Donna Karan: Vogue Patterns

Donna Karan Fall 2014 runway presentation
Donna Karan Fall 2014 runway presentation. Image: New York Times.

With her Fall 2014 collection, Donna Karan celebrated the 30th anniversary of her label. To mark this milestone, here’s a look at the earliest Donna Karan sewing patterns.

Donna Karan (b. 1948) was born Donna Faske in Queens, New York to parents in the fashion industry. She attended Parsons School of Design before beginning her career at Anne Klein. In 1984, after over fifteen years at Anne Klein, Karan left to launch her own label. Her first collection, Seven Easy Pieces, explored the concept of layering mix-and-match pieces over a ‘body’ (a snap-crotch bodysuit) and laid the foundation for her brand. (See a New York Times timeline here.)

Models in bodysuits from Donna Karan's Fall 1985 collection
Models in bodysuits from Donna Karan’s Fall 1985 collection. Image: WWD.

Vogue Patterns’ licensing began two years after Seven Easy Pieces. Karan was introduced to readers in the September/October 1987 (or Autumn 1987) issue of Vogue Patterns magazine:

Vogue 1960 by Donna Karan on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987
Vogue Patterns magazine, Autumn 1987. Image: eBay.

In an editorial photographed by Benoit Malphettes, Suzanne Lanza models the four new patterns for a Donna Karan wardrobe. The designs were from the current, Fall/Winter 1987-88 collection (see Bernadine Morris, “Beene and Karan Redefine Today’s Luxury” or watch a runway video on YouTube):

Donna Karan Vogue Patterns SeptOct 1987
Donna Karan feature with Vogue 1958. Vogue Patterns, September/October 1987. Photos: Lynn Kohlman and Benoit Malphettes. Model: Suzanne Lanza.
Donna Karan Vogue Patterns Sept/Oct 1987b
Vogue 1961 and 1962 by Donna Karan. Vogue Patterns, September/October 1987. Photos: Benoit Malphettes. Model: Suzanne Lanza.
Donna Karan Vogue Patterns Sept/Oct 1987c
Vogue 1960, 1961, and 1962 by Donna Karan. Vogue Patterns, September/October 1987. Photos: Benoit Malphettes. Model: Suzanne Lanza.

(Scans via Top Models of the World.)

Vogue 1958 is a bias coat and draped, long-sleeved dress:

1980s Donna Karan dress and coat pattern - Vogue 1958
Vogue 1958 by Donna Karan (1987) Image: Etsy.
Vogue 1958 schematic
Technical drawing for Vogue 1958. Image: Etsy.

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Coat & Dress. Very loose-fitting, unlined, A-Line, bias coat, above mid-knee, has front extending into standing back neckline and long sleeves. No Provision for Above-Waist Adjustment. Tapered dress, above mid-knee, has draped neckline extending into collar and long sleeves, shoulder pads, front pleated and gathered waist, side front pockets, front zipper (skirt), underarm gusset and elasticized back waist (no seam).

A black, wool knit version of the Vogue 1958 dress is in the collection of the Museum at FIT, where it was featured in the 2008 exhibition Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion:

1980s dresses from Rei Kawakubo and Donna Karan - Arbiters of Style exhibit
Ensembles by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons (1983) and Donna Karan (1987) in Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion. Image via the Museum at FIT.

Vogue 1960 is a double-breasted jacket with elasticized back detail. The design was also featured on the fall magazine cover shown above:

1980s Donna Karan jacket pattern - Vogue 1960
Vogue 1960 by Donna Karan (1987) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.
Vogue 1960 schematic
Technical drawing for Vogue 1960. Image: Etsy.

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket. Loose-fitting, lined, below hip, double-breasted jacket has notched collar, shoulder pads, welt and buttonhole pockets, side back seams, elasticized, side back-button tab and long, two-piece sleeves with button vent. Purchased top.

Vogue 1961 may look like a set of tops, but it’s really two tops—one bias, the other for stretch knits—and a bodysuit:

Vogue 1961 (1987)
Vogue 1961 by Donna Karan (1987) Image: Etsy.
Vogue 1961 schematic. Image via eBay.
Technical drawing for Vogue 1961. Image via eBay.

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Top and Bodysuit. Loose fitting top has long sleeves. A: wrap, bias, draped front extends to tucked back collar, attached to tie ends. B: mock front wrap, shoulder pads, tucked front extends into single layer tie ends (wrong side may show) and back zipper. Bodysuit has notched collar, dropped shoulders, shoulder pads, mock front band, yoke with forward shoulder seams, very loose fitting blouson bodice, back pleat, elastic (seamed) waist, and lower edge, snap crotch closing and long sleeves with placket, pleats and button cuffs. Purchased trim.

Vogue 1962 provides the bottoms shown on Vogue 1961: a high-waisted skirt and softly pleated skirt or pants:

Vogue 1962 (1987)
Vogue 1962 by Donna Karan (1987) Image: Etsy.
Vogue 1962 schematic
Technical drawing for Vogue 1962. Image: Etsy.

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Skirt, Pants & Stole. Straight or tapered skirt (no side seams), above mid-knee or tapered pants have back zipper. No provision for shortening or lengthening for skirt B. A: bias front, no waistband, and side back seams. B: lined. Skirt B, Pants: front pleats, partially elasticized waistband and pockets. Single layer stole has narrow hem. Purchased top.

Just for fun, here’s a Patrick Demarchelier editorial photo of Paulina Porizkova in an ensemble from the Fall 1987 collection:

Paulina Porizkova photographed by Patrick Demarchelier in Donna Karan, British Vogue, September 1987
Paulina Porizkova in Donna Karan, British Vogue, September 1987. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier. Image: Magdorable!

9 thoughts on “Donna Karan: Vogue Patterns

  1. I had Vogue 1961 in the late 80s and made the cross-over top (view A), but no longer have the pattern. What a shame! I want to make both 1961 and the skirts in 1962 upon looking at them again.

  2. I have 1960 jacket. I bought it when it was first released and never made it.
    catherinedaze you answered my question. I wondered if it was still wearable today minus the oversized shoulderpads.

  3. Wow dejas vu! I think I have either 1961 or 1962 in my sewing phase 1 collection. I must go and check. Impressive how well these designs have travelled, bar the jacket. I’ve always been a fan of DK, thanks for posting.

  4. I loved those patterns when they came out. Except for the jacket, which I thought did not blend well with the other pieces. I had the coat and dress set. The coat really was a lovely piece.

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