Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The $2 Gunslinger Coat: A DIY Trenchcoat to Duster Conversion

A couple months ago, my boss, perhaps jokingly, offered me an overcoat. It had sat for several years in the display window of the men’s clothing store where I work, and was two-toned from exposure to the sun.  Black on the back and under the buttons, belt, and collar, and faded brown everywhere the sun had done its work. It may seem odd that he would offer me such a coat, but then again, he also knows that I once jumped into a dumpster to retrieve a bike (which I sold to a U of U student for $100), and on another occasion pulled a perfectly good snowboard from another dumpster. This, incidentally, has become a running joke at work. So his offer was likely just a way to poke at my weakness for anything free, but I accepted it nonetheless.

So here’s the coat. Sun-fading aside, it’s a standard double breasted trench coat with removable lining. Pretty nice, really. While I considered dying it black in an attempt to restore it, I saw additional potential in this trench.  I asked myself, “Why not convert it into a gunslinger-appropriate duster for cowboy action shooting?” 

I looked for good information online about A.) the major differences between a trench coat and a duster, and B.) the best way to convert a trench coat to a duster. Failing to find much of A or any of B, I had to figure it out myself by looking at pictures, particularly from older westerns like Pale Rider. To convert this coat, I needed to do several things. First, remove the belt, belt loops, epaulets, and cuff cinches with a stitch picker. Removing these pieces really cleans up the lines of the coat and makes it seem to flow. Second, cut off the decorative buttons. Doing this further streamlines the coat and makes it look less formal. I’m going for Clint Eastwood here, not Humphrey Bogart. Eventually I’ll probably swap out the remaining buttons for either antler or pewter substitutes to help the period look.

So at this point I was left with… basically a duster, but with really unnatural looking sun-fading. So after some experimenting with bleach and RIT color remover on the pieces I removed, I determined that bleach was the best way to go to get a nice rust/brown color all over. So after unzipping the liner and setting it aside, I headed to the garage to bleach the shell. The combination I used was 1 cup bleach to each gallon of water, and less than a minute in the bucket was enough to turn all the black areas to orange/rust.

 A couple days later, finding myself unsatisfied with the color, I went for broke and left the duster in my bleach solution for an hour while I went running. This really did the trick, turning the coat a dirty grey/brown. There’s still a slight contrast between the sun-faded and formerly black areas, but the difference is much less noticeable. It’s mottled and looks weathered, like it’s been on a long cattle drive. The look should improve and even out with exposure to sun, dirt, and gunsmoke. Lots and lots of gunsmoke.

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