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The Vogue 1259 Donna Karan gathered skirt set

16 August 2011, 14:19

I’ve finally finished Vogue 1259! I don’t regularly sew Vogue patterns (or any envelope patterns, for that matter), but like plenty of other people, I just loved this design as soon as it appeared online, and I just couldn’t wait to sew it up!

I used this mushroom-coloured viscose/cotton/lycra jersey from Tia Knight on ebay, and it was perfect for this pattern. You really need something lightweight and drapey, because there are a LOT of gathers that would get bulky very quickly in anything heavier. Vogue don’t give combined yardages for making the top and skirt, but 3m was just enough for me to make both, in size 16, using their recommended layout.

This pattern is marked as “Advanced”, and I think the top definitely qualifies, both for construction, as well as the cutting and marking, and the following of their instructions (which certainly don’t make things easier!). The skirt, however, could easily be made by a beginner. So if you’re intimidated by the “Advanced” label but like the skirt, go for it!

Not apparent in Vogue’s tech drawing:

You can read more about my tips for cutting out the fabric here, but here’s a reminder of exactly how much space this takes up:

No pattern piece is cut twice, nor on the fold, and it’s all single-layer. I think only NancyK or a professional would have a cutting table big enough to contain this – for everyone else, get down on the floor…

Some overall tips:

Top: Vogue’s parallel straight-stitch hem. Beneath: My coverstitched hem

One thing I really hated during the construction is that Vogue used a million circles and notches which can easily get confused, especially when there are multiple small circles on one piece.. Manequim, KnipMode, and Burda, in contrast, number their seam intersections which makes it much easier to piece together a pattern without any instructions. In this case, Vogue’s illustrations were great, but their text instructions just blew. Most of this was down to the poor naming of the pattern pieces, so you end up with instructions like “Attach the right side of the front and back top to the left side of the upper left and back, etc etc…” I eventually just started underlining the piece names in their instructions and writing the piece number next to it instead, as my brain had a much easier time processing something like “Sew the top edge of 3 to the bottom edge of 4 and topstitch, etc etc”.

Step 21 has probably the most useful illustration in the entire instructions, as it at least shows you how some of the pieces fit together (Also note in red where I’ve underlined piece names and written the number alongside):

(the only thing you can’t see here is that Piece 1 is also underneath Piece 5)

I probably should have created the following diagram before I started sewing, or even made a paper version of the pattern first, but this is my attempt to show the top’s pattern pieces fit together in the hopes that it’ll help someone else at least!

I’ve indicated the gathered edges in green, where the hem, collar, and sleeve edges lie in purple, and I’ve numbered a few of the seam intersections in hot pink so you can see where things join up. In other words, the kind of diagram I wished Vogue had done! (Seriously, would it kill them to put the notches and circles on the mini pattern piece drawing like all the pattern magazines do?)

Sewing the skirt

After sewing the top, making the skirt was a walk in the park by comparison! It only took a few minutes to construct (especially because I’d already done all the gathering stitches when I did the top’s), but I think Vogue’s finishing methods leave a lot to be desired on this.

First of all, I finished the waistband using my favourite method for applying elastic rather than Vogue’s casing. I find that elastics always find a way of twisting around and bunching badly inside casings, so I prefer to serge, flip, and topstitch instead.

It’s a design choice that the only seam is the diagonal, gathered one in front, but this means that unless the skirt is sausage-casing tight or you’re wearing velcro underwear, the gathers don’t really stay up in the back. As a result, you get an ungathered back with only a thin layer of fabric (hello there, lumps and bumps!), and the hem falls in the back as it’s not being gathered. One solution could be to cut another length of stay tape the same length as indicated for the front and apply it on the diagonal somewhere on the back, gathering up the fabric to match. I’ve got plenty of twill tape leftover, so if I find this really bothers me, I’m going to try this modification myself.

Apologies for the utter essay I’ve written here, but I felt the need to really document this pattern as well as possible since (I think?) I’m the first on the internet to sew this up. I really like the end result, but I think Vogue could’ve made the process a lot easier with some better diagrams and instructions. I’ve attempted to fill in what I felt was missing, so if you found all this helpful, please let me know!

