Archive for the ‘altered clothing’ Category

During this COVID crisis, I have been the one who has been masking up (and covering my hair and wearing gloves) and going out as infrequently as we can manage. Even with that as our main plan, we wanted to have some mask options for my father, just in case.

He has a full beard so I needed something that would cover that and still give some droplet protections both for him and anyone around him. This is the very simple and fast option I went with and he finds it easy and comfortable to wear.

The base is a SNL t-shirt that he liked but that was a bit on the tight side for fit. This shirt had a tight neckline so it is able to sit over the nose and head and gives a decent seal. I just ran a pair of seams directly down from the inside edge of the neckline. The seams come down on a slight downwards angle so the mask flares a bit at the bottom. I wanted to keep the printed design so the shirt was cut off just below it. The back is shorter but still fully covers the neck. The edges were turned under and sewn down, but this isn’t really needed with the heavy weave jersey fabric.

Lastly, long strips were cut out of the leftover short and stretched to make ties. They were then roughly sewn into place on the neckline and so it can be tied to secure it.

The fabric is heavy enough that it gives decent blockage without restricting his breathing and fully covers and contains his beard. He wears glasses so it is held down over his nose but if you are not a glasses wearer, inserting a nose wire would do the same job. If you are using a lighter fabric, or need to wear a mask in high traffic areas, it is easy to salvage a rectangle of fabric from the rest of the shirt and sew it as a liner over the nose and mouth area. This could be done with rough hand sewing and would be very quick.

We were happy to have a way to not only give him a comfortable mask option but also refashion a fave printed t-shirt!

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Another very simple example of a men’s shirt being merged with a skirt to make a plus sized casual dress. The starting shirt was a 2X and short sleeved. (I typically only go for long sleeves but I liked the colours of this one enough to take it even without them) The skirt was a medium ladies in a light cotton and was very flared so there was plenty of fabric for me to work with.brownprint2

I’d had other altering plans for the shirt but when I found the skirt, they were such a perfect match that I had to just go with combining them.

The shirt was already a good fit for me so the side seams were just opened from below the waist and triangles of the skirt fabric were added. The bottom edge was also cut to a straight line. I like a knee length dress for over leggings so the skirt was cut off about 18” from the bottom hem, which gave enough running length for the widened shirt. As is typical for these pieces, the bottom edge of the shirt was folded under and the top edge of the skirt set behind so they could be joined and finished with a single straight seam.

I was lucky to have a set of vintage fibre optic buttons in the stash that were the exact red tones of both parts so they really pulled it all together and dressed it up at the same time!

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My next leather jacket alter was a concept that I’d had kicking around in my brain for a couple of years. A Steampunk punk jacket. A perfectly sized antique Ontario flag gave me my theme which was “Canada”. (this was also finished right before the 150 birthday celebrations)steamjacket2

I started with a dark brown men’s jacket that had a very traditional cut. The flag covered the top of the back and the official motto in Latin was painted below. I’d planned to go with full Victorian style painted font but I loved how the freehand guide layer looked so just left it.

A pair of epaulettes were made with a slightly darker faux leather, brass gears and bits and then fringing to match the period military style and were added to the shoulders.steamjacket3

The right breast was covered in a bunch of gold metal fleurs-de-lis. A large red maple leaf was painted below. The left side has a collection of small patches and metal pieces. (including a penny button) More pieces are on the collar and arms.steamjacket4

I shaped it slightly at the waist to give it more of a period look and added a simple leather belt with a brass buckle. The buttons were replaced with a mix of brass Canadian military ones.

A bit of distressing and painted “dirt” gave it some more character and finished it off.

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Another of the shirt/skirt merges to make a plus-sized dress. This was a case where I used a skirt that had a very dramatic pattern but paired it with a fairly dull man’s shirt and they balanced each other out to make a professional looking dress.deco2

The base shirt was a men’s 3X, so it needed very little widening at the bottom and fit loosely around my chest and upper arms.

