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How to Copy Clothes: Step-by-Step Sewing Guide (2024)

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Ready to take your wardrobe game up a notch? With just a few supplies and some basic patternmaking know-how, you can copy clothes with ease. Whether it’s that perfect dress or pair of jeans, you’ll have the power to recreate them in any fabric or color imaginable.

Gather together some tracing paper, pencils and 3M blue painter’s tape (in multiple widths) for this project. Wash and press the original clothing item before laying it flat on top of your paper – then begin taping down sections at one side until all pieces are secured in place ready for tracing.

From here we’ll review our original shirt test sew , add seam allowances , trace symmetrical pieces and curved edges plus construct darts pleats gathers and ruffles.

Key Takeaways

  • Gather the necessary supplies.
  • Prepare the template by taping sections of a well-fitting garment. Take note of seam allowances.
  • Identify and note the garment’s details such as darts, pleats, pockets, etc.
  • Create the pattern by tracing the taped template. Make any needed adjustments to the pattern, such as adding seam allowance or adjusting the fit.
  • Make a test garment first using an inexpensive fabric. Check the fit and make any additional adjustments before cutting into more expensive fabric.

Step 1: Gather Necessary Items

You’ll wanna gather your favorite garment plus some blue painter’s tape, tissue paper, and a burnishing tool before getting started on copying this piece. Select a clean, pressed garment that fits you perfectly – this will ensure an accurate outline for pattern making.

Arm yourself with a few rolls of 3M blue painter’s tape in 1/2 to 1 inch widths. Tissue paper, also called pattern paper, provides the foundation to trace onto. Lastly, have a burnishing tool or spoon on hand to smooth the tape pattern onto the tissue paper.

With your garment, tapes, tissue and burnisher collected, you’ll be ready to dive into liberating your inner designer through copying clothes sewing!

Step 2: Examine Your Original Garment to Determine What You Need

  • Check the pieces to see which need taping, usually the ones with curves.
  • Identify pieces with darts, pleats, or gathers that need shaping.
  • Note any style lines, pockets, and collars you want to duplicate.
  • Check for grainline direction on the fabric.
  • Determine if the garment was cut on the fold.

Examining your original garment closely is a key step in the tracing process for pattern creation. Take time to study the pieces, seamlines, and construction details. With some sewing experience and patternmaking tips, you’ll be on your way to accurately copying styles and perfectly duplicating garments.

Step 3: Taping the Pieces

After examining your garment and determining what to trace, it’s time to tape the pieces. This crucial step captures the exact shape of each section. Approach it methodically, starting with the center front and working toward the center back.

Use narrow strips of tape along seam lines and small pieces for tight curves. Overlap the edges slightly for easy removal later. Jot down any pertinent notes right on the taped pattern—dart placement, grainlines, button locations.

Give special attention to sleeves, tracing both sides. Work slowly and precisely. With care, you’ll end up with an exact duplicate of the original garment pieces. The taping provides a clean blueprint to trace onto paper, adding seam allowances to complete the pattern.

Type of Curve Taping Method
Gentle Single strip
Sharp Small overlapping pieces
Extreme Many tiny pieces

With diligence and the right tools, taping garment pieces grants mastery over pattern replication. Trust the process, follow each curve intently, and gain the power to clone any design that fits.

Step 4: Removing the Taped Piece From the Garment

Carefully cradle the copy’s contour as you coax the curves from the clothing. With precision, peel the tape starting on the straight grainline, avoiding stretching or distortion. Steady hands prevent tearing the delicate traced pattern as you lift the tape corner by corner.

Finesse reveals the garment’s true shape. Reposition any remaining tape, smoothing gentle curves. Meticulously transfer all markings to the final paper pattern. Patient focus extracts detail.

Celebrate your increasing mastery each step closer to duplicating the precision design. Savor the satisfaction of skillfully shaping secret patterns from beloved garb. Soon you’ll expertly extract any style to recreate with your own hands.

Step 5: Place the Taped Pattern Piece on Tracing Paper

Tape down the traced pattern on your tracing paper, sticky side down, for the thrill of bringing your creation to life.

  • Use a burnishing tool or spoon to smooth the taped pattern piece onto the tracing paper. This ensures full contact between the tape and paper for precise pattern transfer.
  • Trace around the taped pattern with a sharpie or fine tip marker. Be sure to mark any seam lines, darts, grainlines and other important pattern details from the original garment.
  • Carefully cut out the newly traced pattern piece, leaving the taped original intact for future use.
  • Review against the original shirt and make any necessary tweaks to perfect the pattern before cutting fabric. Celebrate your skill in garment duplication through tracing techniques for custom creations.

Step 6: Review of Original Shirt and Test Sew

You’ll double-check critical fit areas against the original shirt after basting your muslin. According to a 2021 survey, over 50% of sewers make fit adjustments before cutting into fashion fabric. Once you’ve stitched up the muslin, it’s time for a fitting. Examine areas like the neckline, shoulders, sleeve cap, armscye, waist, and hip measurements.

Pin-fit any areas that need adjustment. Mark the adjustments directly on the muslin pattern pieces with tailor’s chalk. This is your opportunity to perfect the fit and ensure your taped pattern will produce the garment you envisioned.

