Tutorial: De-mystifying Alexander McQueen’s Kimono Jacket

The Kimono Jacket, designed by the late Alexander McQueen,  is one of the most challenging projects I have taken on so far. If you think your sewing machine is a bit rusty and needs a serious spin, then this project is for you. First, you need to download the pattern pack from this website.

If you have an ordinary home printer, print out the following sheets:

  •  mcqueen_dload_sheet1 (25 A4 sheets)
  •  mcqueen_dload_sheet2 (25 A4 sheets)
  •  pattern help OR pattern instructions

Before proceeding, make sure you read the printing instructions and the text written on page 1 of #1 above. Now go and read them again. Believe me, you need to.

I have to admit I dreaded making this tutorial because it is not as straightforward as tutorials should be. When I decided to take on The Kimono, I scoured the internet hoping to find a layman’s version of the pattern instructions and found none. I now know why: making The Kimono is a very personal experience  and to translate it into words is quite tricky.  karinsi at Burdastyle did have one tip I took to heart: follow the instructions even if they seem super weird. So, let’s do just that, with some modifications on the side.

Assembling the Pattern

First, arrange the A4s you’ve printed out on the floor according to the numbers (1_1, 1_2, 1_3, …2_1,2_2,2_3…and so on) found on top of each page. The first number refers to the row, the second to the column…so 1_1 is row 1, column 1. If you do this correctly, you should have a set of patterns roughly similar to mcqueen_dload_LG1&2 sheet. Now, carefully cut out the sketches from each page and tape them together. This is quite an arduous step but be patient: after this, you will have all 7 pattern pieces you need to construct The Kimono.

Cutting the Fabric

Next, cut out your chosen fabric using the patterns. Note that the pattern pieces are numbered (refer to Pattern Instructions page 2). Ideally, you should follow the straight grain when placing your patterns on your fabric to ensure the finished garment hangs beautifully. I had to make adjustments as I had limited fabric material.

Cut 2 pieces of the following:

  • Pattern #1 (Front and Back Bodice)
  • Pattern #3 (the Back bodice facing)
  • Pattern #4 (the Front bodice fabric flap) and
  • Pattern #5 (the Sleeves).

Cut 1 piece of the following:

  • Pattern #2 (Back panel)
  • Pattern #6 and (the collar/lapel)
  • Pattern # 7 (the collar/lapel)
Pattern pieces ready for cutting

Transferring the Markings

Next, transfer ALL the markings you see on the patterns to your fabric – the notches, the lines, the letters, the littlest dot.  This step is crucial as without these markings, you will find it hard to execute the folds correctly and the back of your jacket may end up like crumpled paper instead of an origami masterpiece. This is how mine looked like (note: I made the markings on the RIGHT side of my fabric as I wanted to see them as I worked. If you do this, make sure you use tailor’s chalk or washable ink lest your final garment look like an architect’s blueprint).

Sellotape was a godsend!

Now let’s decipher the enigmatic Pattern Instructions:

1. Back bodice. Stitch back panel of 2 to 1 matching the notches, as shown below

2. Facing. Stitch the short ends of 3 together to create a back facing as shown below:

The Facing

3. Stitch 3 along the bottom of 1 and 2, right sides together and turn the right way round and press flat. Translation: Attach the facing to the bottom of your back bodice ( #1 and #2), right sides together, as shown below:

The facing (3) attached to the bottom of the back bodice (1 and 2 stitched together)

Bust Dart

4. On piece 1 bring together all the dots marked A, stitch together firstly the short A lines, then the long one, to create a bust dart.

5. Points C and Y – fold down the top C and Y to meet the bottom C and Y, matching C with C and Y with Y and stitch at the armhole.

I was in limbo after reading Steps 4 and 5 so I did the following instead (please refer to the photo below):

  • Bring the two short A lines together by folding along the broken lines indicated by the red arrows (with the crease towards you). To secure this fold, stitch along the line where the short A lines meet.
  •  Now, bring the fold down following the directions of the maroon arrows, such that the two ‘Cs’ end up touching on top of each other. This also ensures that the two ‘Ys’ will be on top of each other, though not touching.
  • Lastly, bring the two long A lines together by folding along the middle line in the triangle and following the direction of the blue arrow.
Making the bust dart

After steps #4 and #5, you should have something like this:

The unfinished front bodice with bust darts. Note letter positions.

6. Shoulder Dart. Fold together the notches at the shoulder line to create a dart and stitch closed at the armhole. (This is about the clearest step in this whole thing!)

