How to Alter Men's Suit Coats

by Mary Jane ; Updated September 28, 2017

Suit coats need to fit properly to be comfortable.

suit image by AGITA LEIMANE from

Wearing a suit coat or jacket can be a pleasurable experience if the coat fits. Coats can be altered if they are too large in certain areas or if the sleeves are too long. Altering and hemming coats can be done at home by a person who has sewing and hemming experience.

Step 1

Use the seam ripper to rip out the stitching of the lining of the sleeve and the coat hems. This is the interior fabric. Although these seams may be appropriate, this gives access to other hemlines that may need to be altered.

Step 2

Ask the client to wear the coat. Check the fit of the seam in the back.

Step 3

Take in additional seam in the back to tighten the coat. Simply adjust the fit by pinning the seam in the back in one place rather than the entire hemline. On the other hand, if the coat is too tight, use the seam ripper to open the seam in the back. Unfold the previously sewn hemline and decide upon the appropriate seam.

Step 4

Use fabric chalk to mark the adjustments on the outside of the coat. Ask the client to remove the coat.

Step 5

Turn the coat inside out. Find the fabric markings and line up the markings. Secure the fabric together with fabric pins. The chalk lines should line up with each other and be invisible on the back side of the coat. If this is not so, adjust the fabric so the lines are invisible.

Step 6

Turn the coat right side out and ask the client to try on the coat. If it is approved and fits correctly, prepare the sewing machine.

Step 7

Stitch the new seam on the sewing machine. Use your fingers or pins to keep the original seam open if necessary. It may be difficult as it most likely had been pressed in place.

Step 8

Ask the client to try on the coat again. Check the bottom hem of the coat. Depending on the person and the fit, the length of the coat may need to be altered. The bottom line should rest in the palm of the person wearing the coat if the person’s fingers are hugging the bottom line of the coat. If this is not so, adjust the hemline.

Step 9

Use the seam ripper to remove the original stitches and use the pins to hem the fabric to the appropriate length. Ask the client to remove the coat and stitch the hem by hand to get a clean finish.

Step 10

Adjust the sleeves of the coat while the client is wearing the coat. The sleeve lining should stop where the thumb meets the wrist if the person’s arm is hanging relaxed next to the body.

Step 11

Use the seam ripper to remove the original hemline and use the pins to adjust the new hemline. Ask the client to remove the coat and stitch the new hemline by hand.

Step 12

Reattach the original lining of the sleeves to the coat hem lining. The original hem lines and press folds should still be visible and can help guide the hemming and reattachment process. Pin the fabric down if necessary and hand-stitch the lining.

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About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.