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  1. Blimey! That’s one hell of a jigsaw you’ve managed very successfully to put together there. I’m not likely to attempt this pattern myself – but the tips and pointers you’ve put together are very enlightening and useful – thank you (one again) for sharing it with us Melissa :)

    Claire (aka Seemane)    Aug 16, 02:52 PM    #
  2. You have me feeling overwhelmed, but I LOVE the end product!

    — Mom    Aug 16, 02:57 PM    #
  3. I love this outfit and your color combo. It’s killer. You did a fab job. Thanks for all the tips because this pattern is now in my wish list for the next pattern sale.

    Peacock Chic    Aug 16, 03:17 PM    #
  4. Wow, I never would have guessed how that top went together. It looks great on you!

    molly    Aug 16, 03:24 PM    #
  5. Looks fantastic. Thanks for the very thorough review with tons of helpful tips.

    Elizabeth    Aug 16, 03:52 PM    #
  6. looks fantastic. such a great outfit on you. I agree about the Vogue instructions on some of their designer knits, particular these DK patterns, and why they don’t number the small and large circles is beyond me. I made a DK knit dress and the pattern pieces were so weird, I was cursing the whole way but the end result was genius. SO a little improvement in their instructions would go a long way to may them better. Thanks for the great review.

    Beth (Sunnygal Studio)    Aug 16, 04:07 PM    #
  7. Wow, that looks very good on you. I do like the pattern very much, though it’s not for me. You did have quite a puzzle on this one!

    Sigrid    Aug 16, 04:13 PM    #
  8. This is a very sophisticated look – especially with your awesome red wedding shoes! I also love that you have a place to stash your secret agent gun under the right front draping ;-). Seriously, the color is a lovely neutral that works really well with this style – and on you! Your thorough review and tips are excellent.

    — M Kate    Aug 16, 04:32 PM    #
  9. I can’t agree more about Vogue’s instructions. Numbering seams would have been a hell of a lot easier; all those circles and triangles are very confusing in a complicated pattern. You’ve obviously got great 3d skills and it turned out really well. Can you actually walk in this? The back looks so narrow at the hem.

    Nancy k    Aug 16, 04:38 PM    #
  10. I can feel the blood draining from my face just reading this. I am in utter awe of your patience and organisational skills and sheer refusal to be defeated. But as for me? I think I’m going to run a mile if this pattern comes knocking. I am very, very impressed. How? How?!

    karen    Aug 16, 04:39 PM    #
  11. What a beautiful outfit you have surpassed yourself . I think I will pass on this one though as beautiful as it is I can imagine myself getting very frustrated!!

    Lisa Penrice    Aug 16, 04:57 PM    #
  12. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to explain this pattern. It is on my To Do list. I know I will be referring to your review as I sew it. Also, thanks for the fabric recommendation. I had ITY jersey to use for it, but now I am thinking that may be too heavy.

    Rachel    Aug 16, 06:24 PM    #
  13. Wow! It looks amazing!

    — Terri    Aug 16, 08:19 PM    #
  14. This is a really beautiful pattern and it looks very good on you. As I saw this pattern on your blog I had to order it and bought also fabric for it. Thank you for the instructions!

    — Corinna    Aug 16, 08:42 PM    #
  15. It looks fantastic on you. Great job. I have made a couple of ruched/gathered dresses and the fabric weight, stretch and the fit (needs to be snug)have such a huge impact on the success of the dress.

    audrey    Aug 16, 09:21 PM    #
  16. Beautiful! I agree that it is very sophisticated. I love the mushroom color.

    liza jane    Aug 16, 11:20 PM    #
    Unfortunately, I won’t be tackling this one…yet. Great job.

    Scheryka    Aug 17, 12:22 AM    #
  18. DARN

    Scheryka    Aug 17, 12:23 AM    #
  19. Looks great and I love the sophisticated colour, reminds me of the mega expensive Rick Owens draped t’s and dresses. Thank you so much for your detailed review, I will be referring to it when I am brave enough to tackle this myself, it’s the cutting out I am dreading most now!!

    allisonC    Aug 17, 01:20 AM    #
  20. I love a challenge and love how this came out, so I may actually try making it. The only thing is that I live in teh Philippines and in this heat there is no way I could face wearing a high neck like on the pattern. Do you think I have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking off the turtle neck thing and just doing a round neck?

