Adapting a pattern to make different styles is easy, and fits in with the current emphasis on re-cycling.
If you want to make your own styles, there’s no need to draft your own starter block, or work through one of the big pattern making textbooks. You can just alter a similar pattern – which is what RTW designers do.

Patterns are not untouchable. It’s not wicked or dangerous to alter them, they’re tools, and they can be starting points. Trace off the pattern pieces so you keep the originals. Then you can alter both the pattern pieces and the making instructions in any way you feel happy with.

If your re-designs don’t come out ‘right’ first time, no need to think that means you’re no good at it. Professional pattern and RTW designers make several test garments until they get the proportions and position of style elements to match up to their ideas of what they want.

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Simple specific changes to a given pattern

Most of my posts on pattern making are at Sewingplums.
Simple methods of altering a pattern are listed in this post from Sewingplums.
If you’d like more help, there are many suggestions in this post on simple pattern altering.
See also this page of Sewingplums – Pattern altering to make new styles (click link to go to section on ‘altering patterns’).

Dozens of simplified patterns at Sew Guide.

If you prefer someone to do the pattern work for you
This post from Sewingplums has links to many patterns with extensive variations (patterns available mid-2017).

Some of the sources available since that was written :
Atelier Charlotte Auzou, choose patterns for bodice, sleeves, skirt.
Named Clothing patterns Anni building blocks, for a princess seamed bodice with a variety of sleeves and skirts/pants.
Simplicity patterns ‘Hacking’ patterns.

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Start with a few basic patterns and make style variations

If those don’t include your own design vision :
no need to draft your own personal blocks to make new styles.
Several pattern companies and books provide the base patterns to start from, and suggest style variations.

The simplest basic patterns
If you prefer a more casual outfit, All Well Workshop patterns have a simple boxy top (body bust 32″-62″) and kimono-like jacket with cut-on sleeves, both with detailed sewing instructions and a ‘hacking guide’ for making many variations.
Complete the outfit with some elastic-waist pants (body hips 34″-70″) with choice of pockets and waistband. Do your own hacking of them by changing the leg length, adding elastic to the hems and, when you’re feeling adventurous, changing the leg shape.

And a similar shape from Tropical Research. Also patterns for pants and jacket. The pants pattern includes the hacks I’ve suggested above. The coat/jacket has many more options, and what look like good instructions.

There’s another ‘box top hacking’ pattern from momosAtelier. She also has many patterns for collars, another way of making many different looking styles from the same basic shape.

For more fitted styles, it’s best to get the fit of the starter pattern right before you alter it to make another style. That way, the new pattern will probably fit well too without any more fitting work. So this approach is popular with people who have to make many fit alterations to commercial patterns – we only have to do the fitting work once !

Pattern companies which supply base patterns with personal fitting instructions, plus many style variations :
Many of the variation instructions could be applied to other patterns with a little thought.

It’s easiest when the pattern company provides the pattern pieces you need to make other styles.
Fit For Art has basic patterns for jacket, pants, knit top (body bust 30″-58″). Patterns and videos with extensive fitting instructions. The separate patterns for variations include ready-made pattern pieces.

Most pattern companies which specialise in this approach to patterns give you instructions on how to draft the new pattern pieces you need for yourself.
Alison Glass Essentials (scroll well down), basic patterns for woven fabric and knit fabric dresses (body bust 31″-50″). Pattern includes instructions for fitting and style changes.
Curated by In The Folds issues 6 patterns a year (body bust 30″-52″) with much fitting guidance and hacking instruction.
Fit Nice has basic patterns to your measurements for top, pants (body bust 32″-42″, instructions for enlarging). Some videos. Separate patterns are photo tutorials for variations.
Sure Fit Designs has basic patterns for dress, shirt, pants (body bust 28″-62″). Many posts and videos about fit adjustments. Pattern booklets describe how to draft many variations, more variations can be bought separately. There are also pattern change videos at SewFit Academy.

Books which include starting-point patterns and instructions for many style variations :

in print :
If you’d like a gentle introduction to pattern changing, there are several books which provide the pattern pieces needed ready made, such as :
The Magic Pattern Book by Amy Barickman, 6 basic patterns and 6 versions of each.
Named Patterns Building the Pattern book by the Huhta sisters has 6 basic patterns with pattern pieces to convert them to 20 styles, presented in an ‘improve your sewing’ sequence.
Sew Many Dresses, so little time by Tanya Whelan has interchangeable bodices, sleeves, and skirts. If you have a good pants pattern you could probably make jumpsuits too.
Here’s a similar source for girl’s dresses, from Oliver & S.

The next books suggest pattern variations and tell you how to draft the new pattern pieces yourself :
The Act of Sewing by Sonya Philip, full size paper patterns need tracing, for cut-on sleeve top, sleeved shirt, skirt, pants (body bust 32″-58″). Quarter of the book is on making those 4 garments, quarter on improving the fit, and half the book is instructions for choose-your-own variations. No darts, collars, zips, or knit fabrics. Instructions for changing necklines and adding buttonholes, facings, gathers, pleats, pockets, yokes, also for piecing, flaring or narrowing pattern pieces. At about advanced beginner level of sewing, but if you like casual wear that will be all you need 😀
Slightly easier but similar pdf patterns and sew-alongs with a few variations are in her video classes at Creative Bug.

The Dressmaking book by Alison Smith aims to teach both garment sewing (to high intermediate level) and pattern alteration, with several specific variations of each pattern included. Pdf patterns, diagrams of how to make the pattern changes.

Cal Patch’s book also tells you how to draft the starter patterns to your own measurements. Her Design It Yourself Clothes book has simplified block drafting instructions, plus instructions for many specific variations. Written pattern making instructions with few illustrations, minimal sewing instructions. Difficulty about half way between the 2 previous books. I like her video classes at Creative Bug.

out of print :
Many books mentioned in the Sewingplums posts linked above, and especially in Favourite books – pattern altering.

Getting ideas

Patterns and books are the easy starting point for understanding pattern changes, as they have simple starting point patterns and simple alterations all sorted out for you.

If you’d like more inspiration about making pattern changes, perhaps look at one of the pattern magazines. For example ‘Burda Style’ usually has several different styles made from the same basic pattern, and it’s interesting to look at how the patterns have been adapted to make this possible.
Burda Style jackets
These jackets are from one issue of Burda Style (over a decade ago, patterns not now available) – the same basic shape used for a classic ‘french’ jacket, a party cover up, military and sporty styles, simply by changing the added style elements and fabrics. Another casual option would be a centre front zip and hood. Or – a basic convertible collar is just a rectangle, add one to the neckline to make a camp shirt or casual jacket.

See these pinterest boards for many ideas for style elements :
necklines and collars, yokes, sleeves and cuffs, pockets.
And these boards for alternate styles of the main garment types :
blouse-shirt, skirt-dress, pants, jacket-coat.

If you’d just like help with altering sleeves ? Here’s a statement sleeves e-book from Workshop patterns.

Adele Margolis Make your own dress patterns could be a good source for making many of these styles. Does not include base patterns (she assumes you start from a commercial fitting pattern). But clear instructions for making many style elements. First edition 1985 but good enough it’s still in print !

Many routes to starting on making your own styles, if the thought of that appeals ! You can be very creative without going all the way to full scope pattern making 😀

Enjoy the process 😀

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