Pattern Review: Vogue 1361 Donna Karan Dress

aka, War and Peace, the Pattern Review.

Pattern Description: From Vogue’s website: Close-fitting, lined, mock wrap, pullover dress has collar, neckline, front and back (bias) tucks, overlapped and stitched left front, right side front and back seams, no side seams, and sleeves with stitched hems and cuffs hand tacked and fold-back.

Sizing: 4-20. I made a 12

Fabric Used: Amicale Wool Jersey in Heathered Gray from Gorgeous Fabrics.

Machine(s) Used: Juki DDL8700 Straight Stitch

Needle/Notions Used: 70/10, Pro-Tricot interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, Tailors 1/2 inch shoulder pads from Gorgeous Fabrics, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Tips and Tricks for Sewing With Knits, Anything by The Pressinatrix, Check the Grain on Knits.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes, eventually.

How were the instructions? Baffling in parts. In fact, they omitted a crucial step, without which the dress looks just awful. I’ll explain more in the construction notes. Even without that step, the instructions are pretty hard to follow at times. This is NOT a pattern for either beginners or the faint of heart. You have to be really meticulous about marking, and about following the markings, sometimes seemingly blindly.

Construction Notes:
1 – Make a muslin
This pattern is a bit of a puzzle, and it reminds me of an Issye Miyake skirt pattern I made back in 1991. You can’t tell from the pattern pieces what the finished product will look like. You have to go on blind faith in parts. Unless you make a muslin, you can’t figure out where you need to adjust to make the fitting changes (FBA, in my case). Additionally, making a muslin will give you a go at a test run in constructing this. I found that invaluable, because the markings are a little confusing at times. I made mine from some (sold out) wool jersey I had left over from a project I made last year. I only muslined the font/back piece (it’s all one), the side and the upper front pieces, so I could get an idea of how the whole thing would fit through the bust and waist. I didn’t bother with the sleeves or the facings.

Once I had the muslin put together, I took tailor’s chalk and marked the garment where I needed to slash it for a full bust adjustment. I then transferred those slashes to the pattern pieces, as you can see here:

Make sure to make the corresponding adjustments to the facings.

2 – Expect to go down a size Even the size 12 is not as closely fitted on me as I would have expected from the pattern photo. If I had gone with my ‘usual’ V/B/M size 14, I would have been swimming in it.

3 – Mark carefully, and carefully follow the markings

Stretch that kiki… tight!

If you look at this picture, you’ll notice that the markings for the dart legs are not equal, and there is a note to stretch the shorter leg to match the dots on the longer leg. This is critical. If you don’t do that, you’ll end up with what I call “cigarette rolls” – wrinkles on your darts. I didn’t pay too much attention to stretching on the muslin. Thank god I made a muslin and learned my lesson!

4 – The instructions, as written in the edition I have, are missing a crucial step
I have talked with Vogue about this, at length, and after they saw my pictures they agreed, and they are going to fix it in the instructions. Wow – I are a game changer! πŸ™‚
Seriously, though, there is a real problem that can ruin the look of the dress. Pictures being worth a thousand words, here’s the issue: The lower front facing extends beyond the lower front and the upper front facing. But nowhere in the instructions does it tell you what to do with that. I characterized it as a uvula of jersey.

I sent this picture with my obnoxious markups to Vogue

Wrong side, facing extended

Hangin’ uvula. Uvula uvula uvula! πŸ™‚

The extension needs to be attached to the dress. After I sent the pictures you see above, Meg, the very nice lady at Vogue Patterns, got right back to me and said they would change the instructions to add, after step 31, to sew the extension to the front, under the dart (just like my hand drawing – yay me).Β Once that little mystery was solved, the rest was reasonably straightforward.

5 – Keep the instructions and the pattern pieces close at hand
I kept referring to the drawings on the page, and then cross checking them with the marks on the pattern pieces, to keep myself on track. I took my time, and it all worked out okay, but this is not something that you can just whip out in a day.

6 – The cuffs and facings are… funky
Yeah, the instructions have you attach the facings in an unusual way (overlapping seams), which is not a problem and reduces bulk. But the cuffs? Whoa. They have you take a Ralph Rucci-lite approach and attach the cuffs at four points on the sleeve with tacks. I did one with my attempt at a RR style bullion stitch, then I looked at the result, said, “Yeah, that will totally end up in my cereal bowl or soup. No.”

Yeah… no.

Instead, I attached it in a more “traditional” manner and turned it up.

7 – Hem this on a dress form, or get a buddy to help with the hem
With all the curvature, funky pattern pieces, and (in my case) fitting adjustments, the bottom of the garment was pretty curved. Do yourself a favor on this one and get someone to help you hem it. Or throw it on a dress form and hem it that way. You’ll be glad you did.

