Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


The Last of the Donna Karans

When Vogue lost the licence to produce DKNY patterns, my little sewing world became yet another wee bit smaller. However, I did take advantage of a $4.99 sale earlier in the year and bought them all up – I’m only sorry I didn’t buy more designs when I had the chance…..

1489To be honest, I only bought this dress pattern because it was the last one and I never really intended to sew it up, rather to keep it as a collector’s item. A very good friend was having a birthday night out recently and I thought I should show my admiration for her by making an effort and dressing up – I was thinking of something a little unusual, special, dressy but not dressed up, if you know what I mean?

I reached for the sacrosanct V1489 (OOP), bought 4m of lapis blue cotton jersey from Fabworks and got mentally and physically prepared for gargantuan pattern pieces the size of Montana and three thousand tailor tacks (I’ve made DKNY before!). The sewing table was cleared of all debris and extraneous items; nine hundred needles were threaded ready for those crucial tacks, one deep breath, bit of yoga and meditation and I’m ready to go.









Most pattern pieces in this pattern are cut on a single layer of fabric because it’s an asymmetrical dress and left and right are different – this makes cutting out only slightly easier. There are still three thousand tailor tacks to sew (well, in reality, about 12) but every one of them is important – so don’t scrimp. Best advice I can give is, if you have a mannequin, use it now: cut out, mark and pin on your own Doris so that you know what piece goes where and, more importantly, what side it should be on.

Cutting out and marking up all safely negotiated, the sewing is relatively simple. I do own an overlocker and it would be easy to construct the main body of the dress on such a machine, but the pattern instructions assume that the sewer does not have one and directs you to sew a double seam. I did this and still achieved a lovely, flat finished inside seam. Just remember to trim carefully after sewing the second row of stitching.


The pattern includes a slip that the shell dress should be sewn to: this helps with the drape and fit and additionally provides an extra safety layer below a rather low front and back neck neckline and a high front split.


Usually I cut a 14 in Vogue but with DKNY I’ve learned to cut a 12 due to use of stretch fabric and the pleats/drapes/gathers that add yet more ease. For the actual finished dress, my plan worked, except for the under slip! I should have cut a 14 for the slip because it is very, very fitted.


Please excuse my blotchy legs – I have deliciously sweet blood that Donegal midges just could not resist. It’s not just my legs – my arms, feet, scalp, face, neck, back and any other easily accessible skin was subjected to intensive feeding in the last two days. I’m applying anti-itching/anaesthetic lotion.


This is one really and truly fitted slip – mine’s that tight that it’s acting like a corset and I was somewhat concerned about undressing after a night out with the girls! The original photo from the catwalk shows the dress to be rather loose with no sight of the slip but I rather like my dress slightly more fitted.

I splashed a wee bit of extra cash on some silk crepe de chine for the slip (also from Fabworks).  In my defence, it was a perfect colour match for the cotton jersey shell fabric and it’s luxurious against the body. It has managed to hold the dart stitches despite of my best efforts to tear them apart with indulgent dinners and perhaps one or three cocktails. However, I didn’t sew the dress to the slip as it was just too tight to comfortably pull on. So I have a separate slip with a wrap dress on top. It works for me.


Sewing notes and minor alterations:

Lengthened slip by 4″, merely for modesty’s sake and decorum.

Did not add a snap fastener to the front side closure as per instructions as I didn’t think this would hold fast against the onslaught of my current diet and stomach. I adapted this to a long loop with a toggle-style button that will provide extra ease and flexibility around the mid-front while providing a stylish, yet secure closure.


I also raised this closure to waist level. The original pattern is for the closure to be about 5″ lower – somewhere  around hip height (one of those tailor tacks, if it hasn’t fallen out by this stage).  The offset closure creates the asymmetrical hemline (as seen in the photos) but I was totally prepared to forego this look in place of a dress that stayed closed.


Ultimately, I totally adore this dress. The fitted slip keeps me feeling secure, while the draped, crossover neckline at front and back and the front split can drape and gape as much as they want without any personal embarrassment to me whatsoever.

Because I work hard and am (usually) really nice to other people I treated myself to a matching DKNY handbag (in the sales, of course) …..

Other completed versions of this dress that you might like to see are:

Pomona with a beautiful chartreuse version.

