Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

DK V1361


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:

Sigrid – muslin and muslin

Ann – muslin & finished dress – read this – it’s important!

Peggy – finished dress and review


Runway version

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.



RTW version

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.


Vogue’s version

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.


Over-lapped raw edge of facing on the left collar. It sits on the inside when wearing.

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.


Is that a little bit of stocking top I see?


The scaffolding underneath is working real hard….


Sucking it in! And not breathing….


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.DSC00581 DSC00582

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!!!!!


55 thoughts on “DK V1361

  1. Wow Ruth, this is one gorgeous dress. It’s so good to see it worn as well. Glad the pattern worked for you. Great work!

  2. Oh wow, you look sensational! And I refuse to believe that this is down to the undergarments!
    I’m amazed that you did it in half a half term and your son can now make pompoms! Thanks for the details. This might just make it onto my to do list.

    • You’d look fab in this dress (without the scaffolding too). You might be better to make yours during term time when there’s a bit of peace and quiet during the day.

  3. Beautiful, lovely dress and it is inspiring to see all the work you put into it! Love the red shoes as well . . . . 🙂

  4. Wow, this looks stunning on you Ruth and great job with fitting a tricky pattern!

  5. That looks great on you, Ruth!!

  6. This is a great dress, with all the crazy construction stuff thrown in for an adventure. Love this on you!

  7. No screaming here. I think the dress looks fabulous and I love the red shoes 😉

  8. You have done a great job on this fabulous dress Ruth. Looks fantastic and those red shoes are the perfect accessory.

  9. Hi there Ruth,

    Well, after the introduction I wasn’t sure what to expect……….silly me, wonderful job!
    I had my eye on this pattern, I like it, DH doesn’t. Am I tempted, you bet.

    Looks like you mastered your overlocker in double quick time. Mine awaits opening on Christmas morning…………what project first I wonder??

    • My DH hates splits – so he’s not too keen on this dress – heck, he’s not wearing it! Believe me Marysia, the overlocker is often in the doghouse!

      • Oh we think the split looks great on you, and its a lovely feature of the dress……if you’ve got the legs, flash them, that’s what I say!!
        DH isn’t keen on the “darts” being on the right side……

        Having looked around, I think your dress scores 110 out of 100 Ruth. I think you were also great in choosing the right weight of fabric for the project. I also dont believe you need scaffolding!!

  10. Fantastic photos and tip and tricks mastering this crazy pattern. The reward is a stunning dress with all the compliments you can handle!

  11. Your dress looks great . I loved the pattern but knew that I would need too many fitting changes to make it work for me so I will just envy yours. Well done.

    • The problem with the pattern is ‘where’ to make the alterations. check out the other ladies’ work and it might give you clue – they are much cleverer than me.

  12. I think it looks like it fits VERY well! I don’t have the shape for that (too pudgy), nor do I have the lifestyle for it. But it looks like one of those dresses that will always be your “go to” when you aren’t sure what exactly to wear. Color is perfect and style very sophisticated. I say well done!

  13. Ruth, your dress is beautiful and none of the boo-boos are apparent to me. This style suits you so well – hope you will attempt another!

  14. Gorgeous! I plan to make this sometime soon.. will be sure to check your review!

  15. Sexy AND classically elegant – not such a common combination, but you are wearing this dress SO well! Beautiful 🙂

  16. I am glad you do all the difficult patterns so I don’t have to. Where is one going to find wool with 4% lycra anyway?

    Oh yeah – lovely on you!

  17. Hi again Ruth,

    Popped back, as having spent time looking at other dresses, yours is fantastic………..your fabric works the best too, in my humble opinion. So, would you share the source of your fabric.

    Should say, love the perfect straight hemline………wonderful. Everyone is so right, the style suits you very well.

    Would you ever consider giving us a tutorial on how to make our own shoulder pads?

    I have found some wool with lycra, on line, but not sure of the weight and if it would work. ………………………decisions, decisions.

    • Ah the problem of online shopping – the weight of the fabric is always so hard to gauge. I actually can’t remember where this fabric came from – I did buy it online for something else that never got made. It would be either from Tissu or MyFabrics – I’m not payiing the tax man any more money for stuff from the States!

      Maybe you could ask for a sample first Marysia.

      • I know what you mean Ruth. I have given up too. I was lucky whilst living in Turkey, they didn’t tax you for items in the post and now I realize how fortunate I was. The amounts charged in the U.K. I feel are unfair. What with the tax and the increase in post from people in the USA it just makes it beyond ridiculous.

        I found a sewing notion for $39.99 but with import taxes and postage from the USA they wanted a whopping $300+? I may be a fading blonde, but I am not dumb!!

  18. You look stunning in this dress, so much that I feel a little resentful 8-). Good call on the red shoes, they look perfect with it. If I ever had any intention of making this dress, I don’t now. Besides the fact that finding wool fabric with or without spandex is impossible where I live (one fabric store and it is a chain store and it sucks).

    • Nay, never feel resentful, use this a a springboard to launch yourself into the project. I do realise Elle that the fabric can be a problem – but you need something with plenty of stretch but still robust. Good luck and thanks.

  19. This looks fabulous! It is a really classy and original design and I think you have totally pulled it off, whatever your reservations re. sizing and muslins. Thank you so much for doing such as detailed review. I shall study it and the other reviews diligently, just as soon as I muster the courage to tackle it!

  20. What a lovely job you have made of this dress. It also really suits you.

  21. Well done, it looks great.

  22. I’m in awe of everyone who has attempted this pattern! You did an amazing job on it! Can I tell you something I learned at the PR Little Black Dress party where Kathy Marrone, the Vogue Pattern Magazine Editor, shared ~ Donna Karan garments are the originals. They are not the sewn pieces from the patterns. They are shot on the model with the shoes, accessories that DK approves. Then Vogue takes the garment apart to make pattern pieces. Chado Ralph Rucci sends over the pattern pieces for Vogue to replicate. Isn’t that fascinating?! So the fact that you got a very wearable dress out of this pattern is just awesome!!!

  23. Beautiful dress, Ruth! My compliments!

  24. What a beautiful dress! I thought it was a controversial pattern, but it looks so gorgeous on you! I can’t believe you made it so quickly.. Great job!

  25. Hi Ruth,
    What a great dress and review. I especially like that you showed the things that didn’t work for you. I think you learn more from the things that don’t work out. The dress looks stunning on you .
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

  26. Ein wunderschönes Kleid und es steht Dir ausgezeichnet! Ich möchte es auch für mich nähen.
    I think, I have a sewing-twin…


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