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Faking a Tacky Western Jacket

One of the joys of live theater is that there is always the possibility that something might go catastrophically wrong. I costumed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a few months ago. Monday of tech week, the day after the production photos were taken, one of the two leading ladies went into the hospital. She was, obviously, replaced. Her replacement could not fit the same costume – the size was off, and she played the character differently. That sort of left me scrambling for a new concept (I settled on something around early Loretta Lynn meets GCB) and a some western wear that didn’t fall into my budget. Bring on the franken-jacket!

The Thrift Gods smiled down on me when I was running around the Savers in a dead panic between work and call. I ended up with two jackets the same with similar shoulder cuts. That’s all you need for this trick. Well, you know, that, some fringe, a little time, and a little glue.

jeans jacket
Find a decent jeans jacket. I marked mid-upper arm on the actress as a reference point.
contrast jacket
Find a contrasting jacket that is cut pretty similar through the shoulder. Bonus points if it is truly tacky in its own right...

I mean, seriously, who doesn’t need a metallic faux-snakeskin print on some sort of completely synthetic knit moleskin?

Now, the jeans jacket has a jeans-jacket style collar, and this fellow has a lapel. That’s ok. The lapel makes a straight line up from the front edge of the jacket when unfolded.

jacket marked for cropping
Remove the bottom band from the jeans jacket and set it aside. Figure out where you want to crop the jacket to, and mark 1/2" below that. Cut on the line.

Generally speaking, a waist length or slightly shorter jacket will show off the figure on most women. A boyfriend jacket will hide it and emphasize the legs. Your standard issue, hip length jeans jacket will do absolutely no good for most bodies.

jacket cropped
Pop that bottom band back onto the jacket. I'm going to shorten the sleeves as well, to about where the right one is rolled up to.
contrast jacket with lining removed
Gut the contrast jacket. You can do this neatly with a seam ripper, or you can just jut it close to the seams. No one will ever see this part.
shoulder pad
Remove any shoulder pads you might find. (Someone was really serious about this shoulder pad never ever budging. They're usually in with a could tacking stitches.)
lining up the jackets.
Put the contrast jacket on the jeans jacket - sleeves through sleeves and all. Smooth the shoulders together as much as possible, and pin.

The contrast jacket is basically becoming one large shoulder appliqué.

You might notice that I’m also pinning on some festive beaded fringe at the same time. Here’s the thing that sometimes confuses people:

I am really, truly, phenomenally, remarkably lazy.

If I can sew the two jackets together and nail the fringe down in one go, I am going to do exactly that. Because then I don’t have to sew around the same line of the jacket twice. That one time will be more annoying than it needs to be, but I still won’t have to do it twice. Also, there won’t be a lot of random stitch lines inside the jacket, and really, what are the odds that I’m going to throw a lining into this puppy to hide all the ugly?

fringe in front
Sew all around the contrast piece (including the front edges and around the base of the collar) then cut away the excess contrast jacket.

There is an awkward situation around the jeans jacket buttons and button-holes. My solution was to slit the contrast jacket enough to allow the button to pass through, then glue the slit shut over the base jacket. For the button-hole, likewise, I slit the contrast jacket and glued it to the base jacket. But, you know, it’s ok because I used actual fabric glue instead of hot glue for a change. ;)

back of shoulder area
The arcy-fringey business seems pretty C&W to me, so I embraced it in back too.


Finished jacket
I cropped the sleeves and used the sleeves of the contrast jacket to make a decorative little cuff appliqué.

The cuff business is actually half hem and half appliqué – it’s hiding the seam allowance, like a fancy-dancy version of the ribbon hem.

Actress in costume
And we have the incomparable Harmony Barry, in her full costume, rocking the tackiest thing I have ever made. I love that she can do that!

ps – The original actress is just fine now! :) All’s well that ends well.


  1. Martha Witcher
    Martha Witcher July 16, 2012

    Missa, you are one amazing costumer! The tacky jacket rocks!

  2. Sarah
    Sarah August 8, 2012

    What does it say about me, as a person, that I kind of want to do this even though I would never, ever wear the finished result?

    Anyway, great ingenuity, the finished result is so much fun, and the actress looks great in it!

    • missa
      missa August 16, 2012

      I don’t know, Sarah – but if it helps any, I *might* have tried it on and done a few test twirls when I finished it. Ahem. ;)

      Some things are just too much fun… Tee!

  3. Kindergeburtstag Mannheim
    Kindergeburtstag Mannheim April 16, 2013

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