How to Make a Straight Jacket as Used in the Movies

Written by shellie braeuner Google
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How to Make a Straight Jacket as Used in the Movies
Making a straitjacket doesn't have to drive you crazy. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

A staple of magicians and horror movies, the straitjacket once controlled psychiatric patients. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, the straitjacket seemed more humane than the metal chains and cuffs previously used. The jacket also gave the patient more freedom of movement than tying him to a bed or chair. Today the only time you are likely to see a straitjacket is at a Halloween party. They make fun and easy costumes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Button down shirt one size too large
  • Seam ripper
  • Button down shirt that fits
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • 6 thin black or brown belts
  • Leather sewing machine needles

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Use the seam ripper to remove the pocket and all the buttons from the shirt that is too large for you. Use the seam ripper to remove the collar.

  2. 2

    Fold the button and button hole plackets of the shirt toward the inside. Pin them in place and stitch them down. Fold the collar tab inside the shirt. Pin and stitch in place.

  3. 3

    Cut the sleeves from the smaller shirt. Lay one of the smaller sleeves on top of a larger sleeve and slide the smaller sleeve toward the cuff of the larger sleeve. Slide the smaller sleeve until the width at the top of the smaller sleeve matches the width of the larger sleeve. Cut off the bottom of the larger sleeve, leaving a 1-inch overlap. Trim the top of the smaller sleeve to make it straight. Pin and stitch the smaller sleeve to the larger one. Repeat with the other side.

  4. 4

    Buckle four belts and make a cut opposite the buckle. Lay the belts on the front of the shirt so that the buckled portion of the belt lays over the split in the front of the shirt. Trim the ends of the belts so that they all line up. Mark the places on the shirt with a water-soluble sewing pen. Switch the needle on the sewing machine to a leather needle and stitch the belts in place.

  5. 5

    Sew the ends of the sleeves closed. Cut a fifth belt in half and sew one side of the belt to the end of the right sleeve and one to the end of the left sleeve.

  6. 6

    Buckle the last belt together and cut it in half. Stitch the cut end of the buckle half of the belt to the back of the shirt. Place the belt so that it lies vertically just below the center back of the shirt. Sew the other cut end of the belt directly below it to the bottom of the shirt back.

  7. 7

    Put the shirt on backwards. Buckle the belts behind you. Cross your arms through the belt on the front of the shirt. Pull the sleeves so that the belt pieces at the end of the sleeve buckle behind your back.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose soft, thin leather belts to make sewing easier.
  • Stitch slowly over the leather to prevent the needle from bending and breaking.
  • Even though it's simply a shirt, this straitjacket is difficult to get out of on your own. Be sure to leave room to pull one hand out of the sleeve. Or make sure you have a friend that can get you out of the jacket.

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