Refashion Weekend: Lace-Backed Jacket Tailoring (With Fake-to-Real Pockets photo tutorial)

TWO refashions in the same week? Be still, my beating heart.

Today’s refashion isn’t a drastic transformation from one garment to another, like my sweatshirt-to-tube-top refashion. Instead, it’s a look at how even a cheapo, ill-fitting jacket from one of the box stores (I forget which one, it was something like Forever 21 or H&M) can look like an expensive knockout piece with some tailoring. And, more importantly, it’s a look at how to add pockets to a piece that has those annoying fake pockets.

If you want to read the saga of the jacket, read on. If not, scroll down until you see boldface to see the pocket tutorial.

My friend gave me a jacket she didn’t want because it just didn’t quite look as good as she thought it would. The concept is pretty nice; a light, one-button blazer with a lace back and princess seams.

It's ok...

It’s ok…

But not great. And it's surprisingly uncomfortable since it doesn't fit right. Too tight in some places, too loose in others.

But not great. The back really shows that off. And it’s surprisingly uncomfortable since it doesn’t fit right. Too tight in some places, too loose in others.

Side note: It’s really hard to take self shots with a tablet camera! Especially of black clothing. Thank goodness my real camera finally turned up, but it was too late for this jacket’s before shots. Alas, for you miss out some of the details. If you look really closely in the first shot,  you can see that the princess seams are sticking out/pointing outward and giving my bust a strange, almost pointed shape, for example.

The first thing I did was get rid of the shoulder pads. (This jacket was bought recently, by the way. With shoulder pads!)

Why are shoulder pads still a thing?

Why are shoulder pads still a thing?

Next, I ripped out the elastic ruching in the sleeves. Unfortunately, the sleeves now end just a little shy of where I like them to, but it’s an improvement.

So odd. They weren't quite elbow-length, weren't quite wrist-length, weren't quite 3/4-length...

So odd. They weren’t quite elbow-length, weren’t quite wrist-length, weren’t quite 3/4-length…

Then, the back band had to go. It was too tight, making the whole jacket too small for the shoulder size. Plus, the lace is stretchy, so why someone put a back band on it is beyond me. So I picked the lining and the shell apart and removed the back band, leaving two holes.

Such an odd feature.

Such an odd feature.

Of course, the lace in the back may be elastic, but that didn’t stop someone from putting in way too much of it. Possible explanation, I think originally the lace was supposed to gather underneath the band and then flare out at the bottom. Which just looked… terrible. (See the before pictures!)

Pocket tutorial begins here!
Welcome back, if you just scrolled this far.

At first I wasn’t totally sure about the pockets in the front. I cut open the seam, hoping against hope that they’d turn out to be real pockets, sewn shut like on dressy clothes.

As you can see, this is not a pocket.

This is not a pocket.

abhor fake pockets. I know they’re supposed to add a touch of expensiveness without sacrificing the line of the garment, (and it’s cheaper than adding a whole pocket) but I hate them. Plus, I couldn’t decide if I even liked the placement or not. But they turned into my favorite thing about the garment: Functioning pockets in the front that are just perfect for putting my hands, some cash and an ID in!

I’m so happy; never again will I suffer from fake pocket syndrome. Makes the Male Compatriot happy, too; I can tell it kind of annoys him when I use him as my external purse (due to my utter inability to keep track of a real purse), so I try to do so as little as possible.

The process:

Find some spare fabric. I have a fair amount of acetate lining lying around from disassembling things. Unfortunately, the only colors I have at the moment are black, orange and dark purple and navy. The orange was very Halloweeny and the purple and navy weren’t contrasty enough, so I went with boring black.

Measure width

Measure width of fake pocket welts on the jacket and the height from the welts to the bottom of the garment (or however long you want your pockets; the bottom of my jacket was really close so there wasn’t much room to stuff huge pocket bags).

Mark the width and height, and draw curved lines connecting the length and height (make sure they're symmetrical, unlike mine here)

Mark the width and height on your lining fabric and draw curved lines connecting the marks (make sure they’re symmetrical, unlike mine here, which I had to fix when cutting).

Cut 4

Cut 4 (2 for each pocket, obviously)

Stitch around the curved edges a few times for reinforcement*

Stitch around the curved edges a few times for reinforcement. I then turned mine right-side out and topstitched so the bag would lay flatter. Side note: Acetate frays. Like crazy. Sew the pockets right away after cutting — if you look at acetate for too long, it will spontaneously fray.

2009-01-01 00.00.00-94 (JessieMartin's conflicted copy 2013-04-16)

I found the hole leftover from an earlier step (or, carefully cut into the side seam of your garment as near to the pocket as you can get), and pull the front of the jacket through.

This is the most complicated part. Hopefully this picture makes it easy!

This is the most complicated part. Hopefully this picture makes it easy!

Here's what it will look like from the right side, before you push the pocket bag inside the pocket.

Here’s what it will look like from the right side, before you push the pocket bag inside the pocket.

Then I just handstitched those side holes up, and I called it done.

The front doesn’t lay quite as flat, admittedly. It’s really close, though.

See? The one on the right is fully assembled, the one on the left hasn't even been cut open yet. There's not much difference.

See? The one on the right (facing the camera) is fully assembled, the one on the left hasn’t even been cut open yet. There’s not much difference.

I’m not 1000% happy with the finished product though. I decided to let the excess lace swing loose both because I think it’s something different than the standard lace-back top and also because making the back fitted would either entail adding a seam straight down the middle or completely removing the lace back and re-cutting it. I might do that in the future, for a few reasons:

  • Making the back fitted might help the jacket stay in place when I move around; as is, it pulls up to my boobs when I raise my arms.
  • The above is mostly due to the strangely wide armscythe, but I can’t figure out how to bring the sleeves in without bringing them up, which makes them too small. I’d also have to resize the top of the shoulders just a little bit, which would be a ton of work; recutting the back might be easier.
  • The loose, swinging lace is really romantic and girly for my style, I think a fitted back would be more polished/sophisticated.

But I haven’t decided yet. I may just leave it as is — look how much better it looks than it did an hour ago!

2009-01-01 00.00.00-112 (JessieMartin's conflicted copy 2013-04-16)

As a side note, I wouldn’t wear the jacket like this out in public, but I decided to go all “high fashion runway impractical” for these photos. It really shows the difference; before, there was no way to wear the jacket without flashing boobs and tummy, now, everything’s nicely tucked in.

Side note two: Designers never show you these styles of jackets from an angle. They look AWFUL unless, I suspect, you’ve built in some boob-lifting-and-squishing mechanisms. Without them, a 3/4 angle just looks pornographic, even if you aren’t actually showing anything.

Straight on back

Straight on back – Lightyears better.

Swingin' lace back

Swingin’ lace back

Do you think it’s worth it to spend time tailoring an inexpensive garment? Or is it better to just buy better quality or make your own from scratch?

And as always, if you use my tutorial, feel free to send me a picture! I’d love to see if anyone’s getting some use out of this blog.

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