8 – Lining is optional
The lining on this is a basic tank dress pattern, that has nothing to do with the outer shell. So I skipped it. I’ll just wear Spanks underneath.

9 – Your fabric choice is critical to the success of your garment
I can’t emphasize this enough. This pattern needs a fabric with some body to it. Much as I adore ITY jersey, it’s too light. You don’t want a heavy knit, but a jersey with good body, or a rayon double knit will work well. If your fabric is too lightweight it just won’t work.

Likes/Dislikes: I love this pattern, despite the work that I had to put into it. It’s a fun challenge that I need to hone my skills.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I won’t do it again, because it’s a once-in-a-wardrobe dress. But I do recommend it, if you have the patience. Don’t try to slap it together. This is a diva pattern that demands attention to detail. But if you have the temperament and the time, this makes a beautiful dress!

Conclusion: Love it. Enough of my yammering, here are pictures:

But in the end…

It was…

Worth it!

On a completely separate note, tomorrow is a very big day. We’ll be taking DS the elder to college! So far, I’m excited for him. I don’t know how I’ll feel when we leave the campus without him. Of course, we’re just taking him to band camp. We come back next Wednesday to move him into the dorm. Big changes afoot!

Happy Sewing!

36 thoughts on “Pattern Review: Vogue 1361 Donna Karan Dress”

  1. Meredith P says:

    Thanks for going to bat for the rest of us with Vogue. And putting this beast together. If someone happens to snap a picture of you in this dress, feel free to pass it along. πŸ™‚

  2. Denise says:

    Thanks for sharing your tips. I love this style.

  3. Phyllis says:

    Wow those RR-lite cuffs are a total surprise! Your fix is much better. This dress is like the saga behind the Farnsworth House – it doesn’t show. It’s serenely beautiful

  4. Rhonda M. says:

    Gorgeous Gorgeous dress. It will look smashing on you.

  5. Mary Beth says:

    Very nice outcome. Love the way it looks. Have fun tomorrow! And be with friends afterward?

  6. Shams says:

    What fascinating darts! I’m glad you made this work and I look forward to seeing a pic of it on you!

  7. Ngoc says:

    Thanks for this detailed review! The outcome looks great.

  8. Vicki says:

    Good job. It looks so complicated.

  9. Jane says:

    Fabulous. Can we see it on you?

  10. Sigrid says:

    Wow, congratulations on a beautiful dress. You conquered the pattern very, very well. I had moticed the extending front panel and assumed it would be sewn to the lining. Had decided (Before deciding not to make it in fashion fabric) that I would sew it to the left part under one of the darts and omit the lining. Seeing your version makes me feel a bit sad that it did not work for me.
    Enjoy wearing it, it will be wonderful on you.

  11. Cissie says:

    Your dress is stunning! Can’t wait to see it on you as I know you will turn heads and stop traffic in it. However, after reading your review and all that you went through to conquer this pattern, I can promise you that you need not worry about running into me, copying you!

  12. prttynpnk says:

    Well. You really took one for the team with this and it was worth it- that end result is lovely. Mine would have a dog bed by step 13- bravo to you on saving future stitchers from those directions!

  13. Linda L says:

    Wow!!! You definitely have a lot of patience and stick-to-itness. I am sure that you will look “gorgeous” in this. I loved the dress on the model but knew I am not the person to tackle this. Great information and good for you for getting Vogue’s attention regarding the instructions..

  14. K-Line says:

    Your version is SO much better than the pattern envelope’s! If I’d seen yours, I’d have bought the pattern. Beautiful work and good on you for going back to the source to have the pattern instructions changed. Public service accomplished.

  15. Meigan says:

    Your review is like a Public Service Announcement with its advice and warnings. Your perseverance has been rewarded, your finished dress looks great. I’d love to see photos of it on you!

  16. Cynthia says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with this pattern. I have purchased it too, and have a couple of questions for you.
    The Vogue instructions show some of the seams joined by stitching the raw edge of one piece atop the placement line on another piece of the garment (see Step 9). It says to place it along a placement line and “topstitch close to edge.” Did you do as this step instructed or sew it as a seam? Did you overlock the edge or use a zig zag along the stitchline?
    I have been waiting tto read your review and am delighted you shared your insights with the rest of the sewing community. The proper weight knit is now what I am looking for. Is there one in stock at Gorgeous Fabrics you would suggest?

    Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Yes, Cynthia, I did attach the facings that way. To make it easier for yourself, do what I did and baste along the seamlines with contrasting thread.

      I can happily make suggestions for fabrics. I used the Amicale wool jersey, which worked wonderfully. What colors do you like? That way I can recommend something close.