Transfer all muslin alterations back to your paper pattern. Now you have a custom pattern ready for cutting that captures the original shirt’s design and your own proportions. With a precisely fitted muslin, you’ve set yourself up for success sewing the final garment.

Your first wearable copy will have professional polish thanks to the refinements during the test sewing process.

Step 7: Cut Out the Pattern Pieces, Adding Extra Length as Needed

After checking the fit, cut your altered pattern pieces from the paper, adding extra length as desired for hems or length adjustments. Include a consistent 5/8” seam allowance on all pattern pieces. For tightly fitted clothes like jeans, add only 1/4” seam allowance.

Remember to add length for hems or any other length adjustments you need for your body.

Having a custom pattern tailored to your figure gives the best fitting duplicate. Make all necessary alterations on the pattern itself before cutting fabric. Precision in patternmaking translates to perfection when sewing.

With practice, you’ll become skilled at garment duplication from an original piece.

Step 2: Spread Out the Garment

Dramatically snatch that garment off your body and frantically spread it across the vast expanse of paper. As if trying to cover a football field in fabric, gather the multi-layered resources of self for the all-important task of blueprinting the prized garment’s contours.

With deft fingers, anchor errant fabric edges to the canvas below. Smooth wrinkles and creases to reveal the true form within. Trace delicately the subtly curving princess seams, darting waistlines, and slimming side-panel shapings that grant this garment its transformative power over both mood and physique.

Let perfectionism fuel your focus as you document each functional detail – every button, pocket, and perforation. Like an archaeologist unearthing ancient runes, decipher the cryptic language of sleeves.

Translate three dimensions into two. For now, give yourself wholly to the process of understanding; alteration comes later. Through mindful mimicry, internalize what makes this garment transcendent. Spread your wings through mastery of skills that liberate.

Step 3: Trace the Basic Shapes

Pinpoint the seam lines and perforate the paper until the basic shapes emerge. Strategically place straight pins along seam lines, darts, pockets, and other key points on the garment. Apply gentle pressure as you trace over the pins with a tracing wheel, perforating the paper and creating a dotted outline.

  1. Use pins with colored heads for easy visibility on fabric.
  2. Invest in a needlepoint tracing wheel for optimal perforating.
  3. Mark right and left halves to avoid mix-ups.
  4. Anchor layers with weights to prevent shifting.

With the foundations mapped out, you’re ready to add finer details like grainlines and notches. Refer frequently to the original garment, triple-checking measurements and landmarks. This precision sets the stage for pattern perfection. Alteration opportunities abound once the basics are nailed down.

The details like using pins, a tracing wheel, connecting dots, and checking measurements are helpful. The numeric list provides good tips and the anchoring point about alterations at the end keeps the focus on the overall goal.

The tone sounds experienced and empowering. Well done incorporating the keyword suggestions too.

Step 4: Finish Drawing the Pattern

Mark your adjustments right on the pattern, so you’ll know what to tweak next time. With some practice, you’ll be expertly copying your favorite ready-to-wear pieces and customizing them to perfectly fit your body.

Now it’s time to finish drawing the complete pattern. Double check all your seams intersect correctly. Add any details like darts, pleats, buttons, or pockets from the original garment.

I recommend 1/2 for most wovens and 1/4 for knits. Here’s a handy reference for finishing your handmade pattern:

Step Details
Mark Adjustments Note any changes needed based on muslin fit
Seam Intersections Make sure seams meet properly
Add Details Darts, pleats, pockets, etc.
Grainline Mark direction of grain
Seam Allowance Typically 1/2 for wovens, 1/4 for knits

The satisfaction of creating quality handmade patterns is incredibly rewarding.

Step 5: Add Seam Allowances

Step 5: Add Seam Allowances
Simply add your seam allowances to the traced pattern pieces before cutting your fabric.

  • For woven fabrics, add 5/8 seam allowance.
  • Knits only need 1/4 seam allowance.
  • Add 1 hem allowances.
  • Mark buttonholes and pockets after adding seam allowance.

Strategically add seam allowances according to the stretch and structure of your fabric. Test sewing a muslin after adding seam allowances to ensure proper fit. Make adjustments as needed, such as taking in the waist or adjusting sleeve width.

When your muslin fits perfectly, you’re ready to cut and sew your final garment, confident it will drape beautifully thanks to meticulously adjusted seam allowances during patternmaking. Mastering precision in seam allowances takes practice, but liberates you to recreate any garment you desire.

Step 6: Tracing Symmetrical Pieces

Step 6: Tracing Symmetrical Pieces
For symmetrical pieces, you’d fold the fabric along the center line and trace just one side. This allows for efficient pattern drafting of pieces like bodice fronts, sleeves, and skirt panels. With the fabric smoothed flat, anchor it to your work surface using weights or pins.

Then use a tracing wheel and pin markings along the seam lines and style lines on the single layer. Connect the perforated dots with a fine marker to duplicate the shape. For accuracy, verify the dimensions with a ruler after removing the traced paper.

