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Leather Jacket Alterations – Options and Considerations

You’ve inherited your parent’s favorite leather jacket and are excited to wear it, but it’s too big! What do you do? Alterations can be made to leather jackets to get the right fit and save money. However,  after research, I learned there are some options and considerations to be aware of.

A leather jacket alteration is tailoring leather outerwear for a better fit in size and length. Alterations can be made to the sleeve length, shoulder and chest area, and waist size of a leather jacket. Alterations are affected by leather type, jacket style, and cost, ranging from $25-$150.

Do you have a leather jacket but it’s too big or too small? Let’s explore how to alter a leather jacket for a better fit rather than buying a new one.

What Is a Leather Jacket Alteration?

A leather jacket alteration changes the fit in the arm length, across the shoulders and chest, torso length, and waist circumference. This is usually done when a leather jacket is too big, but it can also be done, to an extent, with a leather jacket that is too small.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • History of Leather Jacket Alterations
  • Leather Jacket Alterations Overview Table
  • Reasons for Leather Jacket Alterations
  • Are Leather Jacket Alterations Difficult?
  • Factors Affecting Leather Jacket Alterations 
  • Types of Leather Jacket Alterations
  • Professional Leather Jacket Tailor
  • How to Alter a Leather Jacket
  • Leather Jacket Alteration Tips
  • How to Avoid Needing Leather Jacket Alterations
  • My Personal Research Into Leather Jacket Alterations
  • Helpful Leather Jacket Alterations Insights
  • Key Takeaways
Sewing Leather With a Sewing Machine - Leather Jacket Alterations - Liberty Leather Goods
Sewing Leather With a Sewing Machine

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

A myth about leather jacket alterations is that anyone can perform this task. This is not necessarily true because leather is more difficult to work with than cotton or polyester, plus there are things to know about leather that don’t apply to other materials.

Another misconception around leather jacket alterations is they can be done to make a jacket bigger or smaller. However, this is only partly true because making a leather jacket bigger is much more challenging than making it smaller. 

History of Leather Jacket Alterations

Leather jackets first arrived in the early 1900s, but they weren’t anything special then. There was a single look that was more of a “one size fits all” made for function and military members. New styles started emerging in the 1920s, and by the time 1990 hit, there were dozens of styles with personalization and different fits.

Alterations of clothing began in the 18th century, which was revolutionized with the invention of the sewing machine in 1790. Leather jacket alterations started in the 1970s as the style expanded and became more popular, thanks partly to popular television shows like Happy Days and “The Fonz.”

Leather Jacket Alterations Overview Table

Leather typeCowhide, deer hide, lambskin, goatskin, bison, calfskin, faux leather
SizeSleeve length, shoulder width, chest width, torso length, waist circumference
StyleSimple, insulation, lining, zippers, pockets, patterns, complex
Leather Jacket Alteration CHaracteristics

Reasons for Leather Jacket Alterations

Many reasons for needing leather jacket alterations exist. In some cases, it’s too large in one or more measurements. The shoulders might be too broad, the sleeves too long, the chest too baggy, or the waist too roomy.

Leather jacket alterations are sometimes done on older jackets because they’ve been handed down to someone else, and it’s too big, or part of the jacket is stretched out. Other reasons for leather jacket alterations include placing pockets, adding insulation, working with ribbing or different accents, and personalization.

Leather is a challenging material to work with and requires special equipment.

Are Leather Jacket Alterations Difficult?

Altering leather jackets isn’t for everyone because leather can be difficult to work with. Leather jacket alterations take special needles and thread, knowing how to work with leather, plus practice and skill. A couple of things to remember are that an alteration can be made where a seam exists, but once a hole is made in leather, it is forever.

Factors Affecting Leather Jacket Alterations 

Altering a leather jacket is not just about having the right equipment and ability to work with leather; several factors can affect the process.

Leather Material

Compared to polyester and cotton, leather is thick and tough and requires the right needle and thread. Horse and cowhide can only be sewn with specialized leather or denim needles without damaging the material. Faux leather is no exception to this.

Jacket Style

The way a leather jacket is styled or put together can make it easy or difficult to alter. Leather jackets that don’t have fancy additions are usually easier to alter. Leather jacket alteration must maintain consistency of:

  1. Insulation
  2. Liners
  3. Zippers
  4. Pockets 
  5. Patterns 


The cost for a leather jacket alteration ranges greatly depending on the complexity of the alteration. Prices range from $25–$150, which is worth it, especially for more expensive leather jackets.