    WeLoveSewing    Aug 17, 02:46 AM    #
  21. Well, happily, your review of this pattern helped me definitively decide against trying it. You did awesome, but I’m too lazy for this one. LOL!

    CGCouture    Aug 17, 04:02 AM    #
  22. Great explanation, thanks! I really enjoyed reading that even though I have no intention of making this one myself. The end result looks so sophisticated.

    Catherine Daze    Aug 17, 07:32 AM    #
  23. Super cool! I’m in awe of your patience in putting this together! It looks lovely on you – when you showed the fabric before I wasn’t entirely sure about the colour, but it actually really suits you (I especially like it with the pop of colour with the shoes).

    I quite like the back of the skirt with the gathers falling out – it adds a contrast to the rest of the gathering (and very flattering over your derrière), and I quite like that it makes the hemline lower at the back, that’s a nice shape.

    Dilly    Aug 17, 07:47 AM    #
  24. that is just fantastic. You did an awsome job and thanks for the great tips that will really help. This pattern is on my wish list to purchase during the next pattern sale… now if I could just figure out how to do an above bust petite adjustment…. I am all set…lets just say, it might be awhile before I make this one.

    Kelly    Aug 17, 08:53 AM    #
  25. The set came out well. Your tips are useful for sewers that want to try the pattern.

    Gail    Aug 17, 11:03 AM    #
  26. fantastic!

    — Sharon    Aug 17, 12:44 PM    #
  27. You look good in this. I may have to get this pattern and print out your review just for the “how did they do that” factor. Thanks for the clear real-world instructions.

    — JustGail    Aug 17, 02:12 PM    #
  28. OMG, love love love that outfit. You look stunning. Thank you so much for your detailed review. It will surely help when i will make this pattern.

    senaSews    Aug 17, 03:35 PM    #
  29. Love the way the DK turned out. I love the design and wanted to buy this pattern but it would not compliment me nearly as well as it does you. For the skirt gathers, the Tracy Reese dress has you underline with stretch mesh. Once you put the lining in the bodice you invisibly stitch the gathers in place. This may be a better alternative to stay tape for the skirt.

    — susan    Aug 18, 10:03 AM    #
  30. You look fabulous in this outfit. All the hard work has certainly paid off!! And thanks for taking the time to make some helpful hints – really appreciated!!

    — Rachel UK    Aug 18, 10:17 AM    #
  31. I dont think I could carry that design but you look great!
    Well done with the origami styling.

    Kim Hood    Aug 18, 05:21 PM    #
  32. Oh my goodness. My brain is frazzled just reading this!

    I love the top in particular but there’s no way I’d attempt it with all of the fitting alterations that I have to make normally – as audrey remarked, this sort of style needs to fit well in order to work.

    Lucy    Aug 19, 10:52 AM    #
  33. Love it! It looks great on you. I like your colour choice too. Thanks for all the details about construction. I’d like to tackle this one myself.

    Karin    Aug 19, 10:37 PM    #
  34. I have just ordered this pattern, being so intruiged as to how it was made, and am now really, really glad you have made it already. I will be pouring over this post when I get the courage to make this pattern up. Thanks. It looks fabulous on you.

    kbenco    Aug 19, 11:53 PM    #
  35. AMAZING result. Perfect choice in neutral color. I want to pair it with a simple long pendant necklace and/or some layered bracelets.

    I gave up trying to understand your assembly 1/4 of the way through. ;) Well done.

    — Cindy    Aug 20, 12:48 AM    #
  36. Wow, it looks great – and super complicated!

    Joy    Aug 20, 05:30 PM    #
  37. Amazing, incredible, astounding, hot, wonderful, hmmm what else can I say?!?!?

