Reverse-engineered clothing
May 29, 2006 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know of a service or business that will reverse-engineer an existing piece of clothing, and either produce a pattern, or be willing to copy it in a different material? Oh yeah, and for not an exhorbitant fee.

When I was young, I seem to remember places in Hong Kong that would do this, but I can't seem to find anything now. I have some shirts and pants that fit me well, and want them copied in materials of my choice. I think if I had a pattern I might be able to tackle the sewing, but don't think I can get to that point by myself.
posted by ackptui to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect any independent tailor would copy a garment, but I'm not sure it would come cheap. I doubt they'd give you a pattern, though. They might also be wary about doing this because they become somewhat responsible for the fit even though they're supposedly just copying an existing garment.
posted by beerbajay at 1:39 PM on May 29, 2006

It sounds like you just need a tailor. Apparently there are still plenty of inexpensive tailors available in Hong Kong. If you want a Hong Kong trained tailor shipping your clothes to Asia, it sounds like this guy peridiocally visits your neck of the wood.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:46 PM on May 29, 2006

...without shipping...
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:47 PM on May 29, 2006

I've done lot's of work with various tailors producing stage costumes.

I've found tailors that did shit work for thousands of dollars and tailors that did fantastic work for a few hundred bucks.

The best one I ever hired was a Mexican master tailor.

His work was superb and his prices were extremely low.

1 project I hired him for was to cut up a costume and produce patterns to make multiple duplicate copies of. His copies were better than the original.

Go find yourself a Mexican master tailor. The best one I had couldn't speak english and required we required a translator.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2006

Definitely just try tailors wherever you live. Last year a friend who's a seamstress helped me disassemble a chef's uniform to make a pattern for my own Iron Chef Sakei Halloween outfit. I was surprised how quickly and easily she did it.
posted by web-goddess at 1:58 PM on May 29, 2006

I would say "where's your nearest Chinatown?" I'd be willing to bet there's someone there who'll do it.

That kind of looks shallow or even racist, but seriously, that's where we get stuff like mending clothes done, simply because that's the only place in the city we can find someone who'll do stuff like that cheaply, quickly and well, although your milage, etc. etc.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:31 PM on May 29, 2006

I'd like to point out that there are copyright implications here. Technically this would be considered an "unauthorized derivative work" and/or an "unauthorized copy", and legally no different than a pirated DVD.

Making a one-off copy of such an item is probably no big deal, but actually making a pattern to permit massive duplication is not the same.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:57 PM on May 29, 2006

Not exactly. IANAL, but my understanding is that the design of clothing, like the design of a typeface, is not copyrightable (in the US, at least). A printed pattern is. But a knockoff design is not. So if you come up with a pattern yourself, based on an existing design, that isn't a problem. But if you photocopy a Butterick pattern or something, that's when you can get into trouble.

From this article:

"Under the current U.S. Copyright Act, copyright protection is denied to fashion works on the ground that they are 'useful articles.' Copyright does protect those design elements of a useful article that are separable and independent of the utilitarian function of the article. Separability can be either physical separability or conceptual separability. The prevailing opinion is that fashion designs in apparel (as opposed to accessories) cannot be copyrighted because they are neither physically nor conceptually separable from the useful article, i.e. the clothing."
posted by litlnemo at 3:42 PM on May 29, 2006

Try your regular ol' neighborhood tailor first. This is a pretty commonplace request...people just don't think to ask.

Also, articles of clothing are not copyrighted. And even designs aren't protected by copyright. Yet.
posted by desuetude at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2006

Basically, you've got three options:

1) Visit a tailor. This is probably be your best bet; depending on how complex the shirt and pant designs are, the money spent may be worth the time saved. They probably have better connections to good fabric sources, too.

2) If you feel confident in your sewing skills, take the garments apart and use them as pattern pieces. This works best if you don't care about wearing the originals again.

3) If dismantling your best-fitting clothes isn't an option, consider picking up a copy of Patterns From Finished Clothes: Recreating the Clothes You Love by Tracy Doyle. I've used the methods she describes to duplicate (sort of, it's a project in progress) one of my favorite summer shirts. Caveat: it was a time-consuming process, and the shirt in question was a simple raglan-sleeve t-shirt.

All in all, I'd ask around for tailor recommendations. (Of course, this might be influenced by my completely disheartening trip to the fabric store this afternoon, where it seemed like everything was either quilting cotton or 100% polyester.)
posted by Vervain at 6:00 PM on May 29, 2006

If you want to make a pattern from your clothes without taking them apart, there's a really clever method in an article in Threads Magazine. Unfortunately, the whole article is not available online so you'll have to find a copy of Aug/Sep 2005 at your library or purchase a back issue. Basically, you stick masking tape to the garment sections to duplicate the shape of each piece, then peel off the masking tape template and stick it to paper to make a permanent pattern. I haven't tried it but it seems really neat. If I had any clothes worth duplicating I'd be all over it!
posted by Quietgal at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

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