The skirt had a small waistband but flared out to a full bottom and had a strong pattern. In this case, I was able to figure out what length I wanted the finished dress to be, which was to my knees. I cut the skirt off at the length I needed and then measured it’s running length. That gave me how much I had to open the bottom of the shirt. Long triangles were made out of the top section of the skirt and were inserted into the sides of the shirt below the waist. (If I’d wanted to push up the formal look of this one, I could have put in some fitting darts above the waist but since my life is mostly casual, I opted for a more relaxed fit) The bottom of the shirt was cut to a straight line and has a simple folded seam over the top edge of the skirt cut-off.deco4

The sleeves were cut off at just below my elbow and then I made simple straight cuffs for them out of the leftover skirt top.

It was still looking a bit dull so the existing pocket was taken off and replaced with more of the skirt scraps. Using a piece from the top waistband gave a nice finished edge to the top.deco5

The collar was removed and then closed to make a simple mandarin look. I was lucky to have a set of buttons in a turquoise that matched the skirt so they were swapped in to tie it all together!

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My very first altered jacket had found a home and I was ready to get started on more. The second was straightforward because it was very much a copy of the first. The base jacket in this case was a bomber style in a lovely brown leather that already had a some nice, genuine wear. It was also a men’s XL which I loved, since it gave a bigger range of people who can wear it. (I’ve also found that some of the nicer “geek” clothing often isn’t made into the plus sizes so I specifically wanted to have that be an option)


The official Firefly embroidered patch set that had started the whole concept had all 4 of Wash’s flight suit patches. I’d used 2 on the first jacket and that left another pair. In all cases, I placed the patches as close to screen accurate as I could and then added in several other vintage ones that I thought suited the design. For this, the second version, one official patch went below the right shoulder and the second partway down the left arm.

This jacket again, had the Blue Sun logo on the back and left breast. Rather than going for another patch right below the “Wash” one on the right sleeve, a version of the Browncoat insignia was painted along the forearm.


I made up rank pieces for the shoulders and distressed some funky little metal pieces to make additional ones for the collar. The shoulder ones were I think salvaged from vintage furniture, they already had worn paint over their metal, and then silk ribbon was added to make colour details. The collar tabs were some earrings that I roughed up a bit with sandpaper and then let sit in vinegar and salt for a few days. This dulled the shine and gave some nice rust detail.


The existing wear meant less work on distressing but I still added some cuts, “bullet” holes and “energy weapon” damage. All were patched in different ways and using different fills for the holes so it was consistent with long term wear and repair. Lastly, it was also “dirtied” up and then sealed so it could be worn as a regular coat.

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I’ve loved the few men’s plaid shirts that I’ve altered to fit my plus-sized self, and could always use more as tops during the colder months, so here is another that didn’t become a dress!


The base shirt was pretty plain, so it got hit with a bleach ombre. In this case, it reacted strongly to the bleach so the fade is not very gradual and there isn’t much of a different colour showing up on the bleach edge.

The pale cream tones of the faded sections tied nicely to some of the Stratford Festival scraps that had a soft linen look with a matching blue. For simplicity, the sleeves were cut off at the elbows and strips of the scraps were attached as cuffs. The upper arms and top of the shirt were a good fit, so the side seams were only opened to below the arms and large, long triangles added in to widen the bottom.


The only other thing was that the buttons were replaced with slightly more interesting black and cream ones. That’s it! a simple few alters and it was ready to go.

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My first altered jacket was a “Firefly” themed leather bomber. I wasn’t sure how well the altering and distressing techniques I was planning to use would work, and if the finished jacket would still be wearable, so it seemed safer to start with a smaller trial and I used a vintage men’s small/medium. The slimmer fit limited who could wear it. I had planned to use it as an example for custom work but it did find a home. It’s new owner was a cosplayer and was also kind enough to let me take some shots of him in it too! (the rest of the outfit is his, except for my raygun) Model: Jack Sabbath.


