How to make a pirate coat

Updated July 20, 2017

Pirating was at its peak between the 16th and 18th centuries during the Age of Exploration. This is the age of Christopher Columbus and the seafaring explorers who searched for gold and spices for the European royalty. Pirates were outlaw sailors, and their clothing reflected the life they led. Only the captain had the luxury of fashion. Crewmen needed practical, close fitting clothing that would give them freedom of movement while they worked. No matter what their rank, all pirates wore the clothing they came by, through illegal means or not. Clothing in pristine condition was rare on a pirate ship.

Purchase a coat at a charity shop. Choose a two-button sport coat with a single back vent in a size larger than you would normally wear.

Try the coat on. Button the top button of the coat. Fold the collar and lapels to the inside and secure with pins.

Shape the coat facings: Grasp the front bottom corners of the coat and fold them back near the middle of the pockets. Pin them in place. Check how they look in the mirror and adjust to your taste. Fold both edges of the back vent to the outside and secure with pins.

Baste all the alterations with needle and thread.

Make large pirate cuffs with the contrasting fabric and sew them to the sleeves. Line the front and back facings with contrasting fabric.

Sew trim around the edges of the cuffs and straight up and down both sides of the front of the coat. Sew gold buttons on the front and back facings.


Pirates loved to break laws, including the rules of fashion. In 1574 Queen Elizabeth of England dictated new sumptuary laws that governed the fabrics and colours each class could wear. Purple silk was reserved for royalty. Dukes could wear scarlet velvet. Common people were limited to wool or linen dyed in blue, grey and earth tones. Pirates limited themselves to what they could steal.

Things You'll Need

  • Thrift store sport coat
  • Straight pins
  • Contrasting fabric
  • Assorted trims: braid, lace, ribbon
  • Gold buttons
  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
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About the Author

A museum educator, Sandy Martiny has written exhibition guides for families and curriculum materials for k-12 teachers. She was a teaching artist in urban schools and co-founder of Studio Heights, an organization that encouraged community members and children to collaborate with artists on public works of art. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and earned her M.F.A. from Bard College.