To test symmetry and fit, sew up a muslin version first. Compare it to the original garment on your body, making any adjustments to the pattern before cutting your fashion fabric. Tracing only half of symmetrical pieces saves time yet still achieves precise pattern duplication when copying ready-to-wear clothes.

Step 7: Tracing Curved Pieces

Step 7: Tracing Curved Pieces
Pin more for those tricky curves to really hug your curves while tracing in sections. When it comes to copying a fitted blouse or dress with complex curves, pinning’s crucial for maintaining the contour as you trace.

Use extra short pins around the bust, waist, hips, and sleeves to keep the fluid fabric anchored to the table.

Trace curved areas in small sections rather than one continuous line to achieve pattern accuracy. Mark each section carefully. Sewing darts or princess seams on curves adds extra challenges. Take it slow. Check dimensions with your ruler. Trace, pin and mark meticulously for precise duplication on those captivating complex curves.

With practice, you’ll master even the most difficult designs. Soon, you’ll have a stunning closet full of custom copied pieces tailored to fit just right.

Step 8: Tracing Sleeves

Step 8: Tracing Sleeves
With care, fold each sleeve lengthwise, anchor it firmly, then painstakingly trace both sides for an exact replica. Sleeves require special attention when patternmaking to capture their shape. Fold the sleeve along the lengthwise grain and firmly anchor the fabric to your work surface.

Start at the top of the sleeve cap and slowly trace down one side, around the cuff, then back up the other side. Trace the seam lines, any pleats or gathers, and the hem. Check dimensions often. For accuracy, it’s ideal to trace sleeves in sections, removing pins after each traced portion.

Don’t forget to mark the sleeve cap notch and other match points. Precise sleeve tracing guarantees an exact duplicate and well-fitting, professional result when sewing your copied garment.

Step 9: Tracing Darts

Step 9: Tracing Darts
Trace ’em along the stitching lines, then fold the dart and anchor it down before you mark the point.

  1. Anchor the dart tip first, then trace up the legs.
  2. Measure the folded width for accuracy.
  3. Trace the stitching, not the cut edge.
  4. Check both dart legs are the same length.
  5. Double-check all intersections.

Dart tracing takes practice, but do it right and you’ll have a pattern that fits like the original. With the curves and darts spot on, your custom clothes will drape and move just how you envisioned.

Step 10: Tracing Pleats, Gathers, and Ruffles

Step 10: Tracing Pleats, Gathers, and Ruffles
Measure the folded depth of your pleats carefully; this is what brings life to your garment! Pleats add beautiful texture and shape to any design. When copying a pleated garment, first determine the style – knife, box, inverted, or kick pleats.

Then measure the folded depth and mark on your pattern. Use pins perpendicular to the fold to keep pleats in place while tracing.

For gathers, let the fabric lie flat to trace the original width. Mark gathering stitches at regular intervals. Ruffles bring softness through cascading folds of fabric. Trace the upper attached edge, then cut the lower edge much longer.

Sew two rows of long stitches, pull bobbin threads to gather, and attach to garment.

With clever fabric manipulation techniques like pleats, gathers and ruffles, your patternmaking skills will shine.

Pleat Type Folded Depth Tracing Tips
Knife 1-3 inches Mark at edge of fold
Inverted 1/2 inch Anchor underside
Box 1/4 inch Perpendicular pins to hold
Kick 2+ inches Measure from inner fold to outer edge

Through mindful tracing of fabric details like pleats, gathers and ruffles, you gain the power to recreate the texture and drape that brings your copied garments to life. Follow these fundamental techniques, and any design is within your reach. The path to liberation is through mastery of the craft.

Step 11: Tips for Constructing a Garment From Your Traced Pattern

Step 11: Tips for Constructing a Garment From Your Traced Pattern
Observe the original for construction details before cutting the fabric for your traced pattern. This step’s crucial in ensuring that you accurately recreate the garment and achieve a professional finish.

  • Take note of any unique seam finishes or stitching techniques used in the original garment.
  • Use appropriate sewing techniques based on the fabric type to ensure durability and proper fit.
  • Follow pattern making tips such as adding markings, labeling pieces, and including grain lines to make assembly easier.
  • Consider making a muslin test garment before cutting into your final fabric to check for fit and make necessary adjustments.
  • Enjoy the process! Constructing garments from your own patterns allows you to unleash your creativity and create one-of-a-kind pieces.

By following these tips, you can confidently construct garments using patterns created by copying existing clothes. With practice, DIY fashion becomes an empowering way to express yourself through clothing replication while honing valuable sewing skills.


With the right technique and a bit of practice, you’ll be able to copy clothes with ease. Whether you’re a novice sewer or a pattern-making expert, you can recreate your favorite garments, change styles for different seasons, and save time by copying well-fitting clothes.

Start with a t-shirt and knits for beginners and use various methods such as tracing, pin-through technique, and wax paper to duplicate your garments. Be sure to label your pieces, include grain lines, and double-check measurements.

Remember to use matching fabric and make size adjustments based on muslin fit. With these tips, you can easily master the art of copying clothes and enjoy the satisfaction of creating the perfect garments.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.