I know that those of you who have school age children have mixed feelings about half-term: good that no one has to get up and out first thing in the morning, bad that the children are hanging around the house, requiring feeding and entertaining etc. When you’re in the industry like me, there’s nothing better than half-term – sewing time!
Every time I make a Donna Karan I am reminded just how small my sewing space actually is – every piece is ginormous and usually cut on a single layer of fabric. No two pieces are the same (apart from sleeves) and you always need 5 kilometres of contrasting thread for 2,000 tailor tacks. For this particular pattern you need 3m of fabric that ends up as an extremely fitted and neat knee length dress- and you can’t help but wonder where did all that fabric go to? It’s a mystery.
My eternal gratitude goes to three pioneering women who stepped into the DK V1361 world before me and had the courage and fortitude to published their findings:
Peggy – finished dress and review
Without these ladies’ experiences I would never have ended up with a wearable frock – well I say wearable, you can be the judge of that………
Ann recommended cutting a size smaller than usual. So I did. I’m usually a 14 in Vogue but I went straight for the 12 in this case. I wouldn’t be able to figure out where to grade up or down with this pattern so I was taking a bit of chance. The pattern needs a two-way stretch – DO NOT use any other fabric. You will also need a fairly substantial two-way stretch – not T-shirt or slippery lycra types but something with a bit of body. I researched the original dress and it is actually made in wool with 4% Spandex – with an original £2,020 price tag! My fabric is an acrylic jersey – neither light nor heavy, in navy.
The pattern is rated Advanced – no arguments there. However, for an advanced pattern there are only 42 instructions (including the lining) which is a piddly amount compared to Claire Schaeffer’s French jacket weighing in at 96! The instructions in part are brief – 20. Sew outer edge of facing in place. No details about how to sew, what stitch to use, machine or hand? As I origami’d my way through the steps and eventually got something resembling a garment I just ignored the instructions and winged it. If a flap of fabric was flapping – it was sewn down, usually by hand. My pattern also has the crucial missing step as highlighted by Ann – but because she had already discovered its omission I was prepared.
The lining is crap. It’s a shift dress by any other name and doesn’t match the contours of the dress – bit cheap of Vogue I thought. I didn’t make it – waste of time and fabric. You will need to wear substantial undergarments with this dress unless you are a UK size 6 (which I am not!). The smoothing out of girdles and Spanx and lycra waist cinchers will act as a lining while also eliminating the naturally occurring bumps and bulges.
There are some unusual construction techniques too. I now understand why the facings are raw edged and over-lapped to the fronts – because the original was made from wool. The over-lapping reduces bulk but with a finer fabric you could easily sew facings and fronts right sides together as normal. This raw edge methods requires mm accuracy when sewing – something I am not too familiar with – and razor sharp cut edges.
I am not too enamoured with the the raw edge look. The cuffs, for example have raw edges – sew two cuffs wrong sides together close to the edge. I wanted something a little more polished, maybe I’m out of step with current trends, but I really don’t want to produce something that looks like it came from Wearable Wednesday! My cuffs were stitched in the traditional manner, trimmed, turned and pressed. I was dubious about the four bar tacks that should hold the cuffs on to the sleeves, so I stitched mine and folded them anyway that they fell.
So here it is on a real person – I present to you – The Donna Karan Pleated Dress………. in navy, not red
Oh, you want to see full length? Are you sure?
OK enough messing around…..
Please bear in mind the difficulty of photographing black and/or navy at home; some pics have been lightened to show off the pleats.
So what’s wrong? What do you need to know if you are thinking of making this?
Like all home sewers I know and see where the faults lie – so I’m showing them to you that when you have a half-term like me and set off to make this you can watch out for the pitfalls.
Make a muslin. I didn’t (half-term is only 3 working days for me) and while I lucked out with the sizing this time, a little bit of tinkering on the skirt width wouldn’t go amiss for the next time – ha ha ha!!! Next time – who am I kidding?
The two-way stretch is very forgiving and ‘stretchy’ and this may explain why I managed to get away with a few technical mistakes – so use the recommended fabric and if possible, find a wool with lycra or spandex as the original.
I lengthened mine. Any time I found a pattern piece with ‘hem’ printed on it I marked out an extra 4″ on the bottom. In the end I cut off 3 of these – the model being obviously much taller than I. Watch the hemming!. You must try and match the left and right sides – but one of these is bias cut. Horror!
This bias side, the left, is wobbly on my dress unless I stand with legs akimbo. And here’s me advising you on how to prevent stretch in a bias cut V neck! Oh the irony.
The right hand sleeve is inserted into some of the shaping pleats and look what happened to mine and was too lazy to rip out – it’s now a design feature!
So tack your pleats down first!
My fabric was thin enough that my hand sewing stitches showed though despite me trying to be extra careful. The most obvious place being the hem. Don’t hate me – but I used iron-on fusible hemming – the kind of stuff that’s sold to people who don’t sew. I did, however, overlock the raw edge and hand stitch the hem to the seams and facings for good measure and to make myself feel better.
I added a few hand tacks to the centre front to reduce cleavage gaping and machine stitched the mock wrap in place. I’ve no idea if this was in the instructions or not as by this stage I was just making it up as I went along.
Below, on Doris, you can see where you need to to either hand stitch in place (the missing Vogue instruction) or machine sew for the wrap.
I made small shoulder pads and they really do make all the difference to how this dress sits on one’s shoulders and how it makes you stand up a little taller.
I taught teenage son how to make pom-poms last night. Yeah yeah – such a crappy mother that it took me 17 years to get round to it! But he made one for the cat to play with – just seen in the photo below – the cat hasn’t even looked at it! But at least teenage son knows how to make pom-poms now.
I’ll be putting up an depth Pattern Review soon with technical details and stuff if you’re really interested and want to make this dress, so keep checking the dancing man widget on this blog.
Three days of half-term down already. Easy work to be done in the office over the next few days and maybe lots more sewing to be accomplished when I get home.
Don’t be too scared by witches and ghosts this Hallowe’en – mind you, if someone comes to your door trick or treating wearing a dress like this, you might just scream and run! Especially if they’re not wearing their Spanx!!!!!