Leather trim + leopard linen (& all-over coat alterations)

leopard coat red bag1
Emerson Fry coat (from last season, altered), Gap petite sweater
J.Crew bag - 25% off everything w/ SPRINGBEST, Ann Taylor leather trim skirt (similar), YSL heels

This outfit features pieces that have trendier details, but have nevertheless become classics in my fairly conservative wardrobe. Last October, I saw this leopard linen coat on Chloe and didn't wait five minutes before messaging her about the quality and fit. A leopard print coat may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I loved the more wearable textured linen unlike the usual faux fur. After trying on so many items that I've felt yawningly indifferent about, I've been all the more appreciative of pieces that get me excited at first sight.
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Chloe responded that she felt the quality was impeccable ("a rarity these days"), but the fit ran big so I'd probably need alterations. The jacket was pricey to begin with, and I estimated all-over alterations to be about $150 and risky without a trusted tailor. I love a good coat and have splurged on several in the past - mostly items that have earned their worth in # of wears, but also an impulsive purchase or two that are now gathering dust. I wanted to make sure this wouldn't end up like the latter. 


Fast forward to January and I was still thinking about the darn coat, which had by then sold out at full price. After doing my 2012 year-end wardrobe spending analysis, I was surprised to find out I shopped nearly 40% less both in item count and $-wise than in 2011. I still love my H&M, but weeding out frequent trips to "the usual" retailers and sale racks resulted in more closet space and funds for things that I really wanted. I began my hunt for a pair of Valentino pumps that I'd been admiring for half a year (namely on Wendy), plus this coat. Thanks so much again Vicki K. for alerting me when a size 00 popped back into stock!
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As expected, the coat was roomy throughout, but I saw potential for a piece that I'd enjoy for years to come. I wish I could say the same for Nick, who was horrified at the massive amount of leopard and dubbed me "Cruella Deville." I usually value his honest, unfiltered thoughts, but this was something I knew I loved regardless of opposing opinions. My only qualm was some stains on the coat. I contacted customer service and they were impressively responsive, and somehow located another one in the same size. I sent mine back for an exchange and was informed that the new one coming to me would be marked down 50% off to reflect an upcoming clearance sale. Totally unexpected, but no complaints here!

And now for the not so fun but unfortunately necessary part of having well-fitting clothes - getting & paying for alterations. Wendy, who is very similar to me in size, bought the same coat and got it beautifully altered in L.A. (as shown in the below right pic). Her tailor took the torso up by the shoulders, which is a fix I'm familiar with for dresses and tops but never had done for a coat. I imagine it's very complex, but the end result is a proportionate, properly-tailored garment ...versus one that has just been hemmed and taken-in, but with all the details (button and pocket placement, lapels, etc) left unadjusted. I was fascinated! Proper tailoring must be a dying art, as the tailors I asked in Boston said they'd never done that for coats, and quickly shunned my suggestion like it was a bunch of baloney.   
leoaprd coat alterations
Left: Unaltered coat on me in sz 00, leopard "linebacker" style
Right: Wendy's coat post-alterations on her - entire torso was lifted by the shoulders, shoulder width was narrowed, sleeves were slimmed, torso was slimmed and hemmed

Wendy so kindly offered to take my coat to her tailor and mail it back, but in the end I just went to one that I've been visiting in Chinatown (located on Knapp St & speaks Chinese only). I proposed a "fitting," and asked the tailor to leave the lining seams unfinished until I could try the coat on and give feedback. I'm a wuss when it comes to asking tailors to re-do work, so figured this request would set some expectations. I mentioned this after he had already finished all the pinning and chalk-marking. After he understood what I meant through my embarrassingly broken Chinese, he went back and checked the markings, plus took detailed measurements of my body (aha...hopefully was encouraged to do a more thorough, accurate job the first time around).
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A month and a fitting later, the results are not perfect from all angles, but I think my tailor did the best his skills would allow. Unlike Wendy's results, the lapel/pockets/buttons on mine were not shifted upwards, so the lower button hole comes dis-proportionately close to the shortened hem (I removed the button itself). Despite some issues, I adore the coat - and Nick even had me doubled over in surprise when he mentioned how much he now enjoys it.
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Total cost was $60 to take in the shoulders, slim and hem the torso, and slim the sleeves. I was expecting to pay well over $100, and felt this was extremely low for the amount of work done (which the tailor proclaimed himself afterwards). His rates are very unpredictable, though - he'll charge me $12 to slim a skirt one month and $25 the next (possibly after realizing how much work the prior one was), and I don't argue. My aunt says not to bargain with tailors after you've handed over the clothes, if you want your stuff to come back in the best shape possible!

Readers - Have you ever had a coat or blazer taken up by the shoulders (or done it yourself)? If so, please share how it turned out and how much the job cost. 

