Do you have a worn-out, poorly-fitting overcoat that you don’t wear anymore? Or maybe you’re thinking of thrifting a wool coat? Read on to learn how to spruce up your winter wardrobe staple!
By mid-November of 2015, old ladies in the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia started yelling at me to “Get a real coat!” That was my cue that a harsh Russian winter was coming fast. It was time for me to buy an overcoat.
Functionality was especially important for this coat because I knew I’d be spending many hours each day outside in the northern winter but, since I was also wearing a suit daily, I wanted it to be a somewhat traditionally styled dress coat.
It took me a while to find a coat that I liked that would be warm enough for the extreme cold.
I found this black, wool coat. If I remember correctly, I bought this coat for about 9,000 rubles. The month I bought it the value of the ruble tanked, so I think that I spent the equivalent of something in the neighborhood of $130.
For five years, this was my only coat. I wore it every day for months on end in almost any situation you could imagine. Heck, I’ve even chopped down trees, gone sledding, and even embarked on several overnight backpacking trips in this thing.
My overcoat has been through a lot and it showed. The plastic buttons were worn down and about to fall off, and the whole coat had major pilling. Besides that, it never really fit as well as I’d like it to.
In this article, I’ll cover all the steps I took to bring life back into my wool overcoat.
When I bought it I had the sleeves shortened. Since then, as far as maintenance is concerned, I haven’t done much.
I’ve had it dry-cleaned a few times, and I’ve had a button or two resown as needed.
Besides that, a few years ago I tried to “de-pill” the coat by holding a safety razor blade in my hands and “shaving” the surface of the coat. It was super dangerous and I don’t recommend this method. (I share a much easier solution that I’ll share later on).
That’s about it.
How to Replace Overcoat Buttons
This coat came with plastic buttons. Over the years, the buttons got so beat up that they lost their color on the edges. Almost all the buttons are barely hanging on. I bought some quality horn buttons as replacements.
While you probably already know how to sew on a button (and if you don’t, check out this article).
Sewing on coat buttons is a slightly different process. For one thing, you’re going to need a thimble to help you get a needle through thick wool. It’s also best to use thick, 100% polyester thread for this job.
Another difference is that coat buttons need to stand out away from the surface of the coat to make room for the thick fabric. Finally, coat buttons have to be more sturdily attached because they see more wear than shirt buttons.
Watch this video for the entire process:
While it’s a little different than sewing on a shirt button, for instance, replacing coat buttons is not very difficult.
However, if you don’t want to deal with the extra hassle, any tailor will be able to replace your buttons for you for a nominal fee. (Just make sure you remember to bring the replacement buttons with you when you head out to the shop)!
Taking an Overcoat to the Tailor
I thought it would be a relatively simple process to get my coat tailored. The first tailor I went to said that it would cost around $200 to alter the body of the jacket and $180 just to taper the sleeves.
She justified the high price by saying that she’d have to alter not only the outer wool layer but the inner zip-in lining as well. Needless to say, I looked elsewhere.
The second tailor I visited said that the body of the jacket didn’t need adjusting, that only the sleeves needed work. After our discussion, I was ready to leave my coat with him. That is until he said that it would cost 300 smackeroonies just to taper the sleeves! I left his shop shell-shocked and demoralized.
Finally, I stopped at one last tailor. After a quick conversation, they agreed to bring in the waist, taper the sleeves, and replace the buttons for $100. I quickly agreed and left them my coat.
When I returned a week later I half expected to discover that my coat had been ruined (such tragedies sometimes happen when one chooses a cheaper tailor). To my surprise, I found that they had done excellent work. The coat turned out even better than I could’ve hoped for.
While wearing a suit underneath, the overcoat fits snug but isn’t tight. The sleeves likewise follow the shape of my arm and show a gap between my torso and arms when I stand with my arms to my side.
Quality, real horn buttons, along with a tailored fit, make this coat look much more polished, and, to my eye, even a bit more formal looking than before.
Getting Rid of Overcoat Pilling
One of the major reasons that this coat looks worn out is because it had pilling all over. Pilling is when there are little fuzzballs that form on a garment.
This de-pilling machine sells on Amazon for around ten to fifteen bucks.
While it has a plastic adjustable “guard,” I removed it for this job so as to get down to the tiny, unsightly fuzzies.
This tool makes getting rid of pilling so much easier (and safer) than using a razor blade!
It made it really easy to quickly get rid of all the unsightly pilling.
I didn’t do it all at once, during breaks from writing I spent a few minutes buzzing this little machine around the surface of my coat.
It looks so much better!
After de-pilling, I used a lint roller to get rid of lint and dust on my coat.
The de-pilling machine actually sucked up some of the lint, making lint rolling a breeze.
Conclusion: Was it Worth It?
After all that time, money, and effort, was it worth it? For me, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”.
Not only has this coat it’s served me well over the years, it has accumulated sentimental value. I’d hate to get rid of it.
Buying quality clothing and repairing is good for the environment and good for the soul.
Some garments, outerwear especially, can become a “signature piece” — something that all of your friends recognize because they see you wearing it so often. Over time, you want such signature pieces to appear to be “gaining character” rather than noticeably “wearing out.”
Besides that, fixing up an overcoat is almost always less costly than buying new or even used pieces (unless you go to tailors in my town apparently). Since new overcoats are expensive, it makes sense to take care of them and make them last as long as possible.
I’m glad that my overcoat, which has protected me from the elements for more than half a decade, now has a new lease on life. With any luck, I’ll be wearing it for many years to come.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!