Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Trace of Style

At one time, the fashion department at Parsons (The New School for Design) involved students in a "garment rub" exercise requiring them to make a pattern from an existing article of clothing without dismantling it. Many of the foreign students accused us of teaching them how to knock off a garment for commercial reasons(a practice in which many companies do engage). The instructors, however,  insisted it was a great way for them to acquire an intimate comprehension of construction, particularly of complicated or high market garments.

Usually the first thing I do after bringing a new doll into the fold, is to undress her and give her something new to wear. Even if the style of the garment she's wearing is okay, usually the fabric leaves much to be desired. There are exceptions of course. Where Mattel really gets it right is with fashion basics like T-shirts and jeans. As I mentioned in my very first post, the little black dresses worn by Barbie Basics are phenomenal.

The problem with keeping our foot-high fashionistas in clothes is that you cannot pop by the store to pick one up another pair of leggings or a shirt the way you do for yourself. This brings me to the purpose of this exercise. It is not so much to familiarize you with the construction of store bought clothes (which may or may not be interesting) but rather, to help you replicate the garment in better fabric or to create more of the same garment.

The T-shirt is one of those "must-have" garments you can never have enough of. As such,it's the garment I've chosen to duplicate (minus the yoke).

You'll need a very sheer paper for the trace. In this instance, I'm using waxed paper which lets me see the garment beneath. First, turn the garment inside out to expose the seams. Flatten the garment against the waxed paper and pin in place. Now trace the seams. (Fig a)

In this case, the garment is simple so I've traced all components in the same "sketch." (Fig. b) I'll trace them separately later. It's only important to sketch a little past the half of the garment.

Remove the waxed paper and fold your sketch in half. Trace the half sketch onto graph paper, placing the center front on a vertical line. Straighten up crooked lines, then fold your paper and trace the half you've just drawn onto the other side. Repeat for the back. Measure to be sure the shoulder lines and the side seams are identical front to back.

Fig. a
Fig. b
Use the same procedure for the sleeve, tracing the one half to the other side to make a complete sleeve. I curve the top point.

Again, when sewing, join the shirt at the shoulder seams and stitch the sleeve while the garment is flat. Then fold inside out and stitch under the sleeve and the side seams (see demonstration of the jacket.)

The pattern (upper left side) made from the trace-off in the lower right side
Before stitching up the side seams, finish the neckline, the hem of the sleeve. Personally, I prefer to roll the edges and tack down using fabric glue.

This T-shirt is open down the back, so you'll need to close it with a strip of Velcro. But just before you do that. Check the fit and adjust.

If you plan to make  numerous garments of the same type, it is worth it to make a "trial run" in fabric (called a muslin or toile). Mark any needed adjustments. Take this muslin apart and transfer your corrections to the paper pattern.

All Photos & Text property of  © Fashion Doll Stylist 2013. Please do not reproduce without prior permission.


  1. What a great technique! I was looking for a way to follow your blog but didn't see one. I'm definitely interested in watching your blog.

  2. Sorry to take so long to respond. Thank you for your kind words. Glad you found me. I have lots more tricks up my sleeve!!! Hope you'll stay tuned!


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