New(ish) Patterns for the Varsity, Letterman, Aviator or Bomber Jacket

As a blogger, I can look at my stats and know what’s bringing readers here, and I’ve been surprised lately to see that people are searching for Varsity/Letterman/Bomber/Aviator-style jacket patterns. Thinking of fall sewing already?

During the winter I wrote about how this cut of jacket was becoming a style statement, and included a link to a New York Time Style article featuring designer versions.

Elletra Weidemann

(You can find that post and info here)

While I’m in the sewing shed laboring on a project that’s not ready for prime time (oops, and going to the beach, too, forgot I told you that…) I thought I’d share some of the jacket patterns I’ve found while procrastinating–er– “researching” online.

Even though this basic style is somewhat interchangeable nowadays, the jackets come from two different places in history.

The Varsity or “Letterman” jacket started in the 1860’s at Harvard University (of course, where else, rah rah rah) when athletes had the letter “H” sewn onto their sweaters, and if they did particular well, they got to keep the letter. This started a U.S. tradition of athletes earning “letters” to wear on their wool jackets with leather sleeves.


Earning a letter allowed these “jocks” to date the prettiest mean girl and beat up the sensitive guys…or at least that’s how it plays out in most American movies about high school. International readers, does this style exist in your country?

The bomber or aviator jacket was developed in the early 20th century for pilots to wear in cold airplane cockpits, and they were often made of sheepskin with shearling on the inside for warmth. During the 30s, the jackets were shortened to waist length to create the A2 style we’re familiar with now.

Brando in bomber jacket

It’s definitely a “bad boy” look.

This style has gone in and out a number of times, but now the jackets are having a moment, so stitch one up fast while they’re still hot!

Here are some patterns for women’s jackets that I found recently on BurdaStyle:

Burda slouchy varsity jacket pattern

I like the 3/4 batwing sleeves and low neckline of this pattern, found here.


Burda flowing varsity jacket

This one, found here, has blousy sleeves and slash pockets.


Burda collarless varsity jacket pattern

I like the clean neckline, snaps, and zipper pocket detail on the sleeve. You can find it here.

Here’s one for men, cut with raglan sleeves, found here:

Burda coat pattern

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kathleen Fasanella of has a men’s bomber-style jacket pattern with in-depth instructions, which can also be used for manufacturing. (Info is here.)

Bomber jacket pattern


That’s all the patterns I could find, but if you’re aware of any others, please let us know in the comments. It’s a fun look to stitch up for fall.

Update: After I published this post, I heard from Gabrielle of the Up Sew Late Blog. She told me about the following patterns:

The Papercut Patterns Rigel Bomber, which has a modified “V” neck, and plain raglan sleeves or sleeves with shoulder detail:

Rigel Jacket

And the StyleArc “Sharon Sweat Top” which could be used to make this kind of jacket, or to fake a Lululemon apres yoga jacket. With a wide range of sizes and a princess seam cut, this could work for more pear-shaped women.


Thanks for the heads up on those patterns, Gabrielle!

All of the links to these patterns, and more, can be found on this Pinterest page:  

Enough procrastinating. Back to sewing!

17 thoughts on “New(ish) Patterns for the Varsity, Letterman, Aviator or Bomber Jacket

  1. Here in Australia the universities don’t have that jacket / letter tradition, so I’m one of those people that only know it through books and movies. But the fashion is of course popular here too. The pattern that I’ve seen used a lot for bomber jackets is the Papercut Patterns Rigel – there are also some similar patterns intended for stretch fabrics, like the style arc Sharon jacket. Papercut is a NZ pattern company, and StyleArc is an Australian pattern company.

  2. There’s a twist on the jacket in the May 2014 Burda. I love how it looks on the skinny models, but I can’t imagine that it would all that great on pear shaped me.

    • Hi Lynn, I think it’s a tough style for pear-shapes to pull off in general with that ribbing at the waist. Though in my younger days I ran around the West Village in NYC wearing a brown suede jacket in that style from the Army/Navy on 8th Street, during that first bloom of Ralph Lauren Americana faux-vintage. (I also had a vintage flight suit I used to wear around, but that’s a post for a different day…)

      • Lynn, I was just looking at the StyleArc “Sharon” jacket recommended by Gabrielle of the Up Sew Late blog, and I think that’s a style that could work for pear-shaped women. It comes in a wide range of sizes. I’d make it in a knit, to be fitted like those Lululemon jackets I hate to love.

  3. After reading my junk mails from BurdaStyle this week, I thought the word “moto” was the heat seeking meme. This is better. As much as I think I can sew my way out of anything, I sent the FIL’s Korean War Marine Corps leather jacket to Judy’s here in Seattle for a new waistband and cuffs. The leather is still in excellent shape and the almost 15 yr old looks great in it. It does not fail to impress.

    As for my pearshaped present self, I’d choose something closer to an “Eisenhower” style. Nothing puffy above the waist, I’m puffy enough.

    • I know what you mean about puffy. I’m glad I rocked all of those out there vintage looks at an earlier age. Trying the stick to “streamlined” at this point. Looking forward to being eccentric when I’m really old, though!

  4. I do love your historical posts with suggested patterns, Julie. This style is not for me nowadays, but somewhere around 1980 I often wore a burgundy velvet bomber jacket with gold trim that made me feel too cool for school when I clearly was not. Thanks for the memories . . .

  5. Will have to try one of these and I think I will go for the streamlined version. I have Style Arc Sharon pattern and will give that one a try. Another great read.

    • Hi Mary, I think a number of people like that pattern, so let us know how it works out. I was just reading your complex dissection of the Chanel sleeve on your blog Cloning Couture. I think Coco would be amazed that that’s keeping us up nights!

  6. Oh my, you have made me happy… How?– By including the links to Vlisco (and the Free Aviator Bomber Jacket PDF Pattern)! And, their fabrics are irresistable. Thanks for every single one of your interesting posts for all of us who truly love to sew.

    • Thanks for your kind words! I think I enjoy the writing as much as the sewing. And of course the “research” which is mainly done lying in bed wasting time on my iPad (like I’m doing now).

Leave a Reply to Lynn Mally Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s