Mint condition


I bought this ‘lovely’ coat from the Sense shop in Deptford for £9.95. It was only on getting it home that I started to feel buyers’ remorse. The buttons, the size, the style, all that can be fixed. The only real problem with it is… it’s mint. And by that I mean… it’s green. When I bought this I thought it was blue. How wrong I was. The mint green pastel shade has left it looking even more early noughties than it otherwise would.

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On the plus side, it’s a wool/angora/cashmere mix, and is well-made, from the now-defunct label Ronit Zilkha which closed in 2007.


In terms of what to do with it… I decided to go a bit left-field and make a sleeveless coat. Believe it or not, sleeveless coats are in fashion now…. (L-R) Lanvin, Etro, Antonio Berardi, Marni, 3.1 Philip Lim…

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…and the queen of the sleeveless coat, Victoria Beckham.


I had slight doubts about the practicality of such garments but the internet convinced me that sleeveless coats are perfectly fine with a thick jumper underneath. At least, they are if you live in Southern California. Sadly, this is London…

The first thing I did was, obviously, cut off the sleeves. That was easy enough.

I then had to address the size. There were side seams but they were too close to the front patch pockets to be taken in. After playing around on the stand for a while, it seemed like a good idea to take it in at the back. The back had a long tab sewn between the side back panel seams.


I ripped the side panel seam out of the left hand side up to the bottom of the tab, and pinned out the excess by moving the panel towards the centre back.


Then, I sewed basting stitches by hand along the new seam line to mark it.


Here’s what it looked like.


I could then cut away the excess, leaving a seam allowance, up to the top of where the tab was.


I used the part I cut off as a template for cutting the other side the same, flipping it over and pinning it on.


At the point where the tab joins the seams, I folded the excess into a pleat on both sides.


I cut the tab to its new length by measuring the new distance between the panel seams on the coat.


I could then sew the new tab in. Here’s what it looks like.


The shoulders had to be moved in a bit, which meant detatching the shoulder pads and cutting a new armhole before reapplying them.

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The final step was to true up the lining and sew it all in place by hand.

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Here’s how it ended up. I removed the covered snap on the lapel, but decided to keep the buttons, at least for the time being.

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Wearing this over a thick jumper actually looks fine, but honestly, I still have my doubts about its practicality. London is COLD right now, folks. For that reason it’s had very limited wear so far.

What do you think, would you wear a sleeveless coat?

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  1. Fadanista

    I totally get what you’re saying about sleeveless coats. I live in Western Australia – possibly warmer than Southern California – and I struggle with the concept. I do have a couple of these but would never go a la Beckham with bare arms. Having said that, yours looks sensational. Did you come to terms with the minty green? I really like it.

    • charityshopchic

      It’s a tricky one, isn’t it! I am still finding the minty green difficult as I can’t decide what colour jumper (other than grey) would work well with it. Some more thought is needed, I think!

  2. abitofanenthusiast

    Well the refash looks seriously nicer than the original! I like the slight flare at the bottom and the nipped waist is great. Stylin’. So if I spot a gal in Deptford with a sleeveless coat I should shout “Hey lady, that’s totally unacceptable in this weather, don’t you know?!”, right?? Except in December I reckon you can get away with it. January might be another story though… ;0P

    • charityshopchic

      I wouldn’t shout anything at a person in the street in Deptford, at least not if you value your personal safety ;-) I think it’s too cold already for this – might have to leave it until spring to wear this again, but at least that gives me time to come up with ideas on how to style it better. Hmmm!

    • charityshopchic

      Haha yes, this one isn’t really going to protect you from the rain either is it ;-)
      It felt reassuringly heavy on, and overall quite snug. I confess I was a bit cold though.

  3. sewlittletime

    nice work! i think it looks really good but i don’t get the practicality. altho maybe it’s somethign you get used to – lots of people wear those gilet things. i don’t even thing short sleeved jumpers are a good idea! if you aren’t sure about the colour, do you think it would take a dye?

    • Carol

      Totally agree about gilets and short sleeved sweaters – I don’t see the point. If it’s cold enough to need another layer then I need sleeves! Great refashion though – it particularly looks great at the back.

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks Jo, I think maybe more layers on the arms might be the trick.
      I didn’t think of dying it, but it’s natural fibres, so I don’t see why not. I’ll look into it.

