DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

I have been obsessed with making a pair of coveralls for the last three months. Sometimes it takes a few months to get to things on my sewing to do list. It all started when I saw Peter from Male Pattern Boldness’ pair he made last summer. I knew I wanted to make some too, so that day, right after reading his Mood Network post, I went on Etsy and bought a pattern from 1980.1980jumpsuitThis seemed easy enough. A simple 80’s jumpsuit pattern with a center zip and cut on dolman sleeves. After seeing some coveralls on Pinterest from two brands I love, Madewell and Current Elliott, I decided mine would have lots of pockets, too. e336378622e04c647317a473dcea942dd2af4fd4d744f1e3fdf5c57fd604cfa3

But of course what looked like a simple enough project turned into an epic amount of work over three weeks, that had to be readjusted and redesigned half way through sewing, as I never bothered to make a muslin and even if I had, the heavy denim fabric was completely wrong for the design of the jumpsuit which needed a drapier fabric IMO.DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

Upon basting the whole thing together, I realized I looked like a linebacker with the wide, 80’s style dolman sleeves and the armholes that went way too low, exposing my bra. I wish I had taken a photo, now. It would not do. It didn’t help that my husband cracked up laughing when I walked into the room to show him my wide dolman sleeves. And then there was the problem of the droopy crotch but too high butt. Still a bit droopy, but it’s the best I could do!DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

To redo the armhole shape, I patched the sides of the bodice to bring up the armholes and extend them out a little. I put my bodice block on it and recut the armholes so I could add set in sleeves. I can’t recommend you ever recut a dolman sleeve midway through sewing and then add a set in sleeve. Plus, I had to draft a cap sleeve to fit the new armholes. You can see my patch job below. patch

It occured to me I should quit the whole project at this point, as I was just really starting to be a stubborn mule about it and force this jumpsuit to be something it wasn’t meant to be. But I would not give up! I had already spent a whole day drafting, sewing and top stitching six pockets; two buttoned flap back pockets, two front hip patch pockets , and two lined safari flap pockets with buttonholes, so there was no way I was going to trash this project. Yes, the fabric was only two bucks a yard in downtown LA, but that was beside the point. I was in.DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

The top stitching on my pockets was driving me nuts. The more I would look, the more I would see it wasn’t perfectly straight. At a certain point, after lots of unpicking and redoing, I just moved on. DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

Sometimes sewing feels like a battle of wills between myself, the fabric, and the pattern. “No I don’t want to be a circa 2015 Madewell knock off stiff denim zip up jumpsuit with too many pockets”, it seemed to be telling me, “Leave me in my envelope to rest where I have been happily living unfolded since 1980!”DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

When I first basted together the yoke and pants, there was no waist seam, I realized I had a giant wedgie, so the solution was to redraft the yoke pieces with an extra inch and a half length to give me more room in the butt area. I failed to notice the droopy front crotch that I created though, so I had to readjust that part after I had already almost finished the jumpsuit and had already sewn on the self drafted pockets.  Thanks to Lily who noticed my droopy front crotch and expressed her feelings with derisive laughter when I went into her room to ask her if she liked my 80’s jumpsuit. This poor jumpsuit has gotten a lot of laughter .DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

So I slept on the problem, did some internet searches, and awoke with the answer. I drew  a new front crotch line deeper than before, and resewed it, which worked out OK. It’s not perfect, but it’s passable. I slept on several problems concerning this jumpsuit, starting with how to lengthen the butt seam when there was no waist seam.

Then there was way too much room in the waist area, since there was no waist seam or shaping there, and I knew I would have a big bunchy mess had I left it, because the denim would not like being that gathered and it would probably just look all horrible and puffy. So I cut a waist seam, and added darts and pleats to the bodice. This also brought up the droopy crotch a little more since I lost an inch at the waist from cutting it apart and creating a seam. But I also lost some length in the butt all over. My goodness, this project was a nightmare! But I made it work and know I love it.DIY Denim Engineer Coveralls!

Pattern changes I made

Turned dolman sleeve into a set in sleeve armhole.

Drafted a cap sleeve.

Drafted three types of pockets and didn’t use the ones included in pattern.

Added a waist seam to have waist shaping at bodice and pants.

Added an overlapping piece at waist to hide elastic. The pattern directions have a piece of bias tape sewn to the inside of the jumpsuit for casing.

Tapered in the legs about two inches at the bottom and shortened an inch to give a “boyfriend look”

Changed the height of the yokes to give more room in the butt. The pattern was a little small. A size 10 that was actually drafted for the measurements listed. So, smaller than mine.



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  1. says


    Your {highly edited} coveralls are totally awesome! I had to keep scrolling back up to the pattern because I couldn’t fathom the alterations you were describing. In the end, you really do have the coolest denim look I’ve seen in a long while. I love the back pockets! Actually, I love all the pockets, and the zip! Great booties, as in footwear, too. 🙂

  2. says

    So sorry this turned into such problems.. But sticking with it, paid off. They look fantastic on you… Great job on all the alterations..

  3. says

    What an exercise in engineering you did on this….you even look like an engineer now. But in a nice feminine kind of way. Great job.

  4. says

    Looks so fabulous on you!! Love all the changes you made. Topstitching….have you looked at RTW? You are still ahead of the game on that one.

  5. Carol Gardiner says

    First of all, I have to say your coveralls turned out amazing. So cute. Your tenacity really paid off. I think the biggest problem is that coveralls were designed for people who are straight up and down, no curves. I remember trying to make some coveralls very similar to these in college and I finally gave up. Trying to fit my top curves and bottom curves into the pattern and still have a waist was just too much work. I love your new outfit and I glad you did not give up.