Altering a trench coat from regular to petite sizing

short trench alterations

I often get questions on whether coats can be altered from regular to petite sizing. Fact of the matter is almost anything can be altered if you have a skilled tailor and unlimited budget! And after a costly and irreversible mis-alteration by a Burberry tailor, I’ve learned that pretty much all alterations also come with risk, regardless of tailor reputation.

short trench alterations front

For those who’ve requested alteration examples, this is the Banana Republic trench I really liked but only came in regular sizing. My tailor has successfully done a few jackets for me before so I decided it was worth a shot. Aside from length, other typical differences between regular and petite garments usually include higher armholes, narrower shoulders, higher waistlines, and sometimes even shrunken details like prints or buckles.

short trench alterations back

Ideally, a very skilled tailor would probably detach the collar and sleeves of this jacket, then raise the entire torso by the shoulder line. That way the armholes are shifted upwards and the length becomes cropped as intended, without having to chop off fabric on the bottom and make the spacing below buttons and pockets look odd. Unfortunately my tailor is not familiar with that complex method, so we left length unchanged and did the following:

– Make shoulders narrower
– Shorten shoulder epaulettes (as they would then run past the new shoulder seam)
– Raise armholes and slim throughout the length of sleeve
– Shorten sleeves, detaching and reattaching the buckle strap

In the end I was happy with how these alterations came out, but part of me does wish the cropped design could’ve been preserved (works as a regular length coat on me). Lesson learned is to not settle on an item if tailoring can’t make the fit exactly how you envisioned. I also wanted to point out below common alteration side effects for garments with strap detailing – residual stitching holes left behind, typical after belt loops get moved up or sleeves get shortened. Most of my tailors warn me about this before proceeding, and it’s usually minor enough that I don’t mind.

short trench alterations issues

Side note: the color of this jacket is a medium caramel brown, which I happened to really like so I’m surprised to see the 1-star reviews online because of it! The material IS crinkle-prone, however, and I wish the lining were a little nicer looking than shiny white leopard print. Here is a quick look at that similar Ann Taylor short trench which I thought was pretty good fit and quality for the price:

AT short trench 2

The material of the Ann Taylor is that 99% cotton, 1% spandex like my trench dress which is impressive for the price point these days, and the fit of the petite sizing (this is 00P) would need minimal alterations if any on shorter ladies. Below right – this was a delicate paisley print shirt which I thought would spruce up solid bottoms, like a mustard skirt or navy slacks, but didn’t have time to try on.

AT short trench

I also get a lot of questions on alteration costs and have to say it can range wildly from tailor to tailor. I paid ~ $50 to tailor this trench, but at my past tailors I would expect double that or more for a lined jacket.

Readers – please share any complex alterations you’ve had done, the costs, and whether you were happy with the outcome!


30 thoughts on “Altering a trench coat from regular to petite sizing

  • Reply Dressed with soul September 9, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I have to admit that nowadays I avoid alterations as I'm mostly not satisfy with the result. I decided for myself only to buy clothes if the fit me as some of my alterated clothes I don't wear anymore …
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  • Reply Julie September 9, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Great alterations! It's amazing how much better it looks in the after picture.

    Style by Joules

  • Reply Carol from Petite Style Online September 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for sharing your alteration adventures. I always get nervous when I get my jackets altered.

  • Reply Cynthia Nguyen September 9, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Jean! This is so helpful– I'm actually on the hunt for a good trench coat. It's probably a better idea to try out on a basic one from H&M.; Just need to sharpen my alteration skills now.


  • Reply Mei Fleming September 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Great post! So helpful to see the difference alteration makes.

  • Reply petiteandcurvy September 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    This post has really fitting timing – no pun intended! I recently moved to a new neighborhood and have been testing tailors in my area to try to find a new one – and it's a stressful experience. Paying anywhere from $10-15 to $60-70 for just a hem, and not knowing if they are going to do a great job. Knowing that others are as particular as I am when I go to the tailor makes me feel less "high-maintenance"!