  4. Becky from Canada

    You did great with this refashion. Maybe when you don’t where it anymore you can turn it into a nice vest cutting off the bottom part just at the pockets. Just a thought :)

  5. Maiken

    I think sleeveless coats are a nice concept (as are puffy or fur vests) but utterly impractical in Scandinavia where I am from. And from what I remember during the numerous visits to UK, the bone-chilling weather you people tend to get there, would make the garments just as useless. Unfortunately. :S One needs lots of sunshine and “dry” cold for something like that.

    However… Since the coat is lovely! The fabric is dreamy (even with the colour – mint is in, n’est pas?!) and if it is something that definitely fits you well and fills a need in your closet then how about some contrasting fabric/material sleeves? Heck, they could even be sweatshirt material! Or camel leather… Or fake fur? Maybe something with a blue undertone? The options are ENDLESS! ;) And I think it would elevate the coat even further and make it even more fashionable! Besides, if you do not feel like making the sleeves from scratch you could always just buy a jacket or a coat that has okay sleeves but would otherwise not really strike your fancy… Anyway, best of luck, sleeves or no sleeves, this one looks great!

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Maiken, thank you for your comment. I agree, the sleeveless coat isn’t at the top of the list of practical garments, but it was a fun thing to try. This is fashion after all – practicality doesn’t always come first! ;-)
      You’re right that the weather here in the UK is bone chilling right now so this one might have to wait until spring to see the light of day again. I am still not sure about the colour, though it is growing on me! I like the idea of adding leather sleeves, but that would be a lot of work. A faux-fur detatchable collar might work too…

  6. sewcookgardenrepeat

    It looks better than I thought it would, but seeing as I live in Canada and it’s below zero (and only December), there is no way in hell I’d wear a sleeveless coat. Heck, *with* sleeves I’m still cold here!

  7. Caroline J

    I love the sleeveless coat trend – I have a coat in my charity shop stash that is earmarked for similar treatment. I think it works particularly well with lighter weight coats and trenches, for when it’s cool out but not feeling like we’re on the verge of a new Ice Age like we are in London at the mo!

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Caroline, glad to find another supporter of the sleeveless trend! You’re right, a lighter weight coat probably would have been more suited to this. Good luck with yours!

  8. Amy

    Sadly I’m a massive sissy and wouldn’t dare go out without lovely sleeves to keep me warm. Winter is my enemy! You look chic as ever though

  9. Jenni

    I like the sleeveless as I find I get too hot in coats when doing Xmas shopping and the like and spend my time opening and closing and carrying a coat so this is a trend I should try, and if I can make one look half as good as yours I’d be happy x

  10. MJ

    As always, your taste and skills are impeccable. Gorgeous work! You are amazing! But no, the sleeveless coat is only for people who have too much money and clothing. And mild weather.

  11. Claire

    Great job, as usual! I certainly think you have improved the look of the coat by nipping in the waist like that and putting the pleats in, it gives a better silhouette. I’m just not sure about sleeveless coats though, not really an option here and now. In Brum the temperature is now plummeting, and you’d certainly want your arms covered! Maybe you’ll get more wear out of it in Spring?

  12. gingermakes

    This looks so fitted and fresh! Great refashion! But I hear you– it’s hard to find the weather for something like this. Here in NYC there’s a window of time in October or so where it might work, but I probably wouldn’t get to wear it very often.

  13. Mickey

    I love it and it looks great on you! I would find a time to wear it, just to show it off!

  14. Naomi

    I like the idea of a sleeveless coat – I hate when my jumper sleeves get all bunched up inside my coat. It would be great in early Spring or the Autumn. Far too cold up here in Cumbria for sleeveless right now though! This is an idea I’m going to save for later… x

  15. Eileen

    Great job! Don’t think I’d wear a sleeveless coat (even here in San Francisco), but people who wear those puffy down vests tell me that they really do keep you warm even with your arms sticking out. I remain skeptical. Maybe a lighter weight fabric to wear it in fall/spring weather? The minty green colour doesn’t come through in the pictures, I think the colour looks really nice. What’s the coat made out of though? Maybe it would take dye well???

