How To Alter A Coat That Is Too Big? [Using Helpful Tools Found At Home]

A tailored coat or jacket is a great way to bring an extra amount of polish and sophistication to your cold-weather outfit.

You don’t need to spend big bucks to alter a coat or jacket that is too big. Follow a few simple steps to make minor adjustments or talk to a professional for more elaborate alterations.

Altering a coat that is too big requires a few steps: Remove the sleeves. Turn that coat inside out. Pin the shoulders, sides, or hem. Sew in the new place and cut off any extra fabric. Reattach sleeves, press with an iron, and enjoy!

Can You Alter A Coat To Make It Smaller?

Yes, you don’t need to be a tailoring expert to alter a coat. Just follow these steps to bring in the sides, hem, or sleeves.

1.Start by removing the sleeves with a seam ripper. It can be helpful to turn the coat inside out so that you can get to the seams easier. Be careful not to pull hard or the fabric might rip.

2.Once the sleeves are removed, turn the coat inside out if you have not already.

3.If you have a mannequin or dress form, put the coat on the model. If not, put the coat on yourself so that you know where to make any alterations.

4.To take in the sides: Pin the fabric on both sides equally to get it to the desired shape. Make sure that you leave enough room to move and take the coat on and off once the alteration is complete.

5.To shorten the hem: Pin the fabric along the bottom at the desired length.

6.Sew along the line of pins, removing them as you sew.

7.Cut off any excess fabric with sharp scissors. It’s best to leave one-half inch of fabric beyond your line of sewing.

8.Iron the seam flat.

9.To shorten the sleeves: Follow the steps to alter the hem on each sleeve.

10.To take in the sleeves: Put the sleeves on and pin to the desired shape. Make sure that you leave enough room to take the coat on and off once the alteration is complete. Sew along the line of pins and press the seam flat with an iron.

11.Pin the sleeves back onto the coat, starting at the top of the shoulder.

12.Sew along the line of pins, removing them as you sew.

13.Turn the coat right-side out and try it on.

14.If you need to make more alterations, make a note and start from the beginning.

What Can I Do If My Coat Is Too Big?

You don’t necessarily need to put that amazing coat back on the rack if it’s a little bit too big. You can alter it down a size (or even two) by taking in the sides, hem, and sleeves.

These are usually sewn onto the seam but can be removed without taking the coat apart.

To actually alter the shoulder, follow these simple steps:

1.Turn the coat inside out and put it on.

2.Pin the top of the shoulder to the desired shape. This is typically a small alteration, only one-quarter inch to one-half inch. You can keep the alteration to the top half of the shoulder to make the coat fit better overall.

3.Sew along the line of pins, removing them as you sew. Taper your sewing so that your new line fades into the existing seam as you only sew the top half of the sleeve (the shoulder part).

4.Remove any excess fabric.

5.Turn the coat right-side out.

6.Press the shoulder while the coat is right-side out. Pay special attention to the definition of the shoulders, since you will want it to look structured.

How Can I Alter A Jacket That Is Too Big?

You can follow the same steps to alter a jacket that is too big, as long as the fabric works well for sewing.

men's coat

If you are altering a jean jacket or another thick material, you may need to purchase a special needle designed to pierce through this type of fabric.

Jean jackets also sometimes have decorative trim or hems, which some sewing machines can do.

Altering A Coat With A Lining

Making changes to a coat that has a lining can be more challenging, but is still a great way to make your coat fit better.

If your coat has a lining, you need to do some additional prep work before you start sewing to get to the seams.

1.Once your coat is turned inside out, remove the lining so that you can access the seams that you want to alter.

For the sides, this means using a seam ripper to take the lining off of the sides. For the hem, do the same thing to the bottom of the coat.

2.After you have made your alteration, sew the lining back onto the new hem or side seam.

You might need to trim the lining if you have taken the coat in a lot. You will typically trim the lining the same amount that you took in or hemmed the coat.

Tip: Only remove the lining from the seam in the places that you need to alter. Let the rest of the lining’s attachment seams remain.

This will help you reattach the lining when you are finished making your changes. It also keeps it lined up and reduces the overall amount of sewing that you will need to do.

Helpful Tools To Alter A Coat That Is Too Big

Seam Ripper

This handy tool is great for cutting through the threads of a seam without damaging the fabric.

Seam Ripper

Sharp Scissors

You will definitely want sharp sewing scissors to cut away any extra fabric. Dull scissors will result in frayed ends.

Sharp Scissors

Sewing Machine

A simple sewing machine can work for most alterations. You can also look into a more advanced machine that can do decorative trims and hems.

simple sewing machine


For minor alterations, a needle and thread may do the trick. While slower, it is still a great way to take care of your clothes.


Garment Chalk

If you know that you will be making a lot of alterations, using garment chalk to mark your desired hems and shapes while your clothes are on you can help with precision and fit.

Garment Chalk

Mannequin/Dress Form

Marking and pinning your clothes on a dress form will help you get a great custom fit without accidentally sticking yourself with pins.

Mannequin/Dress Form

Garment Alterations

You can use these steps to alter just about any garment from coats to jackets. It can even be used for dress shirts!

How Can I Make My Coat Smaller?

Altering a coat that is too big is best done in steps. First, tackle the sides since this is often the area that makes the most difference in fit and shape.

Next, bring up the hem if your coat is too big. Then bring up the hem on the sleeves or narrow the fit if they need to be smaller.

Finally, finish with the shoulders. This helps give the coat a custom-tailored look.

Can A Winter Coat Be Altered?

Altering a winter coat depends a lot on the fabric used. For most fabrics, this method will work just fine.

To alter a wool winter coat, you will probably have to deal with a lining. This adds a few additional steps but the basics remain the same.

If you want to make changes to an active winter coat, you may need to use seam glue or a special coating.

Altering the seams of an outdoor coat might impact its overall ability to remain waterproof or snowproof.

How To Alter A Jacket That Is Too Big?

Jackets can follow the same steps as coats. One of the big differences is that coats are often made of thicker or weatherproof material. This might require a special needle or foot for your sewing machine.

Sometimes jackets are meant to be more structured than other articles of clothing, particularly in the shoulders.

If you are altering the shoulders of a jacket, make sure that you taper your sewing into the existing seam smoothly.

Press the new seam with the jacket turned right-side-out to keep it structured.

How To Alter A Suit Jacket That Is Too Big?

Suit jackets almost always include a lining. Remove the lining from the seam only in the places where you need to make alterations.

This keeps it attached to the jacket overall and will make it easier to reattach it once you are done.

Garment chalk is especially helpful to use when altering suit jackets. Because the drape of the jacket is so important, it’s best to mark and pin your suit jacket while wearing it.

This is why so many tailors measure and mark suit jackets and pants for alterations while they are worn.

Final Thoughts

Altering a coat that is too big is a fantastic way to create a custom-fit with pieces that you already own or ones that you purchase but don’t fit just right.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on a bespoke coat or fancy tailoring to get the perfect fit.

Follow our simple steps to become a high-fashion style and sewing wizard in no time.

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