Tag Archives: make a pattern from existing clothes

Using the Patterns in Your Closet: Copying a Dress


Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make a copy of your favorite dress, t-shirt, or pair of jeans?  I know there are people who can, and it’s a skill I’ve always wanted to learn.  Awhile ago, I posted about Cal Patch’s book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes.

Design-It-Yourself Clothes, Patternmaking Simplified by Cal Patch via Pattern and Branch

Since I never went to any sort of fashion design school, this has been a great beginner book for me as I’ve begun to explore pattern drafting.  Toward the back of the book, she has a little section on copying existing clothing.  She doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but gives you enough information to try it out.

A few years ago, I bought this strange but cool dress (or shirt or kimono-esque beach cover-up or…????) at an antiques flea market.  The tag says Sun Island, but I couldn’t find out much about the dress or the company via the all-powerful interweb…just a few similar items on eBay.

One of the great things about this dress is that it is made of two nearly identical pieces (front and back), plus some facings inside the collar.  There are no darts, nothing tricky.

Sun Island vintage dress via Pattern and Branch

Well, this seemed like the perfect piece of clothing to try to copy.  Over the summer, I followed the instructions and tried to make a pattern of the back, and then one of the front and the facings.  I found a sheet I liked at the thrift store to be my muslin fabric, and *cleverly* timed my construction attempt for when I would be visiting my parents, since I figured being able to ask my Mom questions in person about any problems might save me some time.

In the end, I got it constructed, and she suggested ditching the facings for bias tape, which was much easier to use and turned out nicer than my first attempt, if a little different from the original garment.

Copying an existing garment via Pattern and Branch

This has a fit similar to the original and turned out well.

For the final garment, I had some fabric that I think is silk, although I’m not sure.  I don’t have much experience with silk, so I was all set to go until I read that silk is hard to cut….then I chickened out and started dragging my feet on getting it done.  Then, again while reading, I came across the very wise thought that something isn’t necessarily hard until we hear that it is.  Does that make sense?  Cutting silk wasn’t hard in my perception until I  read that it was.  So, I finally got over it and just cut it out.  It was fine.  (Who knows?  Maybe this isn’t even silk, but that’s sort of beside the point.  We’re learning life lessons here! 😉 )

Here is my final version:

Copying an existing garment via Pattern and Branch

The amazing thing was, the fabric was exactly the width of the pattern, so I didn’t finish the sleeves in the end.  The selvages looked perfectly finished for my taste.  It made me wonder, was it silk and was it the width for a kimono?  Has anyone made one that can shed light on that?  If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  I’d also love to hear from anyone else who has tried copying an existing piece of clothing.  I know there is a lot more to learn, but I’m happy with my first attempt.  Now I just have to figure out how to style it…especially for winter.  Maybe the new pink suede shoes I got at the thrift store would work…    😉