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Do you have to keep a copy of the item in your inventory/storehouse, or can you sell/dissemble all copies of an item and still use it's appearance later?
You don't have to keep the item you want to copy the appearance of, but I believe you have to equip it once to be available.
You don't need to equip anything. Picking it up should always be enough. I don't know if rarity plays into it at all, but some people claim they haven't gotten certain items. From all of the items I've claimed, I've never had an incident where an item I wanted to refashion into wasn't available after having a piece in my inventory at one point.
Does anyone know why certain gear can't be refashioned into? I've picked up the chest and helmet piece of the Warrior of the West several times but still cannot refashion into it.
I can confirm that you do not have to wear or keep any weapons or armor that you can refashion other pieces into, as many of the ones I have available are for things I know that I've sold or broken down while having never equipped nor put them in the storehouse. That said, I have no idea what actually dictates what is and isn't available in the refashion menu, as I've had random pieces of armor that I actually want to refashion things into not appear right away. But also have had some of them just appear when checking later.
As impractical as it is and as much as I'd really hope isn't the case, some armor refashions might be locked behind progress in the story or your overall level compared to the pieces of armor you get?
I can only say for certain that, as far as I've seen, armor you've picked up should be available for refashioning at some point, it doesn't need to stay in your inventory while you refashion something into it, and some pieces are weird about when they show up as refashioning options.
Idk I beat every quest in the game level 137. Found veteran's pants finally (twice) and it won't let me refashion my main gear into it. Did the store house thing that did not work, did a quest wearing them, that did not work. It's odd

I remember Nioh 1 being the same way. I never really figured out what makes the certain armor available. For me its the sohaya garb.
I can't swap a skill attribute from one sword to another sword by soul forge once it's refashioned...