  17. joza jagodic says:

    Wonderfull job on a difficult dress, thxs for the review of the pattern. If I ever will make this dress this review is very valuable!!! Enjoy wearing it.

  18. Carolyn says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing all of the construction details. As much as I loved this dress I knew it was above my sewing skill set but perfect in the hands of such a skilled sewist like you. I can’t wait to see this on you, I bet it’s stunning!

    Congrats on DS the elder going on to college. Honestly, your heart is going to hurt just little when you leave him there for good…but it’s a good hurt. Like the first day you dropped him off at kindergarten or the first time he left you without waving good-bye…it hurts a little but you know that you’ve done your job and he’s growing up to become the man you want him to be!

  19. Just looking at this pattern I knew it was way over my head! Not to mention I would look like a fluffy toilet plunger – kudos – you will look great in it!

  20. Clio says:

    The results were worth it, Ann! Tres chic!

    I’m so glad you mentioned the mistake since this pattern arrived in my mailbox this week!

  21. Marie Kolanda says:

    What a beautiful dress. I was seriously tempted by that pattern but my lifestyle is just incompatible for all the work. Enjoy wearing yours. I’m sure it looks fantastic. Side: Enjoy taking your son to college. We did that last year with our daughter. It’s hard but they are so ready even when we aren’t.

  22. Congratulations! That’s not an easy pattern! You did a great job! Can you have a word with vogue and big 4 in general regarding sizing? I don’t understand why they put so much ease in their patterns! Certainly that doesn’t match the pattern picture… If they changed that I would be super happy! πŸ˜‰

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Sewing Princess – send them a note and tell them! I have mentioned to them the problems with fit, as have other folks. The more they hear from, the more they are likely to listen and respond.
      Here’s the Link:
      Contact Vogue Patterns

      C’mon – do it! Otherwise, it won’t change, people!!!!

  23. Robin says:

    Ann, your dress turned out beautifully! I look forward to seeing your fabric suggestions (from fabric you have in stock)
    Now that you did the hard part, and spoon-fed us some tips and tricks, I could see giving this a go.

    And regarding DS the Elder and his impending college career, just go with the flow and soak it all up. I definitely was emotional after I dropped off my DD, but I realize everyone will process these events a little differently. These are bittersweet times, for sure.

    Great job with the amazing dress!

  24. Bunny says:

    Great info on this really intriguing pattern. I am sure it looks wonderful on you.

    Hmmm, taking your child to college……not easy but there will come a time similar to the Staples commercial where suddenly the parents are calling in the designer to redo the student son’s evacuated bedroom! BTDT. Your kids in college is a great window of time where you are not too old to enjoy each other’s company but you now have privacy that hasn’t been around for years. Enjoy, really!

  25. Ingrid says:

    Thank you, thank you Ann for reviewing this. I swooned over this pattern when I saw it and realised it would probably take a lot of work to get right. Now I can look to your review for help and I will certainly be making a muslin prior to starting mine. Is it possible to see you in it at some stage? I’m sure you will look stunning.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      I’ll definitely model it when the weather cools off, Ingrid! Today it’s about 25 degC, so I’m not really into modeling wool jersey πŸ˜€

  26. JustGail says:

    I broke down and bought this pattern, with no intention of making it up, but to see how it was done. I think I’ll print this post out and put it in with the pattern. No way would I have figured out those missing steps. You wrote up an great review.

    While DS the Elder may be off to college, there’s always the knowledge that he’ll be back home for holidays and school breaks most likely. The big change is when they leave home for real. At least that’s what I’ve heard, my DS is still at home, attending a local tech school.

  27. Sarah says:

    This design is so stunning. Now I’m glad I waited to order it! Beautiful work as always– I can’t wait to see your photos in the cooler weather.

  28. Marysia Paling says:

    Hi there Ann,

    Thank you so much for the extensive review. Enjoy wearing this dress after all the trials and tribulations it gave you, I am sure you will look amazing in it.

    I am tempted by this dress, but will wait until there is an offer on in the U.K. as I have a long wishlist!!

    Good luck with dropping of the DS………………enjoy as Bunny says, your time has come around again. My DD leaves next year………………

  29. Aline says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so much for the detailed review, I will definitely use it when I’ll make mine (hopefully at the end of the month). I wanted to make it for Christmas, but the pattern turned out to be damaged, so I had to wait for the new one to arrive. (Great service from Vogue, they did send me a new one without asking, and I could keep the ripped one) I checked my instructions, and I have “old ones”, so your extra info is very, very useful, as is the FBA construction. Thanks again!

  30. Margo says:

    I was unable to view your pictures. Is there any other way I can see them I don’t like the wary mutt cuffs came out.

    Thanks for all of your tips.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      All fixed, Margo. I corrected the links to the pictures, thanks!

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