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How to upcycle a coat

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

How to upcycle a coat

Tip #1 - Choose Unstructured Designs

It takes skill and training to take a flat piece of fabric and turn it into a garment that drapes and fits the human body. Designers and tailors use tucks, curved seams, interfacing, linings, and shoulder pads to create a polished, tailored look. These garments command high prices but they aren't the best choice for upcycling.

I've deconstructed dozens of suit coats, jackets, and outer wear in making Vibrant bags. I don't have any formal training in garment design but I've learned a lot through the process. The most important lesson is that the more expertly tailored the garment, the less useful it is for repurposing/upcycling.

For example, the men's tailored jacket shown above has several features that limit the amount of flat wool that can be used. The side panels have outside and inside pockets which interrupt the material. The back has seams to tuck in at the waist and again, very little fabric was useful. Even the sleeves were fitted with two seams and not much to use.

In contrast, the woman's outer coat has very little tailoring and patch pockets on the outside. After removing the lining and cutting apart, there was much more fabric to work with.

Here are the bags I was able to create from the two garments.

Tip #2 - Choose Large Sizes

Obviously, there is more fabric available in a large garment than a small one but it took me a while to figure out how little fabric is reusable in a small jacket or coat. Now I focus on the large and extra-large racks. If you fall in love with the fabric on a small jacket, consider using it as an accent pocket or strip. Here's an example.

Tip #3 - Choose a Skirt

Cut a straight skirt down the seams and you've got as close to a piece of retail fabric as you can get with a repurposed garment. Most of the skirts I see in shops today are knit, but I've also seen cotton, wool, and even leather skirts. Like jackets, simpler is better. Avoid skirts with layers and tailoring. Also, be careful with leather skirts, however, because if they have been worn a lot, the seat may have formed to the wearers' bottom and that part is not going to be useful :-)

One More Thing...

I like repurposing garments because of the huge selection in thrift stores. However, most shops have at least a small section of home décor items like curtains, bedspreads, and tablecloths. All of my yoga mat bags are created from these items because they provide the maximum amount of fabric to work with. Don't forget to look for them when you're out thrifting!

Have Fun!

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