  • Reply Sasa Zoe September 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    The trench is cute! Great alteration information<3

  • Reply Kelsey Long September 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Love that jacket on you! Thanks for all of the awesome info!



  • Reply Susan Maliff September 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Although I realize that alterations can make a world of difference on how clothes look and feel, I try to avoid having alterations (other than a basic hem or simple slimming).

    Finding a great tailor is key! I have have had several costly (and failed) alterations and there is nothing worse than purchasing an article of clothing, paying to have alterations and then not being able to wear it!

  • Reply Champagne Star September 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I have some blazers from F21 that could use a bit of altering, but I'm so afraid that I will end up going to a not so good tailor and they ruin the blazers beyond repair. Of course you never know what will be the outcome until they finish, so it's a risk you have to be willing to take.

  • Reply Sweets &amp; Style September 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Great article! I usually go to my tailor with pants and jeans….Altering a coat would be too pricey in Switzerland. Love your tips!

  • Reply Nidhi Patel September 9, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I'm terrified of sending items in for alterations, especially something I love, but your alteration comparison pictures show such a huge improvement. Maybe I should take the risk!
    An Unblurred Lady

  • Reply Emily September 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    The Ann Taylor trench looks great on you! Did you choose the BR one, despite the need for alterations because of the color?

  • Reply Hope Howland September 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Anonymous September 9, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Whenever possible I try to purchase at Nordstrom, since their alterations are free for cardmembers. (up to $100 a year). Otherwise, a basic hem costs $8 and altering the sides/waistline on a skirt costs $15 for me.

  • Reply Elizabeth September 9, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Great advise for alterations and I love that jacket!

  • Reply Anonymous September 10, 2014 at 10:10 am

    How and why do you raise the arm holes? And how does it change the way the jacket looks and feels? I wonder if i need to do the same to one of my jackets but don't want to risk alteration issues if it's not necessary.

  • Reply Lisa September 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Melissa September 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I would love a post on alteration costs. I feel like prices can be all over the place so I would like to know what's a reasonable price. Thanks!

  • Reply Miss Hot Couture September 10, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I actually like the AT trench better on you than the BR one.

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:20 am

    Hi Emily! Mostly color and the more traditional epaulette and buckle details that reminded me a little more of Burberry. The AT fit and material is pretty nice though.

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I thought Nordstrom just did simple hems or sleeve shortenings and didn't realize they do more complex jobs like taking in waists as well!

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Hi there – If you're comfortable in your jackets and there's no excess fabric bunching around there, then it's not necessary and definitely no need to take the risk + spend $! Sometimes with sleeveless tops, raising the armhole or closing it in some is necessary because it's so low that you can see side boob or bra through it. With this jacket, it's not terribly evident in "before" photos but the armpits were very bunchy and hit more at my upper ribs than where armholes should be, so my tailor suggested narrowing the holes a bit.

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Hi Melissa – that post would be hard to do because prices truly are all over the place so there isn't really a definition of reasonable. Your best bet may be just to read Yelp reviews around town and call in ahead of time to ask about approximate price ranges for various types of jobs to compare.

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:26 am

    Holy moly, $60-70 a hem?

  • Reply Jean September 12, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Hi Lisa! I did not have to alter the H&M; blouse, however since it's in regular sizing, the sleeves are about 2" too long on my arms so I probably will have them shortened down the road.

  • Reply Anonymous September 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Do you have a recommendation on a good tailor in Boston? I'm trying to find one I can trust!

  • Reply Jean September 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Sure! I go to a tailor in Chinatown on Knapp St. He doesn't have a store name and only speaks Cantonese, but I have many non-Chinese friends that go to him for straightforward jobs and just communicate through gestures. He is located across from the grocery store on that alley/street, and you can see his sewing machine through the big window. His hours are supposed to be 10AM-5PM, but in case he closes up shop later or earlier I'd suggest going later or earlier than those hours.

  • Reply Anna Kim August 30, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Do u know any good tailor shop in LA?

  • Reply kitty b July 30, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Not maintenance there your clothes…its your money.I want alter a dress it has one or two issues.I dont want it to worsen with bad stitches.

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