61 comments:

  1. loooove that coat. i was drooling over it for the longest time, but of course, it sold out in my size within seconds after the sale. looks amazing on you!

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  2. Enjoyed reading the adventure your beautiful coat underwent and the post-alterations result looks great, especially for that price! I was trying to see where the lower button hit but I couldn't find the button, was the button removed? Either way, it is barely noticeable in pictures.

    Also big thumbs up to Emerson Fry customer service! Also love a brand whose customer service matches the quality and price of their products.

    Beautiful styling, loving that skirt!

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    1. Jenny - thank you, and you are right! I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Forgot I removed the lower button : )

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  3. The coat looks similar to what Rachel Green wore on Friends. Loved it!

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  4. I think the coat post alteration looks great and I adore your Ann Taylor skirt!

    I brought a bunch of my coats along when I went back to Indonesia. I didn't request anything fancy though. They shortened & slimmed down the sleeves and body, taken the back and shoulders. The end results were decent and I paid $10 for each coat (which I already thought to be outrageous :p ). I would never dream to go to a Sydney based tailor for the fear of having a heart attack.

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  5. love the coat! :)




    http://chocolatefashioncoffee.blogspot.ro/

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  6. You look polished and sophisticated, like you're ready to take on the world!

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  7. That coat is absolutely amazing...major envy here :)

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  8. Loving that look! Coat looks amazing!

    Dahlia
    http://xlelamaa.blogspot.fi/

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  9. truly alterations can be such an adventure! i'm glad your tailor was able to work it out. it looks really wonderful on you and i laughed at nick's initial "cruella de vil" comment. that's what my husband says every time he sees a leopard or dotted print. you look fantastic as always, and i liked that you removed the bottom button, giving it a more proportionate look.

    xo P

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  10. Wait, Jean, I thought you already found a great tailor that you always used to go to. What happened to Hemmingway's?

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    1. One of the two ladies in the Hemmingway "duo" moved away. The one who is still there is super sweet, but doesn't speak English so it's hard to communicate exact concerns & specifications. I didn't think that would be an issue, but sadly I haven't had much luck with results the last two times I went.

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  11. woah, so interesting to see how you recreated this jacket. it is so gorgeous on you, and totally something i can imagine having for years to come. as someone who lives in florida i rarely invest in jackets but I know if I lived in the north jackets and boots would be high on my list!

    alyson
    www.theaveragegirlsguide.com

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  12. Hey Jean!

    Loved, loved what you had done to this coat. It turned out beautiful and you look amazing in it! Your blog has inspired me to get some of my pieces tailored, so I can enjoy them even more.

    P.S. So glad you are safe and sound. :)

    All the best,
    Luna
    www.theredtrousers.com

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  13. beautiful outfit and especially coat, jean! you look very chic as always.

    i haven't had any blazers or coats taken in so no comment there. i will say though that the proper fit does make a big difference on the way clothes look on a person.

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  14. this coat is absolutely gorgeous on you -- pinning this look! xo

    http://allthingsprettyandlittle.blogspot.com/

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  15. Way to hold your own at the tailors, Jean! From my point of view, the coat turned out beautifully.

    I'm horrible when it comes to bargaining and a complete pushover, but am unreasonably fascinated with the psychology behind it. Sometimes I'd go to the tailors dressed in my worst clothes, hoping they'd take pity on me on the pricing. I'm not sure how well this worked before, but I can't pass for a broke college student any more. Other times I'd go in and explain to them what I need done and ask for the cost up front. I figured it'd save both of us time and money if they can give a quick quote, but perhaps they'd veer on the side of caution and give a higher initial estimate? Sometimes I'd get an answer, but most times they'd make me go try it on before giving estimates. I do wonder if by trying things on, customers would most likely give in and get the alterations done there rather than shopping around for prices. Another tactic I've yet to try is take a piece of clothing in with the tags still on, ask for a quote but making it clear that the item is returnable if I don't think the alterations are worth it. Sadly they'd probably take one look at me and call my bluff, haha.

    Do you know how much Wendy paid to alter her coat? That'd probably be a good baseline for comparison since LA is a major city.

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  16. This is such a cute look! Love the coat and the pop of red!

    Choo choo
    www.choochooli.blogspot.com

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  17. Wow, that jacket looks amazing! I wish I spoke chinese because I'd totally use him:)

    http://sequinsandpolkadots.blogspot.com/

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  18. Very nice...a good example of taking the time to do it right. I have a thrifted burberry blazer that I had a local gal alter. Luckily she didnt cut it but I realize she did a shoddy job (now that I'm learning to sew). Yet, I'm now thinking of getting it properly tailored since it's tricky for me to do.

    I also don't bargain with tailors for the same reason. When people feel like they are being devalued, they often act in a passive aggressive way. I do ask gently if they could give a cash discount since it saves them thr credit card fees. Some do, others don't.

