How to copy a garment you already own

While making my Minnie clone pants, I couldn’t find many resources online on how to copy a garment you already own and know it fits perfectly. There’s a book by Steffani Lincecum that keeps coming up over and over again, and while it’s gotten much praise (I’m sure it’s every bit as awesome as people say), an online step-by-step how-to is a good idea.

Last weekend I set my sights on copying the pattern for one of my favorite tank tops from Ann Taylor in the hopes of squeezing it out of 3/4 yds. of silk (impossible challenge, let me tell you). This is my first time trying to do a “tutorial” of sorts and I am by no means an expert, but my method has worked for me and I’m quite happy with the results.

What you’ll need:

  • Garment you want to copy (I suggest starting out simple with a sleeveless top)
  • Your paper of choice for pattern-drafting (brown paper is my favorite; this time I repurposed grocery bags and it’s a great way to get rid of them)
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Black marker
  • Pins
  • Cardboard, or another surface into which you can push pins (I used a high pile rug but DO NOT RECOMMEND; another idea is a cork tile)
  • Rulers (I like the ones for making quilts that are see-through and have 1/8″ markings all over– precision, y’all)
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting mat

Before you start:

  • Make sure your garment is not wrinkled. I lightly steamed/ironed my top right before I started.
  • Pre-cut your paper and tape it on top of the cardboard/cork tile.
  • Study the garment you’re copying. How many pieces make up your garment? (4 for mine because it has a yoke.) If the garment has facings, does it need separate patterns?


  1. Find the center of your garment and pin at the sides. For a symmetrical top, it’s safe to say you’ll just fold the top in half lengthwise and pin at the sides, making sure the armscye and the hems match. I started out with the back being inside the fold, so the front of my garment would be on the outside. Very important to pin right at the seams like so:IMG_1103
  2. Use the pencil to draw two perpendicular lines at the top of your paper. Make sure the vertical line is as long as the garment because it will be your center front/back line. (Pay no mind to the pinholes in my paper!)IMG_1102
  3. Since my top had 4 pieces (due to the yoke in the front and back), I started with the non-yoke part of the front. Line up the center line of your garment with the vertical line and the top of the pattern piece you’re copying with the horizontal line. This is better illustrated than explained: IMG_1101Note how that yellow pin on the upper left corner lines up with the horizontal line and with the center front. This is what you want. When you’ve lined up your garment correctly, pin that corner into place, making sure you catch the cardboard.
  4. Start pinning the garment into the paper AND the cardboard. My favorite method is to smooth out the garment over the paper, pull it slightly taut, and pin it at the corners– that would be the center hem, the side hem, and the armscye. Once the garment is pinned at the corners and won’t move around much, I start pinning along the seams every 1″ or so. For curved seams, I pin way closer, more like every 1/4″. This is the one time where using more pins will definitely pay off, so use as many pins as you have. Note: If your garment moves around when you’re pinning and you have to re-pin, I honestly recommend you start with a fresh sheet of paper. TRUST ME.
  5. Once you’ve pinned your garment, start un-pinning it. Set garment and pins aside. Make sure you can kinda see the pinholes forming the shape of your garment. This is good news.
  6. Start connecting the pinholes together into lines/curves with your pencil. You may use a French curve if you want clean lines.IMG_1104
  7. Add a sewing allowance if you like it in your patterns. Do this by measuring around the garment with your ruler and pencilling it in. I did a 1/2″ allowance.
  8. Use the Sharpie to go over your pattern at the seam lines, as well as to write the pattern details and markings.IMG_1107
  9. Repeat all steps for the other pattern pieces. I did this for the front and back yokes (which also are used as facings), as well as for the back.IMG_1108

I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any feedback 🙂


2 thoughts on “How to copy a garment you already own

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