I love to have all sorts of different styles of leather outfits in my collection, but there are some items that are rather difficult to get hold of in my material of choice. One such item was a Mandarin-style leather dress. One day, whilst I was looking through the rails of a local thrift store, I found a three-quarter length black leather jacket that was about four sizes too big for me and wondered if I could use my sewing skills to turn it into the aforementioned leather dress. For a couple of pounds it was worth a go.
The first challenge I faced was finding an appropriate pattern that I could work from. Patterns for Mandarin-style dresses themselves weren’t hard to find, but finding one that I could get to fit with the leather panels I had proved a little more interesting.
Whilst this wouldn’t be the first outfit I had made myself and I had worked with leather before (repairing, hemming and altering other items), this would be my first time making something like this. I wanted to use some of the seams that were already present on the jacket, such as the shaping on the back, and making a feature of them whilst still leaving myself enough leather to work around the lapels, unwanted buttons and pockets.
Eventually I found a pattern that I was able to adjust to my shape and worked with the material I had, so off I went to my sewing machine and made a start on my Mandarin-style black leather dress.
For the age of the jacket, the leather was still very soft and in great condition making it a delight to work with. The trickiest part of the pattern was making the cap sleeves. Luckily I had some leatherette to hand so I was able to make several mock-ups and get them just right before creating them using the “good stuff”.
It would also have been rather easy for me to just have two panels for the front, but I really wanted the more authentic look of the buttons across one shoulder. For this detail I picked out some lovely pearlised shank ones that cost more than the original leather jacket! I think they were worth it though. Again, getting the decorative seam in just the right place posed an interesting challenge, but having worked out the seam allowances I took the plunge and it turned out okay.
When styling the dress for this particular photoshoot, which almost coincided with the start of Chinese New Year, I referred back to the photo I shared of it as one of my Daily Leather outfits. In that picture I had paired it with a pair of OTK Boots by Shellys and given that this outfit had been voted an “Outfit of the Week” on my subscriber feeds, it seemed like they were the perfect choice.
A pair of gloves were also needed, and I wanted them to be elegant. It would have been a perfect opportunity to wear one of my longer pairs of gloves, and indeed my thoughts did turn to a pair of elbow-length red leather gloves with gold buttons up their length, but I also wanted to keep things monochrome, so instead chose a pair of black leather gloves by Dents with some beautiful embroidery detail on the cuffs.
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HOME MADE MANDARIN-STYLE LEATHER DRESS DETAILS
Dress: Custom made
02 comments on “Home made Mandarin-style leather dress: From ragged jacket to the perfect fit”
Love this!! there’s nothing more personal than the craft of your own hands. Looks great!!
Thank you 🙏🏻 It is very satisfying that it still fits and is in such good condition after all these years