Making a Scarf Top, and Thoughts on Copying

Today I’m going to show how easy the Vera Jollytop would be to replicate, but first, a few words about copyright and fashion copying.

In the United States, there is no copyright protection for fashion design.  The reasoning is that clothes are basic, useful items, and as such cannot be copyrighted.  Even though the Council of Fashion Designers of America, led by Diane von Furstenberg, has made attempts to get legislation passed, it has come to nothing.

There is rarely anything in fashion that is actually “new.”  Designers visit and revisit the past, and each other on a regular basis.   Can anyone claim ownership of a French cuff, or a ruffled hem, or a bateau neckline?  It just isn’t possible, and because of this freedom to pick and choose design elements, creativity is fostered.

Of course, the lack of protection also allows companies to make cheap versions of expensive goods.  This is the type of copying that the CFDA opposes.  I suppose that if I were Diane von Furstenberg  selling a $3000 dress, I’d be pretty irritated about seeing a copy of it selling for $60 at some fast fashion store.

I think it is interesting that copying by the home sewer seems to be above this criticism.  Designers have been selling their designs to pattern companies for many decades, and for the price of a pattern and some nice fabric, the home sewer can have her own Givenchy or Diane von Furstenberg or Dior.

But note that there is a copyright symbol next to the Vera signature on my top.  The protection was granted for Vera’s artwork, not for the design of the top.  Vera got copyright protection for all her scarf designs, a protection that is still owned by the Vera Company.  Simply put, it is okay to copy the blouse, but not the art on the blouse.

To copy this scarf top, you need two scarves the same size.  Mine is made from 20 inch squares, which fits about a 36″ bust.  The back and front of mine are identical, but that is not really necessary.  Someone has a similar scarf top on etsy that she made using two Vera scarves with the same colorway, but with different designs.

This is the basic layout of the top.  Place the two scarves right sides together, with the correct top and bottom orientation.  I’ve put in the stitching lines at the shoulders, the sides and for the drawstrings.


This diagram has the measurements for the 20 inch scarf added.  Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments if you use a larger or smaller size.

There is a 4 1/4 tuck taken on the front 1 1/4 inch down from the neckline.  That is to make the front a little lower than the back, and helps prevent choking!

The shoulder seam is sewn between a point 4 1/2 inches on the top side, and 1 1/2 inch down the side.  That leaves a neck opening of 11 inches.

The side seam starts 9 inches down from the top, and is 6 inches long.  That gives a sleeve opening of 7 1/2 inches.

The casing for the drawstrings is sewn directly below the side seams on both front and back.  The area below the side seams is left open.  They used strips of bias seam binding to make the casing and also to make the strings, which are 32 inches long.

Any questions?  Let me know if you decide to make this one.  There is nothing hard about it, just be sure to adjust the measurements for your own needs.

The best explanation of fashion and copyright I’ve ever seen is in an old TEDTalk by Johanna Blakley.


Filed under Sewing, Viewpoint

17 responses to “Making a Scarf Top, and Thoughts on Copying

  1. The top is fabulous! Easy and great for summer!
    These all classess how to copy RTW you like…. well, somethings are really so easy that you even maybe don’t know that you copy something… Usually first what you do is taking a piece of fabric and draping around yoursels as a dress/rock. There are a lot of designers doing the same and showing it on the catwalks … It is difficult to desing something really new.


  2. Thank you so much for measuring this out for us, and for explaining some of the copyright legal ramifications! If I decide to make one up, will let you know.


  3. You’ve got me wanting to rummage through my scarf draw and spend the snow day tomorrow making this! THANKS for the easy to follow instructions!


  4. Thanks for that tutorial–it reminds me of the bandana halters we used to make in the 70s (put one of the bandana points toward your chin, fold it down, sew a casing for a neck string, then tie two of the bandana points around your waist, if you’re 13…) The legal aspects are interesting as well, particularly because it’s so expensive to litigate that Goliath would put David out of business very quickly by suing him. Plus DVF copied her wrap dress from Claire McCardell, and McCardell got the idea from the “Hooverettes” so how far back in time are we going to go?


  5. I’m with Red Point Tailor–there is really nothing new under the sun. The wrap dress started out as beach coverups, that were themselves inspired by kimono. And how far back do kimono go? There’s an interesting history of the house dress by Elda Danesse that makes the point that von Furstenberg’s contribution was to make the wrap dress, formerly the housedress, street worthy.


  6. Jackie Moon

    Kia Ora and thanks so much for the tutorial, its summer here in New Zealand and Ive just finished a top using 2 silk scarfs and your direction. Made the armhole opening and inch longer and the neck opening an inch wider…perfect. Took all of 3 hours. You have made my day.


  7. Such a great and easy top and so perfect for the summer weather we’re having here in Australia.


  8. Don’t know if you saw this TedTalks video about fashion’s free cultureT, but I love the designer’s response to people who want cheap knock-offs “Those people aren’t our clients.” The video a really great explanation of how copyright works in fashion.


  9. I have a Cacharel panel-print skirt from about 10 years ago in voile that never fit properly, and have been looking for a simple top template to convert it with for quite some time.
    Most scarf-to-top conversion instructions are just 2 squares sewn together. I like the shaping provided by the angled shoulder seams and drawstring waist!
    Thanks for posting this.


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