Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

Updating suit jacket

neve | Posted in Fitting on

Hi all. I have a beautiful wool suit jacket that has the large shoulder pads so popular when I bought it 12 years ago. I’ve
never worn it(wince) but it’s in great shape and my pocket book
is not!

Can more experienced sewists advise on how to remove the pads
and reshape the shoulders for an updated look?
Thanks all.


  1. starzoe | | #1

    Oh My! How did you know that I have just finished such a project. I found a suit at a consignment store, beautiful fabric, half price, could have been custom made to fit me - except for those large shoulders.It was tailored so had lots of padding, interlinings, and very well sewn together. I first unpicked the lining and sleeve head down to about the underarm curve. Then removed the shoulder pads. I was able to cut them down to use them.I resewed the shoulder line to get rid of the extra pad space.At this point I got out my Threads magazines and found a couple of articles that dealt with this and found I was on the right track except for the suggestion that it is easier to work if the lining is unpicked at the hem instead of working with the sleeve lining in my way. I didn't do this and later on I wished I had listen to the expert!The alteration you have to make is to get rid of the extra overhang at the shoulder. I didn't cut anything off until the last step (just in case). The sleeve head is then replaced. Because the shoulder seam is now shorter the sleeve head in most cases will not have to be reduced, but I found that to re-adjust the sleeve in place I had to take off a centimeter only around the top and placed a basting stitch to take up any extra (there was a very little), then the sleeve was sewn in place in its new location, angling down to the original stitching at the curve.The jacket had a princess seam but there was too much room on the underarm so I had to take in just the part next to the underarm and adjusted the curve for my lower bustline. This took up to a hundred try-ons and although I borrowed a dress form it was of little use. It would have been very nice to have a knowledgeable friend around for the fitting part.The last thing I needed was a suit but now I have a beautiful jacket which will go with almost everything, it is black with a very thin pinstripe. There's a skirt too which fits beautifully but I won't be wearing it with the jacket. And I guess I had fun!

    1. neve | | #3

      Thanks starzoe. What a timely question! There's one thing
      I'm not clear on...should I unpick the hem of the sleeve lining or
      unpick the hem of the jacket lining?

      1. starzoe | | #5

        The article suggested unpicking the hem of the jacket enough so you can pull it up and work on the sleeve without being hampered by the sleeve lining (like I was). I really don't know if this works better or not.

        1. neve | | #6

          Thanks starzoe; I'm ready to take on this challenge now. Neve

    2. Digi | | #7

      Thanks Starzoe, for a truly great description re how to update an old jacket.  I have only one question:  Which Threads issue did you find the article that gave you the help you needed, albeit a bit late?  I have all of mine for about 20-years, and I'd like to go back and take a look.

      Thanks again for helping a lurking sewing ...waiting for a solution to yet another challenge. ;-)

      1. starzoe | | #8

        Threads #86 p. 20 has some information. There was another one which I remember spending a lot of time with the index (sometimes it is quite quirky) but it is a blouse, yellow I think and heaven knows where it is filed! Sorry about that. Hope the above helps.

        1. Digi | | #9

          Thanks so much for sharing the number of the issue with that information in it; I will check it out and no doubt use it for my "make-over".  I never wore this jacket with the huge shoulder pads and extended shoulders either, but bought it on sale as I loved the wool fabric and otherwise great design. 

          I bought a matching skirt as well, although they didn't have my size so I bought the only one left, which was six sizes too large.  So I just took it all apart and cut a new skirt from one of my favorite skirt patterns; no problem there!

          Thanks again for sharing.

          1. starzoe | | #10

            You and I seem to find the same challenges! This is exactly how it happened with me. I did not need a black pinstripe jacket with matching skirt. I may never wear the jacket but right now I am searching ways to make it look less formal-businesslike. Maybe with a scarf. Good luck with your project.

          2. Digi | | #11

            Have you thought of using black ultra suede trim somewhere?  For example, using it as a narrow binding up the front and around the neckline as well as around each sleeve edge?  (I hope I've described what I mean, here). 

            I've done that and it looks very nice.  It makes the jacket look more sporty ...sort of like a "riding" jacket ...and looks great with slacks.  I then made a camisole to match the binding, which really finished off the outfit.  A turtle neck sweater of the same color as the binding also looked great.  Just a thought ....

          3. starzoe | | #12

            That's a great idea - I have quite a stash of different coloured ultrasuede as my friend, who works in a thrift store, gets suits and coats for me.

          4. Digi | | #13

            I also got another idea from an old Threads (I haven't tried this one yet) and finally found the issue:  It is in January 2001, issue #92 at the bottom right hand corner of page #33.  It shows an example of bar-tack abutted seams ...which would also be great using ultra suede. 

            The name of the article is: "Abstract Fabric Collage" by Kayla Kennington.  I think I might try this on the side edges (below waist to hip) on another more formal jacket I have that is a bit too "stiff" for my style these days.  I will simply open that side seam from the waist down and poof...a more casual look!   Of course, I'll need to add a bit of ultra suede in other places as well ...and I won't add it from the waste down entirely either; just the last 6-inches or so on the side of the jacket.

            Edited 3/19/2008 1:22 pm ET by Digi

          5. starzoe | | #14

            Thanks for the information. It won't do for this jacket but I have done something like that to close slits in long skirts. Instead of the bar tacks, I used small buttons. Nothing worse than seeing someone walk down the street exposed to the thighs. I sometimes think the majority of women out there do not have a full length mirror - maybe only sewers do!

  2. Beavette | | #2

    This is a great way to update a look from the past. This is how I do it...... To adjust the jacket to fit without the shoulder pad, to remove the pad, open up the sleeve seam at the shoulder/arm. The sleeve is what needs adjusting along with the front and back torso. The cap of the sleeve will need to be made smaller. The top of the sleeve cap(the rounded part will have a steep curve, this needs to be lowered but kept round.(if you have a sleeve pattern from another garment without a pad you can use that as a reference to how low the cap should be) Otherwise you will be deducting the thickness of the pad from the cap height on the sleeve. You then want to also minus the pad thickness measurement from the front and back torso at the sleeve edge, then sew it all back up. I will scan a page from my design book of this procedure, but do it in reverse, because this information is for adding a shoulder pad.
    I have redone jackets to update them and another thing to do is raise the jacket hemline, and to put more modern buttons on the jacket. This completely gives an old style a new pow factor.

    1. neve | | #4

      Beavette: thank you for your suggestions and the attachment;
      it really helped. I also like the idea of new buttons and new
      shorter hem line. The jacket will look like new (I hope!)

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All