Altering Thrift Shop Suits & Sport Coats – Before & After!

Alterations - Suits and Jackets

I like to learn new skills, especially those with a learning curve that demands a bit of practice and patience to master. I also like thrift shopping for my clothes. Hmmm, can I put the two together to save even more money on my menswear thrift shop hauls? Yea! Learning how to alter my thrifted clothing purchases is the perfect way to save maximum dollars when buying suits, sports coats, slacks, and shirts while acquiring a very useful skill.

Thrifted Silk/Wool Jacket Before & After Alterations
My Thrifted Silk/Wool Sport Coat Before & After Alterations

This silk/wool sport coat was purchased second-hand on eBay for only $12.00 (including shipping). It had a single rear vent, and the overall proportions were better suited for a man that is a bit more rotund than I. It fit me like a potato sack. Not good. Since the shoulders and length of this sports coat fit well, I decided to try making two key alterations to slim the proportions and give it a bit more of an Italian silhouette.

Silk & Wool Sportscoat - eBay $12.00

This project allowed me to tackle a new type of alteration. I’ve become fairly good at altering side seams to take in a jacket. Removing a center vent from the jacket was new to me. Because this jacket was so cheap, it would make a good test subject for this type of alteration.

As you can see, it turned out quite well! My modest Brother JX2517 sewing machine (I paid $75 at Walmart one sale) was up to the task. The center vent is gone, giving this sport coat a more European ventless silhouette. Also, the body of the jacket has been slimmed down for much better fit.

Update: I have owned the Brother JX2517 sewing machine for over a year now and have used it to alter my thrift shop clothing purchases. It works very well and I would highly recommend it for use on everything except very heavy fabrics. I have also advanced in my alteration skills in that time as well. I will create a new post soon to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned. If you see yourself thrift shopping on a consistent basis for clothing in the future, learning alterations is a way to save a great amount of money. Most often, the cost of alterations exceeds the cost of thrifted clothing!

If I had taken this jacket to a professional tailor for these alterations, they would have charged more than I paid for my sewing machine to alter it! That sewing machine and my modest alteration skills are saving me a ton of money. That’s what you call extreme thrifting!

Seersucker Sport Coat with Alterations

Seersucker Sportscoat, Thrift Shop Find with Alterations

This is one of my latest altered thrift-shop finds. Here is an inexpensive cotton seersucker sport coat typically sold at department stores for around $100.00 (Saddlebred brand). It originally had a center rear vent which never stayed closed. Plus, the body of the jacket fit more like a sack and needed a bit of slimming.

alterations - men's jacket

I removed the center vent, giving it an Italian style ventless look as well as slimming the jacket by removing about 1.5 inches from the back rear center seam. This sport coat now has a sleeker, more European silhouette. This jacket was purchased new with tags for only $12.00 on The tailoring really updates the look of this jacket!

Alterations are not difficult to master. It requires patience and practice. All men’s suits, sport coats, and slacks follow consistent patterns and construction methods. The skill you develop altering your first garment is simply repeated on all that follows. There are a number of videos on youtube that will teach you the basics. An excellent all-in-one video series for teaching all suit alterations is Alterations by Phyllis. It is a very inexpensive series of videos that walk you thru all of the basic alterations that are done on suits, sport coats, and slacks. Very helpful and easy-to-follow.

Alterations by Phyllis – Menswear

The most challenging alteration to do well is sleeve alterations on suits. Here is the video that helped me to master this like a pro!