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

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Emerson Fry leopard linen coat sz 00 (runs big), altered (also sold here), Gap sweater (similar)
J.Crew bag, Ann Taylor leather trim skirt, YSL heels

This outfit features pieces that have trendier details, but have nevertheless become classics in my fairly conservative wardrobe. 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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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.

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
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.

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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 closer 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 for me was $60 to take in the shoulders, slim and hem the torso, and slim the sleeves. I was expecting to pay well over $100, so note this is unusually low for the amount of work done (which the tailor proclaimed himself afterwards) and not to be expected. My aunt says not to bargain with tailors, 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. 

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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.

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  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!

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    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!

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  4. Jenny Lin wrote:

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

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  5. love the coat!! such a statement!! X

    dipped in yellow

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Theyre chanel

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  7. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    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. 🙂

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    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!


    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  10. Great idea to remove the bottom button. I have never done that kind of tailoring, except maybe with my wedding dress.

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  11. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  12. 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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  13. Anthea Lau wrote:

    the animal prints on your blazer is super fun and cool! love this so much! <3

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  14. kathy wrote:

    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?

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  15. Suzie Q wrote:

    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.

    Suzie Q

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  16. Michelle wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  17. Giovanna wrote:

    Amaze look! Loving that coat and your heels!


    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  18. 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 🙂



    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  19. PS Is CAPTCHA on because of spam?

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  20. 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!

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  21. newpetite wrote:

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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  22. rosanne wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  23. Jas wrote:

    I really like your style, so inspirational! 🙂

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  24. Melanie wrote:

    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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  25. that coat looks amazing on you!! i need to find a tailor!!!

    Sandy a la Mode

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  26. 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!

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  27. Jen K wrote:

    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!

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  28. AlexisB wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  29. Vickai! wrote:

    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. 🙂

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  30. You always look so stunning in your photos! I am lovin' this look!



    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  31. Janki wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  32. Shira wrote:

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


    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  33. choo choo wrote:

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

    Choo choo

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  34. Cee wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  35. 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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  36. this coat is absolutely gorgeous on you — pinning this look! xo


    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  37. lin wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  38. 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,

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  39. Alyson wrote:

    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!


    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  40. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  41. 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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  42. Dahlia wrote:

    Loving that look! Coat looks amazing!


    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  43. That coat is absolutely amazing…major envy here 🙂

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  44. Mary-Irene wrote:

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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  45. Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  46. Steffi wrote:

    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.

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  47. Jenny – thank you, and you are right! I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Forgot I removed the lower button : )

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  48. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  49. Jenny B. wrote:

    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!

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply
  50. Yvonne wrote:

    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!

    Posted 4.29.13 Reply

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