    • charityshopchic

      I am skeptical too Eileen, especially after wearing my own version… The coat is a wool/angora/cashmere blend so might take a dye, I’ll have to look into it.

  16. Heather H

    I would consider it if I had a dress or top with really amazing sleeves… and maybe wear some long, fur-lined gloves. However, it would be one of those things that I’d pull on for the few minutes it takes to get in and out of the car on the way to a holiday party, not for any extended amount of time outdoors.

  17. dannyscotland

    A sleeveless coat to me is like those puffer vests people wear. I don’t really get the point of them, either. My arms and hands are always cold, but I think some people are comfortable if their core of their body is warm. So I guess maybe it’s okay for some people, but not for me. I need sleeves when it’s cold, preferably thick, long ones with something to keep the cold air from coming up into the sleeve, and some mittens or gloves. I get cold. You did an amazing job on this though, as usual. I’m always so impressed with what you do.

  18. Kathryn

    It’s an interesting idea, the sleeveless coat but I’m not sure how practical it would be where I live, Southern Australia where it does get quite cold in the winter. I really love your refashion though, you do such an amazing job! Personally though, I would have made the hem a bit shorter too or perhaps shorter in front to give it a more edge-y look. I feel the colour and length still gives it a bit of a daggy vibe. I do love how you style everything though, and I love seeing what you come up with each time I read your blog, you blow me away sometimes!!! Kathryn.

  19. puggo

    Hi. You are fab in that coat! I want to move to England!! Actually my grandparents were born in England. Love it.
    Thanks for the tutorial; I wanted to do that back piece for a coat of mine too! Clever.

  20. Lex

    On trend or not, to me sleeveless coats are like crotchless panties or see-thru swimwear – pointless. I have never seen one flatter anyone – even VB as they are far too much like an oversized Gillett – if you had a batwing or flared sleeve jumper underneath then perhaps, but if I had been you I’d have gone in a different direction – I really loved the asymmetric zip closures on the pics you linked and I love the flared skirt where you’ve taken the back in – that is my favourite part definitely. I’d have played with removing those patch pockets and seeing what sort of lace or crochet applique I could find for this, the back is beautiful so I’d have been tempted to draw attention to the flare of the skirt and play with asymmetric closings – perhaps even adding a cowl-type piece to the collar maybe?

    Just my thoughts. I love reading your creative process though – it gives me so many tips and ideas for my own projects.

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Lex, while the sleeveless coat isn’t the most practical garment in my wardrobe, it’s a lot of fun to wear (coldness aside) so for that reason it isn’t totally pointless. You could say the same about most of fashion.
      The patch pockets aren’t ideal but that definitely would have left a mark in the fabric so they have to stay. An applique on this would have been twee, to say the least, and I am trying to move away from that direction. The closure is already asymmetric. A zipper could maybe have been added, but how would I have covered the existing buttonholes?

  21. Millie

    You did an excellent job. I live in Phoenix, AZ so this would be perfect! I’m going to give it a try.

  22. Nay

    Can I just say… Well done! You did so well with this, it’s going down as one of the best refashions I’ve seen all year!

  23. Rebecca

    I think this is a great refashion, you did a fabulous job. Maybe a red jumper underneath? Bright sleeves would really make it pop. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where the weather is almost always mild so a sleeveless coat would work fine here. Love it.

  24. Zoe

    Amazing job, I think it looks awesome! For more style options, I’ve seen sleeveless coats worn with really thick sweater dresses.

  25. Janet schwabenbauer

    As to what to wear withe the sleeveless coat, how aboutgoung contrast and wearing it with a navy or a brown jumper?

  26. Gail

    It looks wonderful on you but in my humble opinion, sleeveless coats are a fashion “fad” and will not catch on in colder climates and will come to an end even in the warmer ones. Kudos for a lovely remake. I envy your tailoring skills.

  27. Rachel

    I can see the impracticality of this if I were walking outside for any length of time, but when driving my car, I love it. Once I sit down and buckle myself in, I always feel like my arms are too constricted in a coat, so this would solve that problem.

  28. Tina

    This would look good with knitted sleeves in a bulky yarn. Or with a heavy turtleneck style of sweater.

  29. Marg in Canada

    Grey dye would make a nice hue over the mint green! It would be a cool grey (as in, not a warm colour)

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