Mousseline in totally Greek goddess vibe and shows the original front wrap placement


I’ve just completed a marathon photoshoot today: this was Blue, next time will be Green, specifically the Burda peasant blouse showing my special adaptations and additions. Then, we’ll do the monochrome – black and white. So there are at least another three blog posts this summer.

So stay tuned by friends – much more to come…..

As always, truly grateful thanks for all encouragement, enthusiasm and engagement with my sewing and sewing exploits on this blog.





The Day Donna Came to our House

I was futtering about the house the other day, still in my jammies, with no definite plans for the day when the door bell rang. DSC00676Our front door swells when it rains and it sticks and I can’t open it, so I go out the back door, walk round the side of the house to see who’s there. Would you believe it? It’s Donna Karan herself!

She said she was in the area and thought she’d call just on the off-chance that I was home. Well, I had to invite her in didn’t I? – her having made the effort and all. I made her a cup of tea and then she asked to see my sewing room.

“It’s a mess” I say

“Oh that’s OK” she replies, “all the best ones are.”

“But I’m not sewing anything at the minute; there’s nothing to see.” I try to squirm out

“I’ve a few hours to kill” she insists, “Maybe I’ll help you tidy up.”

Geez! So we go the stairs to the messy sewing room and what’s lying on the table but Donna Karan Vogue 1440. That was convenient, methinks silently. She notices it straightaway and asks what fabric I have.


“I don’t have a stash” I admit a little sheepishly.

“Well, let’s see what you do have.” says Donna. “You must have a few bits and pieces.” I’m thinking – there’s just no dissuading this woman.

So I managV1440-2e to drag out  a bit of pink and white cotton gingham just to keep her happy. If she messes it up, it’s no big loss: I wasn’t that convinced of its wearability anyway. Donna decides to make the blouse.

“Brilliant! Fabulous! Darling colours! So on trend! It’s perfect!” Donna gushes. And I think “How long is this woman going be here?”

Within an hour, she has the blouse cut out and tailor tacked and the main pieces pinned together. Yes, Donna tailor tacks!

As I subsumed the role of Donna’s apprentice in my own sewing room –  I made more tea, threaded the machine and picked up the scraps of gingham off the floor. DSCN4969

Off she went sewing like a demon – demanding endless cups of tea (and I believe toast at one point but I lost track). I got bored and went to have my shower at long last and get dressed. Do I wear some DK stuff that I’ve made I wondered or is that a bit too sycophantic? I opted for Alabama Chanin instead – at least it’s American I convinced myself.

I’m doing my make-up when I hear the call “I’m done! Come and see!”

With a silent sigh and a false smile, I go back to the sewing room to find Doris wearing a genuine Donna Karan blouse.  And oh my gosh, now it’s my turn to gush and squeal. It’s lovely, fabulous, summery, unusual – so Donna Karan!


“I should have told you this before” I say to Donna, ” But Doris and me are actually completely different shapes. She’s a girl from the ’60s and I’m a middle-aged, overweight woman from the late 20th century.”

“Don’t worry about that.” replies Donna, “I could see the differences and I adjusted for them.” At this point I’m impressed but I still haven’t tried on the blouse.

“Take off that hand made stuff and try it on.” she commands, “Do you have some plain black or white jeans?”

“Emmm, perhaps” I admit, again sheepishly. This woman can make me feel like I’ve nothing to wear! So I go back to the bedroom and change; despite all that thinking about what to wear when Donna Karan is in your sewing room!


I try on the blouse and really, it is fabulous. The fit is perfect. I love the long length, almost tunic but not quite: the covered buttons: the shirt-tail hem with a little back split: loose but not billowy: the detail at the back shoulders. V1440-1The only gripe I have is lack of sleeves but there’s always cardigans for cover up and really, sleeves would be impossible on this blouse with the very specific shoulder details. I might just get over my sleeveless hang-up with this blouse………There’s just one little problem and the back shoulders are cut so that bra straps are visible – racer-back bra needed. And for Mrs Mole, the dart points are are in the absolutely perfect place!


Late in the afternoon Donna left and I was left with a very wearable, summery blouse that did not waste my gingham fabric. I now own a genuine Donna Karan blouse – she sewed it herself! I’m missing a label and a £XXXX price tag so I’m the only one who actually knows it’s genuine.

If you sew a DK pattern, or any other designer for that matter, can you say that “This is a Donna Karan”? What makes a RTW item DK or yours?


Elaine, you can tell your students that you read it on the Internet, so it must be true!