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  19. You always look so stunning in your photos! I am lovin' this look!

    xoxo

    Kelly
    www.kellyinthecity.com

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  20. Yay! I ended up getting the coat too! I <3 it to pieces, and honestly, what is up with guys and their aversion to leopard print!? My hubby makes the same comments. :)

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  21. So beautiful!! And your little smile in the second picture says you know it too. Isn't it great to feel so happy about an outfit! Love the coat. I have a beautiful Milly coat that I purchased full price because it refused to go on sale (sold out, then one popped back in stock). I don't wear it much because I know it could use some alteration. I'm too afraid, though.

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  22. Love this outfit, and the pop of red from the bag. On an unrelated note, what color/brand is the lipstick you're wearing? It looks beautiful on you in these photos!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jen - thank you! It's a light coat of Revlon Ravish me Red

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  23. That's a job well-done! The minor imperfections are invisible, really. I've never had anything taken up by the shoulders but quite often, I wish I knew how to do it myself. So many coats and blazers are made for extremely tall people that it's hard to find non-petite ones that fit perfectly lengthwise. I'd love to learn how to do it someday!
    -FashionEdible

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  24. that coat looks amazing on you!! i need to find a tailor!!!

    xo,
    Sandy
    Sandy a la Mode

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  25. altering a coat overall seems like a daunting task and still haven't gotten around to taking one to a tailor. it is pretty fascinating to see what can be altered on a coat to fit someone like our height. most of the time, I just wing it on fit and hope for the best, but does help to see what a proper alteration can do a to an item that you can love for many years to come. lovely coat, jean! glad you were able to find the size and a great deal on it - double score. =D

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  26. I really like your style, so inspirational! :)

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  27. Oh my! I love that coat - it's so chic and your styling is impeccable. I am an intermediate sewer and often refer to this book, Altering Women's Ready-to-Wear by Mary Roehr, as a guide on how to approach alterations. I haven't ever had to make the kind of alteration on a coat Wendy had done as I'm somewhere between an 8-12 (leaning toward tall) in RTW sizing. My typical alterations are for a sway back, long waist, and full seat/thighs and lengthening inseam. This means I'm more likely to take in the waist for gaping than I am to adjust neckline/shoulder fit. That book is a wealth of knowledge and can really help identify how to assess fit and approach the alterations step-by-step. I found a copy in my local library and also the local community college library. I would expect you can find it in most libraries in the Minuteman Library Network, too, as it's harder to find it for sale on-line.

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    1. Rosanne - that sounds like such an interesting book. THank you for sharing, and I plan on hunting one down for a read!

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  28. Love the outfit! That was a lot of work and $60 seems like a very good price. Love how everything comes together.

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  29. I love the coat and the alterations and can't help but admire the photography as well :). I've never had alterations done for a coat, only because I don't trust any tailor that much. I always feel myself rushed with tailors, like they're trying to hurry me along without actually caring about fit/proportion/etc. Good for you for taking your time, and the tailor's. Looks great and for $60, can't beat it!

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  30. Replies
    1. Hi Lisa - yes, sadly! I tried turning it off and got about a dozen messages about toilets in 2 minutes : / Will try to move to disqus soon to spare commenters the trouble.

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  31. Beautiful outfit! Love the luxurious coat with the cozy turtleneck and lovely neutral tweed skirt.

    If you get a sec, please check out my latest post 'Vacation ready' I would love to read your feedback. Thank you :)

    Sofia

    stylishlyinlove.blogspot.com

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  32. Amaze look! Loving that coat and your heels!

    xx
    giovanna
    www.HeyLoveBlog.com

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  33. Oh! What a great look on you! I can definitely relate to those unfiltered thoughts. :)

    Other than at a department store, I have not dealt with tailors. There will eventually come a day, so your tips are always appreciated.

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  34. I absolutely love the outfit, and fell in love with the coat on here. I love the way a leopard coat looks but have held back on getting one due to not being sure how much it'd get worn due to the more bold print. It's still on my mind even now that winter is over, so maybe that's a sign =) I love how yours is linen material instead. Great detailed encounter on your tailoring experience. I haven't had anything taken up by the shoulders, but thanks for sharing the difference with Wendy's tailoring experience. I haven't even thought of that as an option to ask for, but will keep that in my mind for next time and see if any of my local tailors would do that.

    xoxo,
    Suzie Q
    www.StyleCueBySuzieQ.com

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  35. This whole outfit is absolutely fabulous, and I LOVE that coat! But, can we talk about the Valentino shoes? I NEED them, but not to the tune of $800. Will I ever be able to find them on sale?

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    1. I was told by a Nordstrom sales associate that they will probably never make it to sale (at least not the basic colors), but you never know!

