Tuesday 26 October 2010

Vogue's Donna Karan sleeveless black dress

EM agreed to go with Mom and Dad to an evening "house concert" in Geneva, probably because it gave her a chance to wear her Burda lace shift again. (review in PatternReview)  I'm wearing the Donna Karan sleeveless version of the twist knit dress, Vogue Designer 1159. If you tilt your computer screen a little forward, it might be easier to make out the drape in the black.

First off, Vogue's photo on the pattern envelope is awful, with the model wearing a version made up in a cheesy knit print that does nothing for her, nor for the wonderful design. I was, however persuaded by the beautiful version made up by Allison C in Hong Kong's DK dress in maroon in a plain knit.

Those who've sewn this dress will join me in saying that the design is not so much dressmaking as fabric origami. It helps to hang the dress on your dress form or a cooperative friend, and chalk up as many meeting points as you need before assemblage, which then is surprisingly quick. I'm not sure, by the end, whether I got it right— particularly the neat bit at the centre front waist where you're supposed to sew the lining together with the pleated under-part of the skirt. Once I saw on my dress form that such things didn't matter, I just scrunched it all up as neatly as I could, and ran it under the machine, knowing my sins would be covered by the drape. On the other hand, this design was not going to cover the defects of my decolletage, so I had to add some tacking stitches for the cross-drape at the critical juncture.

But thanks Allison! for warning me about the weird dip at the back of the underarms where she designed an artistic insert. I tested this at the drafting stage and can report that the dress is very forgiving if you simply stitch higher up on both sides, closing the armhole to a comfortable spot. I also tried the dress on for drape issues and indeedy, I'm not fulsome enough in front for the size 12 so I hiked it up tighter at the shoulders by as much as an inch.

Finally, I had to lengthen the very weird hem pieces; crossing my fingers, I just cut a size 18 hem for a 12-14 dress. I'm very happy with the result.

All this took two days, too late for the LBD contest, but I'd highly recommend it in any plain or lightly sequinned fabric. I'd stay away from the busy, flashy or distracting prints. What a waste to camouflage wonderful design in all that busyness.

Thanks Moushka for reading my Voltaire comedy. I cherish you, dear reader. (I'm assuming that's the one you read of the three, because the black humour of Under Their Skin or my Hong Kong murder mystery doesn't usually prompt thanks for chuckles) Copies shouldn't be that hard to find! In the UK, used or as-good-as- new's can be had for one penny on amazon. Pass one on! Cheaper than flowers or wine!

Speaking of savings, this DK designer dress cost me Sf 36. The two-way stretch black jersey is a very soft and workable viscose that breathes nicely.


  1. The dress looks great on you.

  2. Yes, you both look fabulous! Well done.

  3. Your dress looks wonderful, I've been thinking of making another in black, so versatile. I only came up with my armhole fix after trying your method which is far more sensible, but unfortunately on me it caused the front of the dress to gape too much, but I am glad it worked for you!

  4. You both look beautiful and elegant. I'd happily forgo some of my cleavage in return for your lovely waist. The dress is a terrific design.
    Yes, it was "A Visit from Voltaire" that I read and enjoyed. Sorry for not specifying. I'll have to track down your other books. Are you writing any more fiction?

  5. Dear Moushka,
    Had to change agents and now am waiting to hear if a new comedy sells in London. But the market is tough and acquisitions based on previous sales records. We persevere!

  6. That dress looks FANTASTIC on you. Really suits you. And thanks for all the tips on the making of it.