Altering the Shoulders on a Jacket

A customer brought me two jackets to take in at the shoulders.

Both of these jackets had shoulder pads, too, which she wanted removed.

You don’t see those much anymore!

She tried the jacket on and I put a pin marking the spot where she wanted the sleeve to be moved to.

See the white pin head about one inch in from the armscye (sleeve seam)?

This customer is a very classy lady and I know this jacket probably cost a pretty penny.

But, doesn’t it just scream “80’s” to you?!

Let’s get started.

The first thing you want to do is, turn the jacket inside out.

You are going to open up the forearm seam.

Open it up about 5 or 6 inches using your seam ripper.

Then, pull the shoulder area out so you can work on it.

Unsew the lining seam:

If you have sewn blouses or jackets with a pattern, you know that there are notches on the pattern of the sleeve.

This diagram shows how far you should take the seam out:

You don’t have notches on your sleeve, but you can eyeball the distance.

Next, take out the shoulder pads.

These particular ones were made of foam rubber!

That’s the first time I’ve seen foam rubber shoulder pads….ick!

They just disintegrated:

Shoulder pads are usually just attached with tacking threads.

Just clip those threads to free the pads.

In rare cases, however, you may have to open up the shoulder seam, take out the shoulder pads and restitch the seam together again before doing any alterations.

Once you take out the shoulder pad, you’ll notice that there are a few items you may not be familiar with.

One of them might be the white interfacing strip (or a strip of seam tape).

It is there for support

The second might be a  flannel-like sleeve cap (or one made of a similar material).

In this case, it is the grey fabric strip:

This gives the sleeve stability and shape.

Take that off.

Before you take apart the shoulder seam, put in a tailor tack at the top of the sleeve.

You will put it in directly across from the shoulder seam.

You need this tack in order to match up the sleeve after you make the alteration:

Next, match up the tailor tack mark to the pin mark on the shoulder:

Be sure you are matching the seam allowance of the sleeve to the pin mark, not the cut edge of the fabric to the pin  mark.

Next, pin the sleeve all around the arm seam.

To sew, just stitch over the original seamline. It will work great.

If for some reason, your sleeve doesn’t match up to the armhole, make a deeper seam in the shoulder seam first.

To do that, put a pin down from the shoulder seam (in this case, 1/2″ away from the shoulder seam).

Stitch from somewhere near the neckline out to the edge of the shoulder, tapering in a smooth manner before reaching where the pin mark is.

Then, rip out the original stitches and “finger” press the new seam open so it lays flat.

Then, stitch the new seam of the arm (from imagined notch to imagined notch) to close it up:

Don’t forget to get the grey matter in there!

Once you’ve sewn that seam, check how the sleeve looks by turning the farment right side out again.

If it looks good, trim off the excess fabric:

If your jacket came with these “stays” (this one has blue stays), be sure and sew those back on. One end should be sewn to the jacket on the seam allowance and the other end gets sewn to the shoulder seam allowance.

These keep the jacket and lining from straying too far from each other.

Stitch the opening closed in the sleeve lining.

Make the same alterations to the remaining sleeve and the lining on both sides of the jacket.

It is easier than it sounds and I hope it gives you incentive to give it a try!

Update: 2/28/12:

Below in the comment section, you’ll see a comment from a Linda M.

Here are the photos which go along with her comment.

She adds pleats in the seams to take in the extra fullness.

Its another option if your customer would like that look.

Since one of you posted a reply asking for photos, here they are:

You can see how they look in the photos above.

Thanks Linda, for sending those to me.