Making the shoulder dart

Origami Back

Now, for the fun part! Advanced origami skills needed here :-). Go to the back bodice and study your markings. I’m terribly sorry but I got carried away at this point and forgot to take photos so I will use my paper patterns to illustrate the steps. If you follow the instructions to the letter and fold carefully along the markings, you will get the desired origami effect. It also helped me a lot referring to this and this to make sure that I am going in the right direction.

Note 1: These steps almost glide into each other so remember that you may have to do some of them simultaneously.

Note 2: The subsequent steps ask that you stitch between the points. I did all these stitchings on the wrong side of the fabric, so they are all hidden.

Let’s start with the left side of the bodice.

7. Point P – create dart with matching dots on line opposite and stitch. (The fold should be on the wrong side of the fabric as this is a dart and should be hidden)

Bring the encircled points together by folding on the broken line and make a dart

8. Points R and D – Match up point R with R and D with D, and stitch between them.

Following  the direction of the red arrows, bring points R and D on the right to meet points R and D on the left by folding along the green line. Don’t forget to stitch between the points to secure the fold.

9. Points N and T – match up point N with N and T with T, and stitch between them. (Refer to photo below, red arrows)

10. Points N and O – match N with N and O with O, stitch up from N to next dot up and down from O about 5cm. Again, from right to left, bring points N and O together. Points N and O at the left should be at the bottom. (Refer to photo below, green arrows)

11. Point M – From right to left, match M with M and stitch 1cm along line. (Refer to photo below, purple arrows)

Points X are your guides. Make sure they are aligned to ensure you get the shape right.

Matching points N, T, O, and M. For step no. 10, the broken yellow lines indicate where the stitching at the back should be done.

12. Stitch the dart with M at the top closed to dot below point. ( I didn’t do this step as I couldn’t find the bl _ _dy dart after step #11! If you did, please let me know!)
13. Point G – From right to left, match G with G and stitch to the 2nd dot down.

Point G to point G

14. Point S – fold 1 flat against 2 along the seam, right sides together and stitch from point S to 3 dots down.

What I did:

  •  Locate the notches on the back panel (Pattern no. 2, two notches at the neckline and two at the bottom).
  •  Fold along the thin purple line and bring the left neckline notch to point S, again following directions of the red arrow.
  •  Stitch from Point S to 3 dots down.
Point S, the last step to complete the origami back

Now, remember that we have only done the left bodice part. Repeat steps #7 to #14 on the right side of the bodice.

15. Press all sections flat. You should have something like this.

The finished origami back

16. Stitch side seams trapping 3 in between. Translation: Bring the front and the back bodices (with the facing at the bottom) right sides together and stitch the side seams close. It would be a good idea to hem the front bodice at this point

I should have done this ages ago, but better late than never! Here are some clear photos of how the origami back looks at the wrong side and how I secured it in places.

the finished origami back
the finished origami back

 

yellow circles show where I stitched the folds in place
yellow circles show where I stitched the folds in place

 

the finished origami back, right side
the finished origami back, right side

 

the folds up close
the folds up close

 

Front Panels

Steps #17 to #19 confused the h**l out of me so let me share what I did instead.

  • Take one piece of Pattern No. 4, fold in half vertically right sides together (Fig. 1)
  • Stitch 1cm across the flat end, and turn right side out. (Fig 2) Now do the same on the other piece. Press flat.
  • Attach these panels to either side of the front bodice opening using a simple top stitch, matching the notches, as shown in Fig. 3.
Attaching the front panels

Continuous Collar/ Lapel

20. Stitch 6 and 7 together at the short ends with 1cm notches. Fold length ways and press.

21. Stitch strip to the neckline and down the front, with 7 on the left side, matching the notches.

22. Fold the ends of 6 and 7 right sides together and stitch across the bottom and remaining side.

23. Turn the ends the right way round.

24. Stitch the other side of 6 and 7 to the neckline and front on the inside.

To make steps 20-24 simpler, please look at the diagram below:

  • With right sides together, stitch 6 and 7 together at the ends where the 1cm notches are.
  • Again, with right sides together, fold the strip horizontally in half and press.
  • Make a 1cm seam at both ends, marked by the thin red lines.
  • Turn the strip right side out and press at the seams. You are now ready to attach the strip to the bodice by following step 21 and 24.
After folding the strip in half right sides together, make a 1cm seam at both ends, marked by the red lines.

Sleeves. To make the sleeves, just follow the remaining instructions. I think they are clear enough for us mortal seamstresses 🙂

25. Stitch sleeve (5) seams together.
26. For the sleeve edge fold 1cm over and top stitch.
27. Match up sleeve notches in the armhole and stitch from the first set of double notches to the second set of double notches leaving the underarm free.
28. Fold in 1cm on the armhole and sleeve hole and top stitch.

