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How to Copy a Pleated Skirt

A professional method to capture every layer accurately
Threads #206 - Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020

There are times when you really love a garment, and want it in another color or fabric. Or, the garment has worn out but you’re not ready to part with it. Instead of throwing it away or cutting it apart for a pattern, you can make a copy of it.

I discourage cutting a garment apart to get a pattern. First, when the garment is intact, you can still wear it. More importantly, you can measure the finished seam lengths, hem allowances, and observe any construction details. Taking a garment apart stretches and distorts the pieces, resulting in a pattern that is less accurate.

A method used in the industry to copy garments is called making a rub-off. I’ve devised a variation on the industry technique, in which I use silk organza as a transparent medium for tracing seamlines and other details directly from a garment. Then I transfer this information to paper.

One drawback of this method is that you can’t easily rub off details that include fabric layers, such as pleats. I and it is more accurate to add pleats to the traced pattern using patternmaking techniques. The example I show is an A-line skirt with two inverted box pleats (sometimes simply called box pleats) on the front and two on the back. I’ll demonstrate how to do the initial rub-offand then how to draft the pleat insertions so they duplicate the pleats from the original garment.

Prepare the garment and organza

For an accurate pattern, it’s essential to mark reference lines on the original garment with thread tracing. Choose a high-contrast thread, and press the garment first. For symmetrical garments, you need to work on only one side.

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  1. delsrio815 | | #1

    Kenneth I absolutely adore you! I grew up with you, I admire you, and I look forward to your next Instagram/article/book/video/podcast!


  2. User avater
    thepkl | | #2

    I just found this now but I was looking for a way to copy a pleated skirt right before Christmas.(2021)
    I fell in love with an Emilia Wickstead design that was worn by the Duchess of Cambridge for Christmas the preceding year. I think that hers was pleated from the back to the front but as I have a bit of a tummy I had my pleats go all in the same direction. It was so much fun to do. I wanted the fabric to keep a pattern so I had to pleat quite a few different ways until I got it to fit around me at the widest part. After that it was easy I just started taking in the pleats at the waist until I had my size. Only one seam up the back but that seam matched. I loved this article and I will try this way too.

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