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A while ago, I decided I wanted to combine a number of different techniques, as well as trying some new ones, and attempted to alter a leather jacket. I like to both have a general concept for any new type of project and it helps if there is a specific item to lead the way. In this case, it was a set of official, embroidered patches that were copies of the ones on the flight suit of Wash, the spaceship pilot in the series “Firefly”. The set was perfect for someone who wanted to do a totally accurate cosplay copy of the flight suit but I knew I would never use them that way. Rather than just keep them as a collectible, I wanted to use them to make a real, wearable leather jacket, into something that could be used for regular wear, but still would work as part of a costume.


The concept was that it would be the jacket of someone who went through some of the same pilot training as Wash, but had gone their own way. They had worked for the Blue Sun corp at some point, and this was possibly a company issued coat that they had altered, so it had their logo on the back and left breast. The show had a limited run, and a great range of costume options that I felt pretty free to make things up since there was so much that was never shown. Rank insignia was done using metal scraps and silk ribbons. Instead of an official style patch, the Browncoat logo was painted on the left arm. “Energy weapon” damage was added by carefully burning cuts in the leather and then patching it with scraps and in some cases, metal wire. A bullet hole was added and the whole thing was then distressed and dirtied up.



I’ve seen a number of post-apocalyptic jacket distressors who will do things like drag coats behind cars and run over them, which is one way to go, I suppose. I’ve found that careful use of various roughness’s of sandpaper and acetone do the same job. Then some layers of “dirt” and “dust” are applied and sealed to finish the “I was a rebel solider on a desert moon and survived” look.


I was really happy with the finished look, but as always, it was a learning experience which I carried over to later jackets!

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This was another of the experimental shirt dresses. In this case I used three different base parts. A hoodie, a man’s shirt and some floral cotton salvaged from an 80’s dress. (I also used some of the dress fabric on this more formal shirt dress)


The hoodie had the hood removed. The sleeves were cut off at the elbows and the side seams were cut all the way out. This opened up the remaining sleeves and the cut-off fore-arm fabric was used to make them bigger. The now-wider sleeves were then finished with a band of the floral cotton. More of the floral fabric was used to add panels along the sides to widen the body of the dress.


The second shirt was completely plain and very close to the base colour of the hoodie. The sides of the front and the back were cut into large panels. The sleeves were opened up and made into rectangles the same length as the body panels. This provided enough running length to make a nice long skirt for the dress.


The floral dress had long, tapered ruffles over it’s shoulders and one of them was used to make a new neckline. A few antique mother of pearl buttons and some flower shapes cut from the leftover hoodie fabric tied it together with the rest of the dress.


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Another men’s shirt refashion! This is very similar to my last plus-sized shirt dress. Again, the base was a fairly plain man’s shirt. It was a 2X so the fit on the top of the arms and across the chest was fine but I wanted to open it up around the hips.


The shirt was so plain that I decided to use one of the more dramatic fabrics in the stash. There was a very nice chunk of a silky polyester with a vibrant paisley print in the Stratford Festival scraps. The pieces of it were big enough for me to make a couple of large wedges that were inserted in the sides to widen the shirt. The sleeves were cut off at elbow length and the cuffs were salvaged. I added them back on to the bottom of the sleeves and small scraps of the bright paisley accent the rest of the cuff space. One more piece was used to make a heart to decorate the front pocket.


To make the skirt part of the dress, a small textured skirt was removed from it’s waistband. It’s seams were opened up and made into 3 pieces. It was too small to fit the full run of the expanded bottom. To fill in, the lining fabric was cut into two pieces and lightly gathered. It was sewn along the bottom of the inserts then sewn in line with fancier pieces on the shirt sections.  The shirt was cut to a straight line and folded under with the bottom fabric set behind it before running the seam. This gives a nice finished look to it.


The last thing was to change out the buttons. I went with a set in dark burgundy that matched the colours in the accent fabric. It’s really surprising to me how much of a difference in the final feel, changing to dressier buttons makes!

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