Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?
Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier.
That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand.
Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets – be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers – and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives.
If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face.