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  36. the animal prints on your blazer is super fun and cool! love this so much! <3
    A
    xx
    http://epiquemoi.blogspot.com

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  37. I like how you incorporated a statement piece into a work outfit, I'm always inspired by you to step out of my comfort zone. I think the jacket looks great on both you & Wendy, and the minor imperfections aren't visible to the naked eye really. Sometimes I like to step out of the "usual" brands as well, just to give myself other options to petite-friendly retailers. The sales are tempting, but a few mix-up in your wardrobe is necessary. I normally don't bargain with tailors either, like your aunt said, you don't want to risk your clothes when it's in their hands. For $60, I think your tailor did a pretty good job. Alteration can be costly in the city for me, so often times, I like to go with my local tailor, the prices are much more wallet-friendly, and often times I find that they try to understand what you want done and give that to you.

    - Christine

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  38. Love the sunglasses...do you mind sharing where you mentioned them from?

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    Replies
    1. Sure - They're Chanel tortoise Wayfarers Style #5182 but from 2 years ago

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  39. Great idea to remove the bottom button. I have never done that kind of tailoring, except maybe with my wedding dress.

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  40. Hi Jean,
    I've been following your blog for a while, and love your sophisticated and elegant style. The way your clothes are tailored so perfectly really opens my eyes to how good things look when they fit properly. I know you're from the Boston area, but do you (or any other readers) know of any good tailors in NYC? Finding a REALLY good one is so hard!

    thanks!
    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa, thanks so much for your kind words! I don't know of any tailors in NYC, but maybe you can read through this thread to see if anyone has a good recommendation: http://forum.alterationsneeded.com/find-share-tailor-t3.html Another option is Yelp, but I know reviews of tailors can be incredibly mixed!

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  41. Hola! I"m in Boston too and I visited my local Loft (near quincy market, next to BR and under GAP) today to see if they had the lovely blue/green stripped dress you IG'ed. There were mostly size 10+ left, but I did find a 0 and a 00p buried in the sale rack in the back. I'm a few inches taller than you, so I knew that 0 would be a better fit. Suffice to say, I instantly loved it the moment I tried it on in the dressing room. I purchased the 0 and asked them to hold the 00p under the name jean until tomorrow night. I know you had mentioned that they were sold out of your size ... I was super lucky to find the last 0 and wanted to give you a chance to scoop it up if you were still interested. The quality of the fabric and the style is impeccable! Hope you can still catch the 40% sale. :) Sorry- I hope that didnt come off as creepy .. Just wanted to share my lucky find. Anyway, thanks for your recommendation! I love my new summer dress. :)

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    1. Hi there - wow, thank you so much for thinking of me and going the extra step of putting it on hold! I saw your message and made a beeline for there after work, and slipped it right before they closed : ) The dress unfortunately didn't fit, but the quality is excellent and I'm thrilled to hear you loved it & scored your size. Even though I didn't come home with it, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your message!

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  42. I'd like to know where the sunglasses are from, too!
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Theyre chanel

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    2. Hi there (& anon up above)- yes they are CHanel and were called the "tortoise wayfarers" from two years back. They have similar styles every so often!

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  43. I admire your attention to detail. The sweater sleeve is around 1 inch out of the coat in your pose, so classy ~~

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  44. Can I ask what lipstick you are wearing and the size of your pearl studs? I bought a pair online but they are a bit too big (11 to 12mm). Thanks!

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    1. Lipstick is Revlon "ravish me red" (I only apply one gentle coat because I'm not so great at pulling off a bright red) and the studs are 9mm I believe. I actually LOVE 11-12mm statement pearl studs! I had a pair and lost one and will be placing an order for a replacement. Hope you give yours another try because I think the large pearl stud look is so elegant.

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    2. Thanks so much! You are so sweet!

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  45. Love your blog! I was wondering who Wendy's tailor is in LA? I live here and haven't been able to find a good tailor who handles petites well. Thank you so much and keep posting your inspiring creations!

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  46. I used to live in LA and Orange County. I always used this location for my tailoring.
    http://www.european-tailoring.com
    They are pricey, but everything came out perfectly. I'm "short shouldered" (top of shoulder to my chest is short) with a small, short waist and large hips, but I'm not a petite. Most all of my dress and work clothes must be tailored. They are the people that taught me how much better my clothes look when I gather up a few inches from each of the shoulders. They also tailored the waists of all of my pants and skirts so that they fit perfectly. I was 32 years old before I had perfectly fitting pants. It was life changing.

    Jean, have you thought about asking who does the alterations for your higher end retailers? That's how I found this location. They do all the work for Chanel, etc at South Coast Plaza and have a retail shop as well. You could use the high end people for serious work and keep your guy in Chinatown for the more simple jobs.

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  47. Nice Post Love Reading It

    http://leathernxg.com/19-womens-leather-pants

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