Types of Leather Jacket Alterations

Several types of alterations can be made to leather jackets. A common and straightforward alteration is to the sleeve length. Shoulder width, cuffs, and waist can also be altered for a better fit. Zippers, pockets, and collars can be altered, making other alterations more challenging. A professional leather jacket tailor is best for that perfect, sleek fit.

Professional Leather Jacket Tailor

The best option for leather jacket alterations is a professional leather tailor or craftsman. They have the skills, knowledge, and supplies to complete any alteration one has in mind effectively. According to researchers Brudzynska, Sionkowska, and Grisel, leather has shellac, which is part of the finish of the material that contributes to its strength and water resistance.

Professional leather jacket tailors know how to deal with this and prevent damage during alterations. All it takes is a few measurements, notes for what’s desired, and a little time to get the job done. A professional leather jacket tailor can charge anywhere from $25 for sleeve shortening to $150 for all-over alterations. This is usually cheaper than a high-quality leather jacket, and one can be sure it will be done right. 

How to Alter a Leather Jacket

  1. The process of altering a leather jacket begins with measuring and marking the material with chalk or a fabric marker. 
  2. Open the hem using scissors or a seam ripper. 
  3. Remove the excess fabric. Leave enough leather to allow for a new hem. 
  4. Fold the fresh-cut leather to form the hem and press it with an iron set to warm to hold it in place. 
  5. Sew the new hem in place. 

However, consider this a simplified process for altering a leather jacket, and consulting a professional leather jacket tailor for the best outcome is recommended.

To learn how to shorten the sleeves of a leather jacket by hand, check out this helpful video from Rosceli.

Leather Jacket Alteration Tips

Because it’s challenging to work with, here are some tips for working with leather and altering a leather jacket. These should help if one opts for home alteration versus a professional leather jacket tailor.

  1. Measure often and cut once – There are no takebacks once the leather is cut.
  2. Use the seams – The easiest way to alter a leather jacket is by using seams for alteration points. 
  3. Don’t pin leather pieces together – The holes left will not fade. Use a binder or fabric clips instead.
  4. Use a leather or denim needle and synthetic thread – Thick material like leather requires a heavier needle and strong thread for the best end product.

How to Avoid Needing Leather Jacket Alterations

The best way to avoid needing leather jacket alterations is to start with the correct size. Taking the right shoulders, arms, torso length, and waist measurements can help when buying the appropriate size jacket, even online. Taking proper care of leather jackets can also help with natural stretching with regular wear. 

My Personal Research Into Leather Jacket Alterations

Leather jackets can range from $20 to $1,600, but how much do common alterations cost? It’s probably worth the additional cost, especially if only minor changes are needed. Here is a table representing the average prices of common leather jacket alterations.

Leather Jacket AlterationCost
Sleeve length$20–$30
Chest width$20–$25
Torso length$60–$75
Waist circumference$25–$35
Shoulder width$25–$30
Replace zipper$15–$20
Leather Jacket Alteration Prices

Helpful Leather Jacket Alterations Insights

Can leather jackets be altered?

Yes, leather jackets can be altered by professional tailors and skilled leather workers. Shoulders can be narrowed, sleeves shortened, torso length shortened, waist narrowed, and more. Leather jackets can sometimes be made larger in the same aspects with additional matching material.

Can a tailor adjust leather jackets?

A tailor can adjust leather jackets if they have the right equipment and know how to work with leather. Professional tailors can make many alterations for a better-fitting leather jacket.

How much does it cost to alter leather?

The cost to alter leather depends on many factors, including leather type, the product that needs to be tailored, and the amount of altering. Generally speaking, leather alteration ranges from $25–$250. Altering a leather skirt or pants starts at about $85, leather jacket sleeves about $25, and new hems about $15.

How much does it cost to alter a jacket?

The prices for altering a leather jacket range from about $25 to shorten sleeves to about $150 or more for multiple alterations. Altering a leather jacket is usually much cheaper than buying a new one.

Key Takeaways

  1. Leather is a challenging material to work with and requires special equipment.
  2. Leather jacket alterations can be made for sleeves, shoulders, waist, chest, and torso length.
  3. Professional tailors are best skilled at making leather jacket alterations.

In Closing

Leather jackets never go out of style, and having one altered for a better fit is an excellent investment. Leather is a challenging material and is usually best left to professionals. For as little as $25, your leather jacket can be more comfortable and look better.

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