Clothes Remake

June 16, 2010

A couple weekends ago I cleaned out my closet. I packed up my maternity clothes and pulled out my warm weather favorites. There are two shirts I pulled out that are really too worn out to wear, but I love them too much to get rid of them. I keep thinking it would be wonderful to have an excellent seamstress replicate them in a similar fabric. (I’m assuming they would have to take my shirts apart to make patterns from them. But really, I have no idea.)

Have you ever had something like this done? Did you like the results? Do you think it’s worth a try? If it did work, I think it would totally change the way I approach my closet. In a really good way.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barchbo June 16, 2010 at 11:23 am

I did it with a cocktail dress that I had – very trendy color, bright and memorable, too. I had it duplicated in black. I have never regretted it! It was pricey, but I knew I would love it. I got a lot more wear out of the black version, and I finally donated it to Project Prom a year or two ago. It was really loved, and it was someone else’s turn to love it!


2 Design Mom June 16, 2010 at 11:32 am

So great to hear it worked for you, Barchbo! Did you go to a tailor or to someone more specialized?


3 Barchbo June 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I went to a tailor/seamstress named Hope. She did a great job – she learned to sew as a girl in Honduras. She was a really nice lady, which made the experience so much more fun.


4 Cayenne June 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

I have been wondering about the exact same question. I have this pair of wide-legged linen pants that are definitely get lots of wear. The fit is perfect for me and I was hoping that someone (a seamstress?) could make a new pair based on the original.

I am interested to know price ranges for replicating clothing items and if I need someone really specialized – is it correct to assume an alterations place would not be appropriate.


5 Design Mom June 16, 2010 at 11:32 am

I have the same questions, Cayenne. Hopefully someone that’s in the know will chime in.


6 KJ June 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

I did this with a dress I wore to my wedding reception. I took two dresses to a tailor, told him what elements I liked about both, and he made it. He didn’t have to take the original dresses apart, but he did make a muslin (mock-up) first to make sure all the specs were right, and then made the dress from that with the fabric I picked out.


7 stephanie June 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

i have done this before. it’s a fairly simple process. i think any seamstress could do it. if the shirts are too worn to wear, you really don’t have anything to lose.


8 Krista June 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

I had done this and it’s the perfect way to get great-fitting clothes!

Another tip of something you can take to your seamstress: My husband and I were cleaning out our closets when he decided to get rid of some of his old “going-out” stripped and patterend button down shirts from college. I took the ones that I liked to my seamstress and she cut them way in on the sides, shortened the bottom and the sleeves and now I wear them all the time!


9 Erin C. June 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Oh that is easy! You actually don’t have to take the garment apart in most cases. You need to be able to lay each “pattern” piece of the garment out flat and secure it down in some fashion, trace the the outline with a tracing wheel and then true up your pattern. (OK, maybe it is easy for me…) After you have all of the pieces traced onto paper, you can continue on like sewing any other project. It does get a little more tricky if your piece has darts though. In that case it may be wiser to pick apart your pattern pieces unless you feel comfortable with pattern manipulation…


10 soapwallachef June 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm

When I spent 4 months in India I had three dress shirts replicated (it’s incredibly cost effective, and the textiles available are out of this world). It was fun and super exciting to feel like I had my own personal tailor; alas, the new shirts didn’t hold up as well as the original and for some mysterious reason, never fit as well either.


11 Desiree June 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

I like to make new things with my old faves. Pillows, wall hangings, stuffed animals, bags…the possibilities are endless!


12 Brittany June 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm

This is such a wonderful idea! I’ve always wanted to try it seeing as I’m tall and finding the right fit is always difficult. Love reading everyone’s comments. Seems like a fairly easy process that definitely worth a try!


13 Sarah @ Cable Car Couture June 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I did this a couple years ago with a flamenco dress — took it to a tailor and then had them alter the design slightly to be within my preference. It was awesome, fit great, and was cheaper than buying something new off the rack. Go for it!


14 Megan June 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Two places you might look to find very experienced seamstresses and tailors are a local independent fabric store and the costume shop of a nearby theater. My local fabric shop has a small display of business cards for people offering sewing services. I encourage you to ask the people working at the store, often they will have seamstresses they use themselves and will be happy to recommend. The people that work there are likely experienced stitchers themselves.

I used to work in professional costume shops and everybody there took on side projects like the one you’d like. If you have a local theater that makes their own costumes (either a regional theater or a seasonal one) the costume shop manager should be able to refer you to a number of very experienced stitchers. In my experience regular employees sometimes negotiate the use of costume shop machinery for their side projects, which could mean a very professional finish.

Somebody recently asked for similar advice over at Ask Metafilter and people shared their experiences, you might find more information in that thread.

I hope you find somebody, I’d love to see the result!


15 Jennifer June 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’m not sure where you live, but a very good friend of mine reconstructs clothes for a living, her name is Miranda. You can find her at She has made one of a kind pieces for me that are beautiful and artistic. She also recently published a book, “Reconstructing Clothes for Dummies,” if you are interested in learning the craft. Look her up, she is amazing!



16 Miranda June 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm

This is a great, and very do-able project. Any seamstress/tailor (even an amateur friend or relative!) with an understanding of pattern making should be able to confidently remake a shirt or two from existing pieces.

Another fun idea is to remake items that you love the fabric or a certain element of, but aren’t quite wearable anymore because of size, season or otherwise, and remake them into totally new clothes. I’ve been working a little on my own wardrobe for a couple weeks in a project I call “Repuropse the Wardrobe.”


