Steampunk Costuming: Leather Bolero

Leather jacket used as base of bolero project
Original jacket

Most of the time, I work from Goodwill purchases.  There, you can find leather jackets for about $20 in a variety of different styles and qualities.

This time, I really lucked out because a cousin tore the back of a very nice jacket, and she donated it to me for costuming.

Because of the damage, I could not turn it into a bolero and corset set, as I have previously done.  I could, however, use it just as a bolero, replacing a previous faux leather item made from a polyester shirt coated in polyethylene. (The shirt was every bit as much of a nightmare as it sounds.)


Like my previous bolero project, most of the work was cutting.  Many seamstresses say “measure twice, cut once.”  I prefer “Measure about a zillion times, cut twice.”  The first saying may work when you’re working from a pattern, but in converting a coat, I’m 100% winging it.  So I start by cutting the coat in half horizontally and then slowly cutting away the front snip after snip as I repeatedly try it on.

Chalk was helpful since I could roughly draw where I wanted the cuts while it was still on my body.  I’ve never used fabric chalk.  Good old chalkboard or sidewalk chalk works fine.

Hemming (or Lack-of)

During my steampunk Loki jacket, I discovered just how awful it can be to hem leather, as it is difficult to get a needle through two layers of it.  This time I invested in an overlock presser foot for my sewing machine.  It’s basically a poor man’s serger.  (If you’re not familiar with serger machines, don’t worry about it.  Sewers just tend to drool over them.) Instead of folding the edge over, it loops thread over the fabric’s raw edge, nicely neatening it without a hem.

Good news: you can learn how to use them online in about 5 minutes.  Bad news: the overlock foot costs about $30, which kind of stunned me.

Despite my standing recommendation that you can never have too much trim, I am debating whether to add any to this project.  I like items that go with lots of other items, and I wouldn’t want trim to conflict with other embellishments, particularly necklaces.

Leather bolero created from leather jacket
Final product



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