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Can You Tailor a Leather Jacket – Options to Consider

You’ve found the perfect leather jacket online, and it’s at a great price. It finally arrives, and oh no! It’s too big — but what can one do with a leather jacket that doesn’t fit right? Thankfully, leather jackets can be tailored just like any other article of clothing, but with a few caveats that I will discuss.

A leather jacket can be tailored for custom-fitting leather outerwear. The sleeves can be shortened, and the shoulders through the waist can be taken in and made smaller for an all-over better fit. Leather jacket tailoring prices range from $25–$150, depending on the complexity of the alteration. 

Do you own a leather jacket that is a little too big, and you’re looking for a way to make it fit better? Does your leather jacket fit almost perfectly, but perhaps the sleeves are too long? Let’s review the options for tailoring a leather jacket to get that custom fit.

What Is Tailoring a Leather Jacket?

Tailoring a leather jacket is altering it to fit better in the shoulders, chest, arms, or around the waist. Tailoring a leather jacket is much better done with a leather jacket that is too big than one that is too small. With online shopping and the limited size availability, tailoring a leather jacket may come in handy.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • Factors Determining if You Can Tailor a Leather Jacket?
  • Can You Tailor a Leather Jacket?
  • Leather Jacket Tailoring Techniques
  • Leather Jacket Tailoring Supplies
  • How to Tailor a Leather Jacket Step by Step
  • Tips for Tailoring a Leather Jacket
  • My Personal Research Into Tailoring a Leather Jacket
  • Helpful Insights on Tailoring a Leather Jacket
  • Key Takeaways
Sewing Leather With a Sewing Machine - Can You Tailor a Leather Jacket - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Leather With a Sewing Machine

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One misconception about tailoring leather jackets is that they can be altered whether they are too big or small. However, this is misleading because it’s much more difficult to tailor a too-small leather jacket, and leather stretches with wear.

Another misconception about tailoring leather jackets is that they’re just as easy to tailor as other materials. This is untrue because leather is thicker than cotton and other fabrics, so tailoring a leather jacket is more complicated.

A myth around tailoring leather jackets is that anyone can do it themselves. This is also untrue, as tailoring leather jackets should be left to the professionals due to all the necessary considerations.

Factors Determining if You Can Tailor a Leather Jacket

Leather typeCowhide, horsehide, faux leather
Jacket sizeCustom-fit vs. too big or too small
Jacket structureSimple zippers, ribbing, pockets, lining, insulation
Tailoring a Leather Jacket Characteristics

Can You Tailor a Leather Jacket?

According to researchers Lee and Choi, with online shopping, one can use a touch device to interact with a leather jacket and imagine its feel, but getting the size right is a challenge, and tailoring may be necessary. Therefore, several factors are important to consider when determining if a leather jacket can be tailored. 

Leather Type

Leather is much thicker than cotton or polyester, and the right needles must be used for stitching. Cowhide, horsehide, and other animal hides require leather needles to penetrate the material and stitch it together. A tailor must have the right needles to tailor leather jackets. Even faux leather requires denim needles for the same purpose. Also, once the leather has had a hole poked in it, it will not heal on its own.


The style or structure of a leather jacket is also a big determining factor in how easy or difficult it will be to tailor. Simple leather jackets are easier to tailor as there aren’t as many pockets, ribbing, or special insulation to work around or recreate.

Even with simple leather jackets, liners usually need to be included in the tailoring. More complex leather jackets with these additions and zippers take more time and skill to tailor and recreate when necessary.

Skill Level

Tailoring a leather jacket takes a high skill level and the right equipment and supplies. Working with leather requires knowledge of the material’s nuances, including not using pins to hold pieces together because the holes will become permanent. It’s usually best to leave tailoring leather jackets to professional leather workers and tailors.


Leather jackets are already an investment costing anywhere from $20–$1,600. A tailored leather jacket can cost an additional $25 for an easy job, and up to about $150 for resizing, so it’s important to start with a size closer to what fits than oversized. The cheapest leather jacket tailoring job is shortening sleeves at about $25.

Leather Jacket Tailoring Techniques

So, what types of leather jacket tailoring techniques are there? The first and easiest tailoring job is shortening leather jacket sleeves. Length can also be added to the sleeves with the right materials. The cuffs and waistline can be hemmed and sleeves tapered for a more fitted look.

