How to Copy a Garment That Fits Perfectly Without Taking It Apart




Introduction: How to Copy a Garment That Fits Perfectly Without Taking It Apart

About: Life is short. Create lots of pretty and useful things. I spend a lot of time sewing. I sew mostly clothing, including costumes, casual and business clothing. I am branching into making quilts and other fun...

A friend asked me if I had tried this method to copy a garment. At first I was pretty skeptical because I have copied garments by taking them apart and by scratching off a pattern from clothing that I did not take apart. Either way there are several steps and accuracy is easier if you have the pieces to lay flat. I was not excited about using tape on a garment I planned to wear again, but 3M's blue painter's tape is made to be less tacky so there is no residue. As it turns out this is probably the easiest way to copy a garment and the bonus is that you can mark your exact seam lines to insure a proper fit. Here is how.

Step 1: You Will Need These Items

A clean, fresh pressed garment that fits perfectly.

3M blue painter's tape, I used two sizes the slightly less than an inch wide size and the two inch wide size, you could use wider too, just depends on how much space you need to cover, you don't have to have two sizes, but I will explain in the instructions why it is useful.

Tissue paper, tracing paper or other paper to place on the sticky side of the pattern once completed.

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

Examine your garment to determine what you can trace without needing the tape, what you probably do not need to tape and what pieces you do need to tape. My garment is a shirt with a collar, collar stand, front button band, center front piece, front side piece, center back piece with a seam down the center, back side piece, and 3/4 length sleeves.

The collar and collar stand were easy to lay flat and trace around the outer edges so I did not use any tape for them. I also did not trace the front button and button hole bands because it is just a straight piece of fabric, folded with seam allowances on both sides. I can measure this and cut it without needing any pattern at all, but if you want you can tape it too.

That left five pieces that I needed to tape. My shirt did not have any darts because it has princesses seams so that kept this fairly simple. If your garment has pockets and or darts you will need to include these details and it may require a little more work. If you need help with this just let me know in the comments I will add an additional Instructable to cover that topic. While I did tape all five pieces I will just show how to tape one piece. Do this for each each piece you need to trace.

Because each piece is cut on folded fabric you will only have to trace half of your garment. If you start on the left side use only the left side to trace your pieces, or if you start on the right side, use only the pieces on the right side. This will keep the same side up and make it easier when you get ready to cut out the pattern.

I started with the left center front and worked my way to the center back. Make sure the garment is clean and freshly pressed so it will be easy to lay each piece flat.

Step 3: Taping the Pieces

Lay the section you are ready to tape as flat as possible. Start by taping exactly on the seam line at the outer edges of this piece with the narrow painters tape. Where your garment has curves, tear the tape in short pieces and add the pieces around the curved seams so that all of the fabric is covered just to the seam. The smaller pieces make it easier to work your way around the curves. Where there are no curves you can use longer pieces of tape. See the first picture above, especially the curved part by the sleeve seam. Once your edges are complete you can use the wider tape for the fill area between the seams. Be sure to over lap where the tape edges meet so that it is easier to remove without tearing apart.

When everything is taped edge to edge mark any design notes you will need. This shirt had horizontal tucks down the front which I did not mark. There is a seam in the shirt where this portion is joined to the yoke, but if you leave them out you will not need this mark. If I do include the seam and make the tucks I will sew the tucks before I cut out the pattern. This just makes it easier and eliminates the need to mark them separately on the pattern. If I need to, I can retrace the yoke and tuck portions into two pieces by adding seam allowances a the mark you can see on my pattern. If I do not use the tucks I will not need to make any alteration at all to this pattern. These are the kind of notations you will want on your traced/taped pattern. On this pattern I simply marked the portion that is the yoke and where the seam would go if I need it or where the first tuck is placed when I lay the pattern on the pre-tucked fabric.

The sleeve will require special attention. Because you will not be able to lay the sleeve out flat, trace each side from seam to press line. Put the two pieces together on the paper to make one completed piece.

Step 4: Removing the Taped Piece From the Garment

Once all of the notations are made for seams or details like pockets, button placement or other design details if any, the blue tape can be removed from this section. The edges with the smaller pieces will try to separate in some places and may require special attention. Go slowly and work your way around the edges, moving from one side to the other as needed to keep the tape from ripping or separating.

Step 5: Place the Taped Pattern Piece on Tracing Paper

Once the completed pattern piece is off of the garment place it sticky side down on tracing paper or other paper. Smooth the pattern on the paper, careful not to let it wrinkle. Turn the paper over and use a burnishing tool to get a smooth placement and remove any air pockets. Let the pattern rest while you trace the other pieces. After you have copied all of the other pieces, draw your seam allowances and remove the extra paper from the pattern pieces. Now you have a perfect pattern of a garment you know fits and you still have the original garment in tact.

Step 6: Review of Original Shirt and Test Sew

I used a holiday star print from the stash to test sew this blue tape pattern. I did make one alteration, at the top of the shoulder where the sleeve attaches I took in the sleeve and the shoulder seam 3/4 of an inch to get a better fit at the shoulder. That could have been due to having to tape/trace the sleeve in two pieces. I will mark this alteration on my pattern for future reference.

