Directions For a Woman's Jacket Alteration

Updated July 20, 2017

With the mass production of clothing it may prove difficult to find a perfectly fitted woman's jacket. However, knowing a few alteration tricks can ensure any jacket will feel, fit and look perfect.

Arm and Torso Lengths

When a person's arms are outstretched, the edge of a jacket's fabric ought to reach the base knuckle of the thumb. Common women's jacket lengths seem to hit just above, at or just below the natural hip, but there are many variations.

If the sleeves or length of the body of the jacket are too long, simply pin the fabric to the appropriate length, turn inside-out, and sew with small, even stitches.

If the hems fall too short, turn the garment inside-out and check the hem for extra material. If there is enough, carefully pull out stitching and resew to fit, again with small and even stitches.

Other options include attaching lace, velvet, faux fur or other fabrics of choice for trim to get a bit more length. For sleeves, one also has the option of simply shortening to bracelet or three-quarter sleeve lengths.

Press all newly-sewn edges.


Shoulder alterations on jackets can be tricky. The line of the shoulder on a jacket ought to be plumb with the natural edge of the wearer's shoulder.

In some cases, the line will be plumb, but the shoulder itself too tight; carefully remove shoulder pads and check again. This may be the only adjustment needed.

For jackets with too tight seaming or a seam too close to the neck, turn the garment inside-out and check for additional material. If there seems to be enough fabric, carefully pull loose the stitching. If there is not enough fabric, do not attempt.

With the jacket on (inside-out) have a friend or family member repin the fabric at the appropriate locations as you stand comfortable but with good posture. Take off the jacket and resew along the pinning with even, small stitches.

For jackets with low shoulder seams or that are baggy because the shoulder pads have been removed, again enlist the help of a family member for pinning. Remember to stand relaxed but straight. Take off the jacket and sew.

When altering the shoulders of a garment, there may be additional adjustments made to the top, inner arm seam to ensure there isn't tightness or excess fabric. Routinely check pinnings and adjustments with the jacket on right-side-out while altering.

As above, press all newly sewn edges.


Because of the curves most women have, darting can make a huge difference in the fit of a jacket on the body. Darting is a way to trim off excess fabric, generally in areas, such as under the bustline, where there is a change of angle.

If a garment does not hug your curves, look inside the jacket to determine if there is enough fabric where you need a dart. If there is not, do not attempt. If there is enough fabric,again enlist the help of a friend or family member to mark and pin the appropriate length and direction of the dart.

According to clothing specialists Nadine Hackler and Barbara Taylor, to dart (or adjust a current dart) fabric, cut the fabric if needed, and press open. Take the overlap and make a zigag stitch along the length of the dart.

As before, ticks and pins several times before sewing to ensure a proper fit.

Again, press all new edges.


Depending on the jacket, there may be any number of other alterations needed to make a good fit. Some alterations may only take minutes to fix, while others require more time and expertise. In such cases, it would not hurt to take the garment to a professional.

Some jackets may have fabrics that are simply too delicate for tailoring. Other jackets may require so many alterations that the amount of time spent tailoring seems disproportionate or the nature of the alterations will involve more money than the jacket is worth. In these instances you may be better off with a new jacket.

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About the Author

Midwesterner Jessica James has been writing since 2003. She has written and edited for the literary journal "The Purple Patch" and weekly newspaper "The Versailles Leader-Statesman." James has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Missouri Valley College.