    — Time4me    Aug 24, 05:04 PM    #
  38. Just wow…. I juste wrote an article about the pattern on my blog, like you i think im the first one to write about this one…( in french, you’re the first one in english!!).
    I just LOVE your diagramm, and i think that if i had seen it before, it would have saved my soul from burning with this HELL pattern. I hated doing the top (but like you, enjoyed making the skirt) and i had problem at the end because the big piece 5 made the front panel too large for me (i don’t know if you see what i mean). My waist is rather small for my size (i’m also a size 16) and the poor piece 5 was just floating all around me. I had to undo a lot of seams to cut the piece 5 smaller and redo all the gathers etc etc. This was a real pain in the a**…
    Thank you for your article, i keep it in case i do this pattern again!!
    (and if you don’t mind, i add a link on my blog to your article, to help people who we will be brave enough to make this pattern).

    And sorry for my english!!!

    Blanche Neige    Aug 29, 10:27 AM    #

    G    Sep 1, 02:56 PM    #
  40. I’ve just finished this set and found this article by googling (I was curious to know if someone else had made this). I wish I just had the time to update on my blog reading and find out about your article sooner, it would help me tremendously. After much strugle, I was able to successfully complete this project, sigh… I am happy with the end result, but this post would have saved me some time smile. You look great wearing this set, so it was well worth the trouble! Thanks for the excellent review; I will link back to this entry when I find the time to post about my version!! (((HUGS)))

    Tany    Oct 2, 03:06 PM    #
  41. I forgot to mention I found your tips extremely helpful. Thanks for all the details instructions!!

    arianamaniacs    Oct 13, 01:34 PM    #
  42. I just bought the fabric to make this pattern. I will definitely be following your tips. It looks great. Thanks for the post.

    Sandy    Oct 18, 02:59 AM    #
  43. Great outfit. Excellent review and very helpful tips.

    Cennetta    Oct 20, 05:58 PM    #
  44. THANK YOU! What a thorough and helpful review – and both pieces look great on you! I’m tackling the skirt this weekend (maybe I’ll hold off on the top).

    Clio    Nov 1, 07:47 PM    #
  45. I just found your website because a sewing friend pointed me to another pattern, and I saw this outfit in your Gallery. I made the skirt this past autumn and it was quite easy, but I didn’t have enough fabric to make the shirt as well. I think I am glad now! I have acquired some teal cotton jersey that I was thinking of using for this, but after reviewing your experience with the pattern, I think I will hold off and save myself some gnashing of teeth and throwing of pointy items!!

    Great website – I like your clear writing style.

    Sue    Mar 3, 05:37 AM    #
  46. I am half way through making this and my husband and i have had the magnifying glass out studying the pattern diagrams to make sure we are piecing it together right- still have no idea if it will fit though!!your comments have helped – thank you

    — julie    Apr 27, 01:05 PM    #
  47. This looks super awesome! I am planning on making this dress myself and I am very happy I found your usefull tips! Thanks!

    — zizipompom    Sep 5, 11:27 AM    #
  48. I’m using this pattern to make my homecoming dress, and I was completely lost until I found your article. Your diagram of how all the pieces fit together is excellent! Thank you!

    — Madeline    Sep 13, 10:35 PM    #
  49. Hi,
    Thank you!! I am going to start on this project next weekend. I am so glad I found your site! It is a beautiful dress :) I hope I can figure it out!!!!

    Sofia    Sep 28, 10:36 PM    #
  50. i get close to quit my project today but you gave me strenght to belive that it’s possible, i’ll continue tommorow

    — Chantale Paré    Oct 2, 10:23 PM    #
  51. Thank you!!! I have been stuck for days, this was such a lifesaver

    — Melissa    Oct 11, 09:07 PM    #
  52. I cut the skirt last night, and attempting to get this finished to wear to a wedding in 3 weeks. your tips are great!! with your help i might actually be able to get this done and look GOOD to actually wear :-)

    Julie    Jan 11, 03:06 PM    #
  53. i have lost the 2 guides for gathers 6 & 8 pieces.
    Is there someone could help me by giving me the mesurement detail of those two pieces. lara@initialimex.com

    — lara@initialimex.com    Feb 9, 08:38 PM    #
  54. Thank you SOO MUCH!! I am trying to sew this darn top, and needed desperate help as I have tried over, and over to see how this is supposed to go together. You have saved me days of work! :D Thankyou for your awesome diagram!! I love the shoes you paired with this dress too! :D

    — Hanah    Nov 11, 07:18 PM    #

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