17 Miranda June 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Sorry, “Repurpose the Wardrobe”


18 The Emily June 16, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I wish I did. I know this doesn’t help but my sister-in-law had a good friend who lived in Nepal last year and before she left, she had some of the locals re-create a bunch of her favorite jeans, cute clothes from Ann Taylor, remakes from magazine shoots etc. for seriously cheap. It’s the funnest post to read:

So if you’re ever in Nepal…


19 Michelle June 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

If the item is too difficult for a tailor or seamstress, you can look into hiring a pattern maker. They usually don’t do the sewing (although some do) but they can make you a professional pattern to fit you perfectly and then you can take it to anyone to sew it.

Pattern makers can also whip up an item of your dreams, if you don’t have an actual piece of clothing to replicate.

It’s more money to use a pattern maker, sort of like a middle man, but if you hit a wall with a tailor or a seamstress, they can do anything.

Good luck!


20 Nikki June 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I haven’t done it myself but my good friend in San Francisco has it done all the time (she’s crazy tall and finds it difficult to find clothes that fit her well and that she loves).

She finds fabric that she loves, hands it over the original piece and pays her seamstress by the hour so depending on what kind of piece it is, it can get spendy.

I’m with you though, I hate saying goodbye to my favourites.


21 Sharon June 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Yep, I’ve done it. If its a complicated design you would have to pull the garment apart to make a pattern but otherwise you can make a pattern just by laying out the garment carefully. I made a skirt for my daughter doing this a couple of weeks ago.

Dont forget you can repurpose your “worn-out” clothes into something new too. I am the Queen of Repurposing! Turn them into dresses for your daughter.


22 Natalie Ellis June 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Do you know Dana over at Made? She could probably help you with this, I don’t know her, but it seems to be her specialty. :)


23 Jana @ Weekend Vintage June 17, 2010 at 7:22 am

I prefer to pull the garment apart rather than just trace it. You’ll get a better fitting garment-one that is closer to the original.


24 Jetta June 17, 2010 at 10:13 am

So interesting that you brought this subject up because I was just considering starting to do this for a business in the last week. Wondering if there were people who would specifically want their favorite pieces remade once worn out. I guess there are!


25 Tanya June 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I definitely want to learn how to do this and make a lot of my own clothes. That’s the plan for August :)


26 Cathy Lane June 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I used to do custom sewing and this this was one of the most common requests. I would trace or take apart the garment. Harder to do was when (frequently) someone brought in an old garment that they had outgrown (got fatter). I would then find a current pattern that was similar and adapt it to the desired style. A newer method of duplicating a garment exactly is to cover each section with overlaping painters (blue) tape. You mark the seams, darts, etc on the tape “fabric” – remove it and place on paper or interfacing and cut out to make each pattern piece. Whatever method your seamstress uses expect to have the top, pants or whatever made up in some cheap fabric first – sometimes called making a muslin – and adjustments will almost always need to be made Rarely is this a garment you get to wear. It seems that the new “pattern” usually runs a little small at first no matter what you do. I’ve been out of the seamstress biz for too many years to know the going rates anymore but this kind of custom work is expensive. The pay off is that you will have not just a replacement garment but now you have a pattern that can be duplicated in other fabrics. Good Luck!


27 Holly June 18, 2010 at 7:59 am

Custom work can be quite expensive, but the tailor is always my first stop when I’m on holiday in Asia. Something I don’t think has been mentioned is that not only can you get something you love copied, but being made from scratch there’s also room to make changes. How often do you come across a lovely top that you just wish had sleeves, or a cute dress that could do with a slightly longer hem? I have had good results taking a picture of a less-than-modest piece of clothing and having the tailor make them with a few tweaks to ensure modesty. My mum bought a kind of pricey dress with no sleeves that she wears with a top underneath. I had a copy of the dress made for a fraction of the price, and the tailor was able to add sleeves and make the hem a bit longer.


28 erin June 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I have a degree in fashion design and we were taught a “down and dirty” way to replicate a garment. Lay your garment FLAT so that one piece of the garment is nice and smooth. Lay a piece of lightweight muslin over the top. Use tailor’s chalk to create an outline of the piece by tracing the seams (think leaf rubbings on paper). Add 1/2″ all around for a seam allowance (or more for hems and facings) and there’s your pattern piece. Repeat for all pieces of the garment.

Sleeves can be a little trickier, since you can’t get the piece to lay flat without taking the garment apart. You can get a close approximation by tracing the top side (where it’s set in at the shoulder) and then doing the underside (where the seam is) and putting the pieces together.

The great thing about this method is that you can use the muslin pieces to make a sample and check the fit before making a final garment.

Hope this helps :)


29 Kim April 26, 2011 at 4:13 am

I had a favorite pair of jeans years ago. I took them apart seam by seam and remade them because I loved the fit so much. They turned out great, but took a long time because of the ripping apart. I still do this if something is worth keeping.


30 lacy November 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

some community collages have a pattern making class for seamstress maybe they would like your project to create the patterns.


31 Nicole Marie Malin March 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

HELP!!! I am doing an Art course through a school in Darwin NT and im just stating the Fashion unit (UNIT 2) but i dont know what to make. i was thinking about doing something with jeans and ripping them or Turning e demin Jacket into a vest!!! HELP!!!!


32 Karen March 1, 2015 at 1:03 am

Is it possible to duplicate a clothing item if all you have is a photo? My grandpa who passed away years ago wore this sweater all the time, and my mom couldn’t find it. :( It would be great to be able to find someone who could make it.


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