Why reproducing a garment is pretty much the most awesome thing ever

One of the first things I learned when I learned to sew was how to make a pattern from a garment I already owned and reproduce that garment.

It’s still one of my very favourite skills, and something I use all the time.

There are so many reasons why being able to pattern-up and reproduce a garment you already own is awesome.

First, you know it will fit perfectly.  You may spend a little extra time making a pattern rather than using a commercial pattern, but you’ll gain that time back in not having to worry about fit.

Next, you know the item will suit you.  For all that I know my body, what I wear, and what looks good on me, I’m still occasionally seduced by a pretty pattern cover, and invest time and money in making something that isn’t going to get a lot of wear.  When I reproduce a garment, that never happens.

Not only will a reproduced item suit you, but you know it’s going to work in your wardrobe.  I sometimes make items that I love, and which fit beautifully, but which I just don’t find myself wearing a lot.  That has never happened with an item I’ve reproduced, because I already know I wear the original all.the.time!

Finally I love reproducing garments because I am a romantic and a conservator.  I adore my grandma’s blue dress, and wish I could wear it every day, but I know that every time I wear it I am damaging it.  I turned the dress into a pattern, made it up in black wool crepe, and can wear the new version every day with the same warm, happy connection to my grandmother, and with the knowledge that it looks great and the original is being preserved for another generation to study and enjoy.

Even if you aren’t quite so romantic, everyone has a favourite dress or pair of jeans that they wear until they fall almost to shreds, and when you learn to take a pattern from them you can keep wearing that garment forever (maybe even in a better fabric!).

Here are a few of my favourite reproductions:

The white cape stole from Elise:

The gathered back of the cape-stole

Re-made in golden yellow silk velvet as the ‘Capelet of Yay’:

With additional back-fastening options

Grandma’s very fragile blue dress:

This is not a tree climbing appropriate outfit!

And re-created in black wool crepe:

The blue dress in black

And finally, and most recently, I turned re-created this purple jacket in white:

Little purple jacket

With slightly less contrast-y buttons

So, do you know how to take a pattern from a garment you already own and re-create it?  What’s your favourite thing you’ve made with this technique?

If you don’t know how to take a pattern from a garment you own and recreate it, and you are in Wellington, my ‘Replicate a Garment’ class is on at Made on Marion Fridays 20 & 27th July.  See you there I hope!



  1. Elise says

    I can’t sew so well. What I end up doing is buying something I really really like in every color, and being extremely brand-loyal. That’s the non-sewer’s version of clothing reproduction. Ha!

  2. Zach says

    That would be awsome to learn! Definately, the best part is being able to wear exact (or almost so) reproductions from antique clothing. It’s too bad I’ll not be around N.Z., though. 🙁 Your having one on my birthday, to boot!

  3. that’s what my grandma did…but on a smaller scale. after she found a dress that suited her and was comfy, she simply replicated it [pretty much the one style, some with sleeves, some without] for the rest of her life.

  4. Evey says

    I am very jealous of those able to attend this workshop! This is one of those techniques that is utterly mystifying to me still. I am forever searching for a paper pattern that looks close to my favorite skirt (with no success) and wish I could just figure out how to draft my own.

  5. This is a skill I would love to have! I have the perfect 50s sundress but have no clue where to start to reproduce it. Since I am no where near Wellington (let alone N.Z.) I may have to get youtubing!

  6. I too have one dress that is my absolute favourite, unfortunally it no longer fits me. Try as I might I cant find a pattern that is similar to adapt and recreate. The dress is still hanging there I know it will never fit me again I dont mind that, but I wish I could re-create it.

  7. My grandma’s friend had a dress which she loved, but wanted another in a cheerier color. I made a pattern of it and my grandma made her friend another dress. Grandma also sewed about a dozen after that one as people were asking to have a dress of their own. 😀

  8. I think I need that little white jacket. Except maybe in red or turquoise. Possibly both. And probably in white as well.

    Let’s have a sewing date soon, so I can borrow the pattern!


  9. Wow, your hair was so short (for you) in 2010! Amazed how much it’s grown.

    I think it’s so neat you’re preserving your grandma’s dress — love the black on you.

  10. I rarely take patterns from already existing pieces. Not sure why but I find it harder than making up a new pattern. I wish I could do it better. Although earlier in the year I took a pattern from a black silk, late victorian or edwardian capelet (that I got for free!) and made it up in a black corduroy type material. I wear it all the time!

  11. marian says

    i am an experienced patternmaker, in melbourne. i started by modifying bought patterns to what i wanted, then learned the technical side at college and years and years of experience. it has been a great and rewarding profession. Sadly the industry is dying out (cheap imports are responsible) i might just get enough work to see me out! i find it heartening to see budding seamstresses, the thread den and new fabric stores. my advice is to just try and don’t be put off by what appears to not look as you wanted, just breathe! and look, and keep looking until you understand what hasn’t worked out and fix that. 🙂

  12. LadyD says

    I’d love to be able to reproduce my fave clothes. Wish I could find classes over here that would show me how. My only attempt was of a very simple vest top…It turned out more snug than I expected. lol!

  13. I have a lot of difficulty patterning from garments that need to remain existent–I’ve been taught how more than once and it’s never taken particularly well. I can take something apart and get a pattern from it no problem, though.

  14. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Reproducing a garment is awesome! It means you can copy something old and fragile and make something that you can actually wear without worrying about destroying it. I wish I could go to your class but, sadly, it’s a bit too far away. All three of your copied garments are lovely. The capelet of yay is especially adorable, and it looks so fuzzy and warm.
    I have a very early 20th century cape that I would love to copy, it has 3 tiers with jet trim. I forgot to mention earlier, when you said you were having trouble with the black and white cape flapping in the wind, that heavy beaded trim and multiple tiers might be the answer. It adds up to quite a lot of weight, and the inward curves around the edges mean that the edges are longer and can hold even more trim.

    Could you give us a few hints about how to copy a pattern? For those of us who live on the other side of the globe and can’t come to the class.

  15. I love reproducing clothes from loved RTW garments! So far I’ve only done this with knits, but my little sister has two jackets that I’m in love with and want to copy.

    I’ll confess to having brought pattern paper and a measuring tape into an Anthro dressing room just so I could draw up a hasty pattern…and it worked!

  16. No arguments from me – reproducing a garment is awesome. I find it’s a system that’s especially good with trousers. Saves most of the mucking-around-fitting-them time, which is the part I hate.

    Also, the white capelet reminded me: mum is very impressed with her capelet. She loves it!

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