The Concept, the Outfit

Inspired by or copying? This is often a hot debate - some say that you should never copy outright. But I say - go for it! How do painters master their art? By copying the greats! How do apprentices hone their craft? By following their masters! You can run into problems when you try to pass off someone else's designs as your own (and it is especially wrong when you are a big corporation ripping off someone less powerful than you), but for home sewers I highly encourage you to try to copy your idols. 

Pattern: final design adapted from Deer and Doe's Sirocco Jumpsuit
Fabric: Robert Kauffman stretch suiting
Cost: $40

That said, if you're like me, you will quickly learn that copying high fashion is HARD. What looks like a few simple ruffles, a twist, a skirt, is actually a carefully crafted masterpiece honed over months and made by hand in a couture studio. And that's what makes copying the masters such an interesting project. You truly appreciate their skill and mastery of the craft. 

By comparison, I quickly realized my shortcomings. Below is the original Johanna Ortiz inspiration that I fawned over for months. I love that it is fancy, but still a pantsuit. The drama of the ruffles, the flare of the skirt - I wanted to copy everything except the bell bottoms.

It took me over a month of making muslins to get something together. There were a lot of changes along the way. I'm not sure I ever quite figured out how they got those ruffles so perfect. And the skirt hung terribly - it had to go. The top is separate from the pants, but I had to add a strip of fabric to make it long enough. What I got is the version you see below. 

Overall, it was fine. But a far cry from the original. As you can see, I got all dressed up and wore it to a wedding. It was fun, but overall the outfit felt just meh. The pants showed a lot of draglines, as did the top under the bust. The zipper rubbed a bit when I wore it. Compared to the beautiful designer look, I had fallen short.

It was back to the drawing board. And this time I decided that maybe I just wasn't up to copying the original. Instead, I decided to go with the "inspired by" route. Based on my first experience, I thought version 2 would be much better as a jumpsuit. I made a few design changes to streamline the look. And, luckily, I had just made my first Sirocco and was feeling inspired to try this again.

This version uses the bodice of my go-to Simplicity #4070 princess-seam bodice with the pants of the Sirocco jumpsuit. I ordered my favorite Robert Kauffman stretch suiting, re-purposed the sleeves, and was on my way. Compared to the first version, I was now using my tried and true patterns, a favorite fabric, and a design I had partially made before. In comparison to the first version, I was cruising.

Much better! It's still no designer outfit, but this version fit better and felt more polished. I added spiral boning to the bodice so that it holds its shape. Thanks to the drafting of the Sirocco pants, there are also now no draglines or crotch wrinkles. And it's so much more comfortable! 

And don't forget those sleeves!

I actually had the whole thing sewn up when I decided it needed a bit more color. I picked apart the pockets (including near the zipper! the horror!) and added the contrast fabric there as well. As you can see from the sleeves, the brocade is a brilliant pink on the underside but a more coordinated black with florals on the outside. It was a lot of fun to play with it for this design. I like how the pockets stand out now a bit against the otherwise black jumpsuit.

This project has definitely given me a big appreciation for designer looks and may give me a bit more pause next time I decide to copy one. But now I have a new outfit for our next wedding, which will be in January - a perfect time for a jumpsuit!

Have you ever successfully copied a designer style? Did it turn out the way you hoped? I admit that it's hard!


  1. that is so pretty and yes I've tried to copy a designer look, I agree it's difficult !!

  2. Your creation is a by a designer - you :)
    It is really pretty and there will never be another one just like it. Congratulations. Sam the Aussie

  3. Heavens, that second version is fabulous!

  4. I love it! And remember that a team of stylists were fussing with that model to get everything perfect for the photo op - the garment in real life is probably not as perfect as it looks here. I still don't get the length of those pants, though . . . I definitely prefer your version where you can actually see your fabulous shoes!


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