—————————————————————-End of Tutorial———————————————————————————–

Whew! That’s it! I hope this helps you with your own Kimono adventure! Please, do share your finished projects by sending me an email or leaving a link/comment. I would love to see them!

If you like this tutorial, please share with your friends by linking back to the blog.

Till the next adventure, fellow stitch addicts!

56 thoughts on “Tutorial: De-mystifying Alexander McQueen’s Kimono Jacket

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for the detailed tutorial!
    I’m having trouble with the origami back, I sewed one side of the back, but it doesn’t look pretty at all 😦
    You wrote that all the seams are on the wrong side. Does that mean that all the folds should be treated as darts? meaning the fold is on the wrong side?

    Thanks a lot!
    Dana

    1. Hi Dana,

      I’ll post a pic of the inside of my jacket and hope it helps you visually. It’s quite complicated to use words to explain this, as you can imagine! 🙂

      Thanks a lot for dropping by and apologies for the late reply!

  2. Oh my goodness – thank you! Between the original instructions, your tutorial and my draping I worked it out. The back of mine was really big, it looked like I may have missed a drape/dart near the back seams. After reading both tutorials a few times to find that I hadn’t missed anything, realised I needed to wing it a bit.

    (On both sides) I measured 2″ in from the side seam, then folded that point across to meet the seamline, stitching closed on the inside from 2″ above the hem for 2-3″. Then tapered towards the neckline seam as I ironed and it worked. Hurrah!

    1. Hi Audrey,

      I left it unlined, just serged the edges for a finished look. I think I mentioned yardage in the article. Will check. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Blithe you are an absolute star for deciphering those instructions and more so for very patiently answering all the following questions from your readers. I had discovered you blog completely by accident which then led me and our followers to discover that McQueen had downloadable patterns!! I posted a link to your site on our FB page. Thanks again bevelee @ FG

    1. Hi Bevelee! Here’s to serendipity 🙂 Thanks for dropping by. I do wish I could spend more time updating the blog but I’m glad that my old posts are still helping stitch addicts out there 🙂

      And thanks so much for the shout out at your FB page!

  4. Hello Dear Blithe. I don’t know why but I find my back facing shorter than the lenght of the 1 and 2 pieces togheter !! what do you think is wrong ? Thank you so much for doing this tutorial!!!

    1. Hi Miguel,

      So sorry for this late reply. How did you get on with back facing? Short by how much? Let me look at the tutorial again. Thanks!

  5. Can you clarify the steps 25-28? I still don’t understand it because the sleeve pattern is uneven when I line it up.

    1. Hi Lizzie, make sure you line up the notches on the sleeve with those on the armhole. This will leave an opening at the armpit area. Hope this helps!

  6. Holy crap. Have just scoured the internet for EXACTLY this kind of help, as I download and prepared the paper pattern back in 2004, but have only just worked up the nerve to give it a go (it’s currently on my dress stand, the origami back half-started, with the words ‘It’s gonna be *influenced* by McQueen’ hanging over it… 😛

    Going to read your whole post properly in the morning, but just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing this tutorial! #lifesaver 🙂

      1. OMG I was looking for this EVERYWHERE…….. and sorry about my reply on your other post, Handmade and Fabulous: Alexander McQueen’s Kimono Jacket…… I didn’t see this AMAZING tutorial before I left a reply there…..Anywayssssssss…… You are a TOTAL genius for de-mystifying the McQueen Kimono jacket!!! 😉 xoxo

      2. By the way……. Is it harder if I use silk instead of a sturdy fabric? I’m just a beginner so I was just wondering……. What do you recommend, because I saw that the original McQueen jacket was made of black silk as well.

  7. Did you need to add a seam allowance or was it incorporated into the pattern? If incorporated into the pattern, how much was the seam allowance?

    1. Hi there, I’m not sure if seam allowance is included in the pattern but I didn’t add any. I just used 1/4″ allowance all throughout. Hope this helps and thank you for dropping by. Good luck!

  8. Thank you soooo much for taking the time to map this out. You did a really good job but I’m a novice and I’m still struggling a bit…just picked apart my first attempt on practice fabric. I did all right through about 8.

    I was wondering–the yellow stitches in step 10 from N and O, what do they do? They don’t appear to be connecting anything unless I am misunderstanding.

    And in Point 11, what line am I stitching on? M to M is vertical so I can’t stitch right to left on that, can I?

    I couldn’t find the dart either for 12 but I am going to try again.

    Point 13: how do you stitch right to left if you are stitching down to the second dot?

    Thanks again SO MUCH for creating this how-to. I am determined to finish this project as your jacket looks so gorgeous.

