I just want to say, that if I was a swearing kind of person I’d be swearing my head off right now. This outfit is the most ridiculously impossible dress to photograph flatteringly. I realize I’m the farthest thing from “model” as possible, but honestly! Trying to find the right light, the right angles and the right…. well…. bloody everything took a lot of time. I think I took about 160 pictures just to get the few that I’m posting here.
Ok, that said, let’s talk about this outfit. I’m not going to bother posting the pattern picture here, as comparisons would be awful. So here’s a link to it! First off, I love Donna Karan’s designs. I find them extremely interesting to sew and, for the most part, flattering to wear.
But…..I’m not so sure about this one. Actually, I bought it because Vogue’s version was in the purple family, and I am a complete sucker for anything purplish. And I do like ruching, so this pattern purchase was really a no brainer for me. I have had some purple wool coating in my stash for years. It has an interesting weave, and when I saw Vogue 1263 (also by Donna Karan) I thought it would be perfect. I even ordered a rayon-lycra knit to complement the purple coating to make up the skirt/top. However, after seeing a few versions on the web made up by fellow sewists, I thought the rayon-lycra was too lightweight – probably perfect for the top, but I really hated the way the skirt hem was AWOL on the versions that I’ve seen. So I arranged another (botched) project for the rayon. And then Fabricland had a lovely little sale on the day I was buying fabric for DD3’s winter coat, so I bought a few knits.
I used a dark olive Ponte di roma knit, but it’s a lighter weight than any other Ponte I’ve come across. It was substantial enough that I thought it had the body to deal with the skirt, but, of course, any person with any pattern drafting experience is going to realize that there is absolutely no way that the skirt can maintain its horizontal gathers without some foundation, regardless of how stable the knit is.
This is the “straight hem” version. I actually have to hold the gathers in place for the hemline to be horizontal. Below is the, shall we say, “natural” way the skirt wants to hang. It’s interesting to look at the design drawing – it’s perfectly gathered, and the hem is horizontal. Not so on the model (OK, I’ll post the picture! grumble grumble) See? Even her hem is wonky. And let me tell you, to get the backside gathers of the skirt to look so perfect took an assistant individually putting them into place and probably praying they’d stay there until the shoot was over. (Or maybe they used double-sided tape?) Pulling this skirt on is one thing, but arranging the gathers so they look good is a 5 minute task. However, on Vogue’s model, the one and only seamline on the skirt is also very much pulled to the side. Mine isn’t so much, which probably makes a difference to how the skirt hangs. Let me try that out……
Yup. I just stood up and twisted my skirt to the side a lot and it seams to hold the gathers better. Wearing tights would probably hold them in place, too, due to the “sticky” factor of tights & knit fabric. I’ll have to try that the next time I wear this! The other possibility is making an underskirt of power knit or something and very carefully tacking the gathers into place. Can you imagine the tedium?!
About sizing: I went down one size for the skirt waist, and down two through the hips, and used my usual size for the top without doing the standard FBA. This is my standard sizing adjustment when working with knits, and seems to work well with DK’s designs. But it depends on the knit! If I had made this up in a lighter rayon-lycra knit, it would have been miles too big and saggy. A mid-weight stable knit with moderate give is perfect for this, although it can be slow sewing over the gathered layers at times.
Now let’s talk about the top. It is very long. I am a short waisted person (2 inches shorter than the standard 17” from neck to waist), and the hem on this top sits 9 inches below my waist without pulling it down as far as it could go. The hem of it is at the level of my wrists. Now, given the weirdness of the skirt, this is a good thing because it camouflages where necessary. The top has two layers across the front. You could almost leave off the top “wrap” and get a complete top. The wrap is actually the LH sleeve proper and the LH side of the turtleneck. The actual front of the shirt has an unfinished crew neckline and a hemmed armscye like a tank top. And I like the back. You can see my short waist in this photo, or how I’ve not pulled the top down as far as it could go in order for the gathers to sit as designed. And the opening below the neck will pull open. I’ve thrown my shoulders back in this photo, so it doesn’t pull quite as much as it would if you were standing normally.
There’s 5 snap closures along the back of the turtleneck collar. It’s not particularly snug for a turtleneck, and I think it’s a nice look. But I happen to like turtlenecks.
There is also a point in the instructions – Step # 24 – that is not quite clear about the overlapping of the front layer and where it should end under the right arm. Here’s my picture of exactly where the edge of the gathered top layer should meet the raw edge of the front. It’s not quite clear from the instructions, and unless you are in the habit of using tailor tacks to identify markings, you will need to mark this particular set of circles on both sides of the garment.
The pattern called for seam binding which provides a stable base for the gathers. I chose to use the selvage from silk organza because it’s thin – I didn’t want to add more bulk if I could help it. Here’s a picture of the inside gathers on the top.The skirt has two layers of gathers stitched over each other with the edges left raw. It’s an interesting touch. The only other change I made to the instructions was in the hemming. Because the Ponte is thicker than other knits, I didn’t turn the raw edges of the hems under prior to stitching them. I just left them raw and double stitched them using a straight stitch. I did stretch the Ponte as much as possible while stitching the hems so I don’t end up with broken stitches while walking. Here’s a superfluous picture of the hem on the skirt.
So what do I think of this ensemble? I’m not really sure, to be honest with you. It looks great on the model, but she’s taller than me, and I think they probably helped the silhouette with significant editing. I can see that this garment would look a lot better on someone with a longer torso than mine. You can really see this from the back. On my short waist you miss the CB “v” that is a nice design point (see Vogue’s pattern cover). I have to say that when I looked at the first batch of pictures I took this morning in less-than–ideal-light, I really liked the outfit (the pic below is significantly lightened).
It’s super comfortable to wear (if you can get over a completely misbehaving hemline). It walks nicely, too. But after seeing the pictures of it in the sunlight, I’m just not convinced this is something that will get much wear, unless I’m wanting people to look at me askance. I might wear it strictly for the entertainment factor. Y’know, the furtive glances and whispers….
What the heck is she wearing? ….. A piece of fabric randomly wrapped and stitched into place!! …… Does she think it looks nice? ……. What the !#@* is she thinking??!?!?!?