Step 7: Pattern Cut Out

Here is an image of the cut pieces. Note that I added length for the self facing at the end of the sleeve. The extra length includes enough fabric for the back side of the fold up cuff and hem. Everything else was pretty much as traced/taped.



  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest
  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest
  • Organic Cooking Challenge

    Organic Cooking Challenge

24 Discussions

I was just about to take apart my favorite dress when I came upon your tutorial. This makes me so happy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Hello! I really want to copy a dress, but it has darts in the bodice and i dont know how to copy that on the pattern. Can you help me please?

1 reply

hello Carlam79, please scroll down to the response on michelle.heydenhamilton 's comment and read the reply. I hope that you find that helpful. When you cut the dart area to lay the newly created pattern flat, the gap is the amount of space for the dart.

It can work with most items, but you may need to be a little more than average experience since blazers may have a lining and some padding too.

Wow!! what a fantastic idea!! Am really impressed. Even I would open the garment and try to trace it!!Thanks!!

OMG!!! I have been trying to figure out how to make a pattern from a beautiful top. I am a rather busty woman, so finding clothes that fit appropriately is rather difficult. I am great at altering patterns because I have a hard time finding patterns that fit me as well. With this method I can make a pattern from the shirt, and add an inch or so to each block and it will fit perfectly. Thank you so much for posting this.

Is there anyone or a company that can copy a garment

How to i trace a dress pattern with busy darts and a facing from an already constructed dress?

1 reply

Hi Frances,

Thanks for your question. I am guessing by "busy" darts that you mean there is more than one dart. Whether you have one or several darts the principal is the same as the extra steps that I included below for Michelle. What makes darts harder is darts are how we add 3D form to a flat piece of fabric. It will be harder to tape the original. If you are able to completely and correctly tape it, the finished taped pattern will more likely resemble the constructed garment. With accurate notations and careful cuts along the dart seams you should be able to lay your taped pattern flat. When the taped pattern lays flat the dart areas will spread out. Where the tape edge is will be your dart seam lines.

As for the facing you should be able to trace the facing from your pattern, ie, the bodice neck pieces will be like the front and back neck line but only a few inches wide from the neck seam, same for arm hole facings or front facings. Sometimes front facings are just folded over, for that just allow about two inches to fold over on the edge of your fronts. On this set of instructions there is a self facing on the sleeve for a cuff.

I hope this helps. Be sure to read the additional instructions below about darts. Good Luck.

Mama Reni

Thank you for this. I have this beautiful Asian inspired dress . That is a little large so now I can make the pattern a little smaller.

For some things I'm sure this would be brilliant. As a seamstress, however, the idea of doing this to make my slopers just makes my needled heaet go nope. Yes slopers are created similar to this, but you couldn't do this with ever y type of material, garment, etc. Interesting idea though.

1 reply

You are right, this isn't for every project. It is really only worth the effort if you have a garment that fits great but with no pattern to make a new one. I have had several ready to wear blouses that were more flattering and fit better than expected. In the past, I took them apart to make the pattern. With this method, I can make a pattern from a garment that I still plan to wear. In my early years of sewing, I had my mom, grandma or sisters around to help me fit and adjust patterns. Without their help sewing became very frustrating so using something I already KNEW fit made sewing a lot better experience.


2 years ago

thanks for this great idea, however in the uk we don't have painters tape as such, is it the stuff u use to mask off Windows and edges when you paint? We call this masking tape and it's usually white, or is it something else completely? What is the tape usually used for please

1 reply

Masking tape and painter's tape are very similar, but painter's tape was developed recently to have less glue on it so that it is easier to remove. It is sold in North America typically in blue, but it is also available in green for a more environmentally friendly version made with more recycled material. Head to your local painter's shop and ask for "low tack painter's tape" (the "tack refers to the tackiness/stickiness of the glue) and they should have it in the UK, it may just be called something else.


2 years ago

I never would have thought of this. It is really fascinating. I have to get some blue tape and fiddle with it. Thanks for the great tutorial.

Using painters tape is pure genius !!!!! I will try this sometime soon !!! Instructions are clear enough for someone who sews clothes, and had no trouble following..... Thanks !!!!!

Hi Michelle,

For a dart add this set of steps.

1. tape your garment up to the dart seam line, using a new piece of tape on both sides of that seam line. You may have to tape over the dart seam, in that case see the option in step 2 below.

2. make a mark on the tape where the dart ends. (if you were unable to tape exactly on the seam line as described above, you could also draw a line on the tape at the dart seam line.

3. when you remove the tape from the garment your taped pattern will not be flat because of the dart.

4. Cut along the dart seam where you either butted the tape at the seam, or drew a line over the dart seam

5. with the dart cut open, the pattern will lay flat and the gap left will be the measurement for your dart. Include enough fabric for the side seams and "V" shape at the end of the dart when you cut your new pattern.

Gathers are much harder to explain, that is one of the reasons I chose a pattern without gathers and a princess seam instead of a dart. I don't think I would attempt a taped pattern for something with gathers. You might be able to figure out how much fullness you need for gathers by looking at the grain line.