Copycat Tank Tops

So….like I promised in my last post, this one is for all of those people (not just girls, because I know a lot of boys who like to sew!) out there who want to transform old stuff from their closet into NEW stuff to wear.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to buy items of clothing  that have unusual details that I would never take the time to sew myself.  Like a  blouse with a pin-tucked bodice or made from fabric I could never find in a local fabric store. I have a million patterned tops.  I am learning to go with solids every once in a while though, because, being the print freak that I am, it gets a little crazy when I try to dress myself and all I own is patterned tops and bottoms!

Here’s the deal: I have a small frame, but I also have a longer-than-average torso.  SO, buying shirts that actually fit me in the sleeves/shoulders usually means I have to sacrifice in its length.  But if I buy the shirt in a medium or large (which I have done more often than I care to confess), the length might be good but the shoulders look more like…they are  dolman sleeves gone wrong.   That is another reason I like to make my own tops.  I have the ability to adjust all of that as I go.  I always buy an extra 1/4 yard so that I can add length.

That being said, here are a few “renewed” shirts from my closet.  This first one was a French Connection top that I absolutely LOVED and could not convince myself to add to the Goodwill pile.


When I decided to take photos for this post, it had already sat in my sewing room with the sleeves half-chopped off for a good year!

The first thing to do is find an existing top (or pattern I suppose) to copy.  After I chose one, I cut the sleeves off and then cut the side seams so I had separate front and back pieces.


Then I traced the tank I was using as a pattern:  (I straighten up the lines a bit and add about an inch to the overall size for seam allowances).  Remember:  You can always take the shirt in, but you can’t make it bigger!


I then used the pattern to cut out my front and back shirt pieces.


Front of shirt after I laid the pattern out on top of it and trimmed.

The next step was facing.  I am a big believer in facings.  It’s a nice way to keep all the top edges looking nice.  You can also opt for turning under and just hemming it all the way around the neckline, but that is sometimes trickier than you think!  Another option would be using bias binding.  More on that later in this post.


For facing, simply trace the top and armhole edges.  I did it for one half of the front.  Then you add about 2 inches to this line all the way around to get a facing piece like this:


The center front facing is placed on a fold.  You then cut this out so that when you open it up, you have the full piece going along the entire front edge of your top.  (I say this now and realize that I actually did 2 separate front pieces on this one because it has buttons down the front).

I used the sleeve fabric for the facings:



For the straps, I cut 1.5″ wide strips from the remaining sleeve scraps.  I folded them lengthwise in half and ironed.  I stitched using 1/4 seam allowance.


Turning the tube for the straps inside out. A safety-pin in the sewing room is your best friend!

Then I pinned the facing to the WRONG SIDE (or inside, if you rather) of my shirt .  At this time I inserted my straps, sandwiching them between the facing and shirt front.



I would like to note here that usually facings are zig-zagged along the raw edges.  And usually there are TWO facing pieces-1 cut from fabric, the other from interfacing.  I however, went with the crazy easy route because nobody but me is going to see the inside of this top.  Also, I didn’t use interfacing because I didn’t want the facing to be heavier that the very light cotton the shirt is made from.  I didn’t want there to be a noticeable facing you could see through the shirt!

You then stitch the facing to the top edge of the shirt, starting down at the armhole and work up to the front middle (or to the other armhole end if the front of your shirt is all one piece).  Make sure to do some back stitching where the strap is to make it super secure!

Flip the facing to the inside, carefully pulling your straps up and iron facing to the inside of the top.


Now you have a nice edge along the top.  Repeat the facing steps for the back piece of the shirt.  Oftentimes the back pattern will be a bit different from the front (even if it LOOKS the same).  The only difference is when you come to the straps, don’t stitch that opening closed when you are sewing the facing on.  Leave it open so you can thread the straps through later!

Stitch the front to the back at the side seams, catching the facing at the armhole edges:


I used a very big seam allowance on this blouse because I wanted to take it in some.

Turn your shirt right side out.

Note:  Always try it on as you go so that you are not tearing out seams!  Adjust it as it seems necessary.

Once again, befriending your safety-pin, thread the end of your strap through the open hole between the facing and back of the shirt.

I try my shirt on at this point, pinning the strap where I want it.  I then measure its length and make the other strap the same size.


Now that the straps are pinned, top stitch around the entire top edge of the shirt, starting under the arm and circling back to your starting point.  This is the time you will catch the straps at the back of the shirt and secure them.

Next:  MY SHIRT had huge armholes to begin with.  The tank was too low under the arms, so I added a piece of extra fabric underneath.  I hemmed the top edge of a scrap…


and pinned a triangular piece under each armpit.  Then I stitched those pieces along the V shape.


The end result:



THIS one was also made by copying another tank top I had:


However, I  made it from scratch with a cotton lawn yardage I found at JoAnn Fabrics last Spring.  I think I purchased a yard for 5$.

This is the top I copied:


I simply traced the front (I always add about 1″ to the tracing for seam allowances) and measured the back stretched out (see the elastic?).  I took a small pleat in the front of my copycat version and stitched a wood button over the pleat because I thought it looked cute 🙂  I cut bias binding ( see here for instructions   from the scraps to bind the top edge and make the straps.  You can also buy pre-packaged binding in lots of colors!


One more design that was inspired by this “office-y” shirt I knew I wouldn’t wear again:


The basic pattern came from this shirt in my closet:


(Apologies for bad lighting/photos…I have a tendency to sew at 11 pm and my sewing room has TERRIBLE lighting!)

I cut out the basic shape:


I cut off the collar and cut it in half to make 2 strips to go down the side of the top for a little more ease:




I cut off the cuff, buttoned it and cut it to fit into the design of the back piece:



I stitched the front and back together at the sides and bound the entire top edge using 1/4″ double fold bias tape:


This is the final product, which I like very much:



I hope this inspires you to make your own “copycat” tops!


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