit a form than buy a form that I could adjust as gravity does its thing ...  LOL.  

            My sewing room is the dining room which is viewable from both the main entry and the garage entry.  A feng shui designer suggested I invest in a decorative screen to hide my projects-in-progress.  This saved me major $$'s as I was ready to invest in major house remodeling, (build wall, doors, ugh). 

            I absolutely love the idea of draping an evening-type dress on a form.  Show off your handiwork, strut your stuff.  Classy. 


          2. sewluving | | #8

            Thanks regarding the fancy dress.  I like it and since it is black it is subtle.  I actually grew out of it as in much wider in body due to my illness.  However, I have now grown back down into it so could conceivably wear it again.  But it looks good on the dress form so there it stays.  :) 

            Heather in Calgary

  2. stillsuesew | | #6

    If you do remake it - take in seams, etc - you my not have to take it all apart. Instead you could cut some of the seams and hems off and save lots of ripping. I have remade large sized women's long coats into mens tail's for costumes and rarely took things apart seam by seam. Time was a major factor for me, however.

  3. fabricmaven | | #9

    There was a wonderful article in a Threads Magazine quite a few years back about taking a man's jacket and restyling it. As I recall the jacket belonged to a loved one. Any way if you can find the index of past issues you might see the article if it can be accessed on line. I just can't remember the number of the issue. Maybe this will prompt another reader who remembers in which issue the Article appeared.

  4. User avater
    ShineOn | | #10


    The best instructions I have found for converting a blazer are found in the first/premier issue of Altered Couture. There is an article by Phyllis Pockorny on turning a man's blazer into a women's waistlength jacket with a band at the bottom of the jacket and some applique applied (optional). It is called Mamie's Jacket  and resembles an Eisenhower jacket. It is a very simple technique. I have done this once myself and loved the results. I have attached the picture from the article so you can see if this is what you desire. Hope this helps.

    Happy Sewing.


    1. User avater
      Kate_W | | #11

      Ah, very nice.  I will look for that issue of Altered Couture.  After talking to a wool vendor at the farmer's market this morning, I still have mixed feelings (guilt?) about cutting into a _perfect_ piece of tailor-made clothing. 

      I'm excited about this project.  It may be a few years coming ... 

  5. User avater
    Kate_W | | #12

    Update: Altering Men's Suit Jacket to Women's

    I finally got the Jones to cut into the jacket.  I added a peplum in the back using some abandoned men's ties, shortened the sleeves by making them two pieces -- a lower sleeve attached to the lining, and an upper sleeve attached to the jacket, and shortened the length.  I preserved the collar, sleeve end finishes, and the three interior pockets.

    This was a great project to learn about how tailors put things together and how to rip out what they've put together.  Some tacks that seem fragile are industrial ...

    A professional photographer friend is going to take pictures and I'm going to submit the project to Altered Couture.  If it isn't accepted, I'll load some pictures to Reader's Closet

    I just wanted to thank you all for your insight, thoughtful suggestions and consideration. 

    - Kate

    1. User avater
      Kate_W | | #18

      2nd Update: Altering Men's Suit Jacket to Women's

      I submitted photos, the jacket, and a short article to Altered Couture.  The results are on p. 109, "Pretty Peplum" of the Feb/Mar/April issue!

      I really enjoy wearing the jacket and thankfully sort of forget how much time it took to modify it when I'm wearing it.   I had the sleeves off and on three times just playing around with getting the look I wanted which was a lot of effort.

      OK.  After reading through the history, it's not just that my project was published, it's that I started and finished ... again, thanks to everyone for the great sounding board.

      - Kate

  6. User avater
    Maripat | | #13

    Oh my gosh that is darling. It is nothing like what I pictured in my head.

    I'm going to Good Will to find something I can use to do the same. I hope you don't mind if I copy!

    1. User avater
      Kate_W | | #14

      Mamie's Jacket?


      I didn't post pictures of my alterations yet ... I think you are looking at a picture of "Mamie's Jacket" and I totally agree.  It is darling!  It is also not like the alterations I did so what you imagined is probably close to the results.

      Have fun with your hunt for a jacket and subsequent alterations.   I learned so much. (I'm currently in the middle or maybe a quarter of the way into altering a shorter women's jacket).  Anyway, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Even if you "copy" it will be yours ...



      1. User avater
        Maripat | | #15

        So true, I just realized that myself!

        Hehe. That's what I get for skimming too fast.

        Are you using the Mamie's Jacket instructions that were mentioned above? If so, where did you find them?

        Have fun with yours too.

        1. User avater
          Kate_W | | #16

          Current alteration is a women's jacket.

          My understanding is that the Mamie's Jacket instructions were in the first issue of Altered Couture which I was unable to locate.  I kinda studied the jacket (for months, not minutes -- BTW, I love your web-site.  It's a bookmarked resource for me, but I digress.)  I studied the jacket, and then did the peplum, layered sleeve, etc.

          The women's jacket I'm working on is so much less involved.  But.  I'm still trying to figure out what direction to go with it.  I'm getting into the whole modification of existing clothing that is minimally but noticeably distressed ... again, I'll be visiting you at LearningAlterations.com.  And thank you -- great photos with clear instructions.  Beautiful.

          Can't wait to see what you come up with. 


          1. User avater
            Maripat | | #17

            Thanks for your kind remarks

            I'm happy you like my website.

            I can't wait for you to post some pictures of your work in progress! This whole idea intrigues me. I wish I had the sport coat back that I made for my husband. When it no longer fit we gave it away. :(

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