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10 Jan '17

Upcycling a Leather Jacket

When I was a teenager, I had a black leather jacket from the late 1960s or early 1970s, one I bought at a thrift store near St. Mark’s Place (not Love Saves the Day, but someplace similar, the name now forgotten). I loved it. The dark red lining was fraying a bit when I bought it, and it was certainly in very sorry shape by the time I was in my early twenties and still wearing it. I had to give the dear jacket  up as the whole thing came apart.

I’ve been in search of a replacement ever since. Unfortunately, such vintage leather jackets now sell for more than I have been willing to pay—but I have also not found the right one. I did find a black jacket in a vintage clothing shop on the Lower East Side in February 2010: black leather, soft, nearly the same, but not quite. The original was not so soft and was almost shiny. The original was also more hourglass in shape. The new version is boxier than I would like, though it fits well and looks good with a long, colorful scarf.

This past summer, I found a red leather jacket from that same era at an antique (mixed with junk) store in Milbridge, Maine, for $25. It is different—not only is it red (a Doc Martens’ oxblood color) but also is shorter, a deficit I considered, and the lining was torn and frayed at the hem, but I bought it.

My first thought was Victorian inspired: give it length with a bustle-ish “skirt.” I then pictured a Mod-ish print fabric. Victorian plus Mod? I can make that work.

The finished product? The skirt of the pinwheel fabric repairs and extends the existing, damaged plain red lining. I measured and drafted the four pattern pieces, lined and pleated the resulting skirt, then integrated it into the lining of the jacket.

I replaced the jacket’s plastic buttons with buttons covered in kimono fabric. The four large buttons at the wrists had belonged to my mother; she used safety pins to transform them into brooches for her assortment of blazers. The two closing the front were part of a pack of five that my mother gave to me; I have three left for another project.

The effect is very different from the original, but such fun.

-Caitlin Adams

P.S.: I am still on the hunt for one just like the first.

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