Have you ever tried cloning your clothes?

Imagine being able to make multiple versions of your favourite clothes without having to take the original apart….. If this sounds like you, read on for my top tips on getting started, along with a couple of free video sessions on how to clone your clothes

Have you ever tried to clone your clothes?

Cloning my favourite dress.


As a costumer, I’ve had to clone a garment many times when it’s been ripped beyond repair, or melted by an enthusiastic Laundry assistant prepping for that show that night…..
It’s an essential skill for costuming and is my favourite method for creating patterns when I sew for myself. Often when I find a dress I love and want in every colour, the style is no longer available so the only way to make another version of it, is to extract the pattern. Since it’s a dress i love, destroying it to make a pattern isn’t an option!
However it’s possible to take a pattern from most garments without taking apart the original. The blue dress below is a favourite of mine that I managed to buy in 2 colours before it was no longer sold. I cloned it and made a couple of changes to make a heat-wave friendly version a few years ago.
How to clone a simple dress

The cloning process.



NB- This process shouldn’t be used to take someone else’s design for profit. I only ever make copies for myself of clothes that are no longer available, or a shape that I’d like to alter from the original



There are 3 simple ways to take a pattern from your favourite clothes without destroying them in the process. Whilst it’s true that the best way to get an accurate pattern is by cutting up a garment, this just isn’t what we want when our beloved garment is still in rotation.

Method 1- Direct Measuring.


This works for really simple shapes like a pleated skirt or a garment without much shape and details. You simply measure all key parts
of the garment and transfer them over onto a piece of paper. For example: the length of a waistband, the depth of that waistband etc.

Have you ever tried cloning your clothes?

Method 2- Over-draping.


This method is useful for complicated designs like a waterfall frill or a ruched panel, where simply measuring or tracing would be impossible. Use a lightweight piece of muslin to lay over the area you wish to pattern, and pin into all the corresponding folds and tucks. Once you’ve done this, you can make the perimeter and then all the internal pleats etc with a pencil. Carefully make a note of how it all looks, and unpin your muslin. This can then be used to transfer the shape onto a piece of paper as your pattern.

Have you ever tried cloning your clothes?

Method 3- Tracing.


This is the method I use the most. I carefully pin my garment on to a piece of paper over a cardboard cutting mat or foam board. I mark any perimeter lines with a pencil, and then use a tracing wheel to mark the seam-lines. I’ve recently taken a copy of a ready to wear T shirt dress I love that has seen much better days! I bought the dress below in different colours every season for a few years, but
now the store no longer stocks it, I can only get another one by making a copy.

Have you ever tried cloning your clothes?

My number one tip for choosing the right garments


Be honest about the skill levels you have today. If you’re a beginner who has never sewn with a pattern before, then extracting a pattern from  a sewn garment is less likely to be successful for you, as you have no points of reference about how a pattern should look, or what pattern markings to add. You don’t need to be a master dressmaker with lots of garment making under your belt, but you do need to have worked with one or two patterns. If you’re a brand new dressmaker, try my pyjama trouser project inside this beginner course

Match your first project with sewing skills you currently have. If for example you’d like to clone a pin tucked blouse, but you’ve never sewn a pin tuck, then you’ll struggle to both make the pattern and sew the new cloned version.

Top tips for getting started


  • Mark a “baseline” on your pattern paper- this is a vertical ( grainline) line with a horizontal ( cross grain) line across it. You use the baseline to ensure your pattern remains true to the original grain of your garment. That means you line it up with a centre front/back folds or marked grainlines on  your garment
  • Make a note of the grain-line on any sections of your garment that are not folded in half. For example I often trace the whole of a front trouser leg, so I need to see the grain-line down the middle
  • Work with your garment folded in half. If you lay a dress flat and trace all the way around the perimeter it will be inaccurate since the front and back of dresses are not the same size. Your patterns are only ever a half of a garment section, not the whole of it
  • Pin all matching seams together once folded in half eg- the side seams, the shoulders and the armholes. This will stop the 2 halves from moving apart and giving you an inaccurate cloned pattern.
  • On most sleeved garments you can’t trace a whole section in one go. In my striped dress example the stitched shoulders and armhole mean the top section can’t be laid flat at the same time as the lower section of the dress. I created an “anchor line” by pinning horizontally across the chest. I  then traced the lower section first, then releasing that area to lay the shoulder area flat above the anchoring pins
  •  You’re only tracing up to the stitch lines, so you’ll need to add seam allowance, hems and notches.
Have you ever tried cloning your clothes?

How to clone a simple dress


Back in 2020, early in lockdown I ran a free online session on how to clone my fav blue dress using a simple tracing method. If you’d like to learn the process, watch this video

How to clone a more complex garment?


Not all garments are as simple as my blue dress which has just a front and a back, and no darts or pleats.

So how do you go about cloning something with a dart?

Watch this 2nd video to learn how.

So do you think cloning is something you might like to try? If so you can now pre-order my new book Clone your clothes

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  • Shaz Goodwin

    11.04.2024 at 11:36

    Love your tips and how easy it is to follow along with you. Very clever!

    • The Thrifty Stitcher

      04.06.2024 at 17:02

      Thank you so much for your kind compliment, much appreciated