Pockets and collars can be adjusted or altered, and zippers can be replaced. The side hems can also be altered to remove width from the chest or waist. In all these cases, it’s best to leave it to the professionals for the perfect fit.

It’s much easier to tailor a leather jacket to be smaller than larger.

Leather Jacket Tailoring Supplies

If tailoring a leather jacket sounds appealing and possible, let’s explore what is needed to accomplish this.

  1. Cloth measuring tape
  2. Chalk or fabric marker
  3. Seam ripper or small scissors
  4. Clothing iron
  5. Leather or denim needle
  6. Thread (synthetic is best)
  7.  Fabric scissors
  8. Fabric clips

How to Tailor a Leather Jacket Step by Step

Once all the supplies are ready, it’s time to prepare to tailor a leather jacket. Here’s a simplified step-by-step for the general process:

1.   Measure and mark the leather jacket where tailoring needs to occur.

2.   Open the hem using the seam ripper or scissors.

3.   Cut off the excess leather fabric as marked, leaving enough for hem allowance.

4.   Fold the hem over the newly cut leather and press with the iron on warm.

5.   Sew the hem into the new place.

Much detail goes into tailoring a leather jacket, and simple tailoring, like sleeve shortening, may be doable at home. However, if one isn’t comfortable or doesn’t have the supplies, consider using a professional leather tailor to get the job done right the first time.

Watch this full-length tutorial from Notches Sewing as she tailors a leather jacket smaller from start to finish.

Tips for Tailoring a Leather Jacket

Working with leather can be challenging, and it’s important to keep a few things in mind when working with this material. Here are some tips to help along the way when tailoring a leather jacket:

  1. Use clips instead of pins to hold pieces together. Holes are forever in leather, so when preparing to place pieces together, use clips to prevent making additional holes.
  2. Work where there are seams. Seams can be taken out with a seam ripper and any other material cut out from those locations for an easier fix. 
  3. Use the right needles. Leather and faux leather are thick, so use leather or denim needles to save time and effort, whether done by hand or by sewing machine.
  4. Measure more than you cut. Measure multiple times to ensure the right place to cut. Once the leather is cut, there’s no turning back.

My Personal Research Into Tailoring a Leather Jacket

I’ve owned my fair share of leather jackets, and I can tell you tailoring them is challenging, and I’d rather not do it again. I polled some friends and family about the same thing and asked if they had ever had a leather jacket tailored and why? Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll.

Reasons for Tailoring a Leather JacketTimes Selected
Shorten sleeve length15%
Better all-over fit23%
Smaller waist8%
Smaller shoulders15%
Smaller chest8%
Larger waist and chest8%
Haven’t had a leather jacket tailored23%
Reasons for Tailoring a Leather Jacket

Helpful Insights on Tailoring a Leather Jacket

Can tailors make leather jackets smaller?

Tailors can make leather jackets smaller and sleeves shorter. It’s best to start with a jacket that is only slightly too big rather than oversized to save some money. The simpler the jacket style, the less the tailoring will cost. A tailor can make a leather jacket smaller in the shoulders, chest, waist, sleeve length, and sleeve width.

Can a tailor shorten leather jacket sleeves?

Tailors can make leather jacket sleeves shorter. All it takes is trimming off the extra length and reattaching the cuffs. This gets more challenging if there are zippers or ribbing on the sleeves where it will be altered.

How hard is it to tailor a leather jacket?

Tailoring a leather jacket is not as easy as tailoring a shirt. It takes the right supplies and the knowledge of working with leather to do it correctly; this takes skill and practice. However, wherever there is a seam, tailoring can be done.

Key Takeaways

  1. Leather jackets can be tailored to fit better in the arm length, shoulder width, chest width, torso height, and waist.
  2. It’s much easier to tailor a leather jacket to be smaller than larger.
  3. Tailoring a leather jacket is usually best left to the professionals.

In Closing

If a leather jacket is a little too big or has been stretched with wear in your closet, it can be tailored for an improved fit. Consider the original price of the jacket plus the cost of tailoring vs. buying a brand-new leather jacket, and I’m sure anyone can find a leather professional nearby. Would you try tailoring a leather jacket on your own?

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