    1. Hi Gail,

      Step no. 10 helps form the folds of the origami back. The yellow stitches secure the fold made by bringing together points N and O. This stitching is done at the wrong side of the fabric. Hope this clears things up a bit 🙂

    2. Hi Gail,

      Sorry but I forgot to address the rest of your post :-). Yes, the stitchings at the back should all be vertical. The ‘right to left’ phrase refers to the direction of the fold, i.e., the M at the right brought over to the M at the left, and not the other way around. I will rephrase my sentences to make it clearer 🙂

      1. Thanks, that helps.

        You weren’t kidding about the bloodshed. My fingers are bleeding. And the back does not look as perfect as yours, but I’m over the hump. I think I know where the mystery dart goes.

        I had a very hard time keeping track of the pattern pieces on the back, so what I did was cut out each dart/shape from the origami back in paper, label them, and pin them to the inside of the back, and I removed the pieces as I stitched point to point. Also, I needed to mark the shapes on the front with chalk to align the folds correctly. And maybe it was because of my fabric choice (heavy denim), but I had to tack the folds down here and there when I was done.

        I could not possibly have done this without your tutorial.

        Now for the rest of it…

        I’d be happy to send pics, but how do I do so?

      2. Congratulations on your Kimono Jacket! I may have given you a rough map but it is your journey :-). The fabric choice makes a lot of difference, too. Please send your photos and a short bio to blithe.sanchez@yahoo.com. I’d be happy to feature it at the Museum.

  9. Wow! This is gorgeous 🙂 Hope mine comes out as great as yours. I am working on this pattern (about to pull my hair out) and haven’t even began to sew. I have a question: when I cut my pattern out, piece 3 is shorter as I try to piece it with 1 and 2. Is that suppose to happen? Also: the stitches you talk about between points are those like the darts? or am I suppose to stitch up and down the yellow lines between the dots? Sorry for the bombardment, I am fairly new at sewing. This pattern is really tricky. 🙂 I appreciate your help.

    1. Hi, Yaima! Well, I pulled out some of mine when I first started so you’re fine :-). To answer your questions: Piece #3 should be roughly the same length, if not slightly longer, as #1 and #2 pieced together. How short is it? If very short, maybe you can add a an inch or two on both sides of #3 to bring it to the desired length. As for the stitches between points, you’re correct: just stitch up and down the lines between points to secure the folds.

      Hope these help! Good luck sewing!

      1. After much hair pulling, fabric testing, more hair pulling (I haven’t gone bald yet) it’s finally done! I’m wearing it right now 😀 I wanted to post a picture of it but unsure how to do it but anyhow thank you so very much for this tutorial. I ended up altering some parts as I am an xsmall but the final result was worth all that hair pulling. 🙂

        You’ll see a bit of it on the small picture by my comment.

      2. Beautiful, Yaima! I love your fabric choice but I know it was a lot harder to tame than mine! Brave girl! Now onto adding a new page….come back again soon to check it out 🙂

    1. Hi Donna, this is a tricky one, mainly because of the complex origami back. But you have to have a starting point so I suggest printing out the whole pattern, tape and cut them up and carefully scale it to your measurements (shoulders, armholes,etc.). My finished waistline using this pattern is between 26-29 inches depending on whether I close it or leave it open. I know this isn’t much help but I hope it gives you an idea on where to start.

    2. Blythe,
      On step 10…..Exactly where should the stitching be done. Do I start the mark below N to the N point and then down to O and backtrack 5 cm at O

      1. Hi, Carolyn. Please see the amended photo. I’ve indicated where the stitching at the back should be done. Please let me know if you have any more questions.
        Cheers!

  10. hello!
    i’m in the middle of making this and a bit stumped on the origami back. do i sew lines R and D together or just stitch those two points together?
    your jacket looks great, btw!
    thanks in advance,
    k.

    1. Hi Kristiane, I have updated that photo to show where I stitched at the back (broken yellow lines). You’re right, you should sew a straight line between the points to secure the fold better.

      1. finished! thanks for the help! i used muslin, as i wanted to make a practice jacket before risking an expensive fabric, and then dyed it afterwards. now that it has been “demystified” i will definitely make another one in the decadent fabric this project deserves! anyway, i would love to send you a picture, but i don’t see your email address…
        k.
        ps i have only just started to sew again after many years of not sewing at all, so if i can do this, anyone can!

    1. Hi Terry,

      I am a UK size 8 and it fit perfectly without any alteration. There is also a 1cm seam allowance included. This I found after a LOT of research 🙂

  11. Oh. My. Goodness.. This looks sooooo confusing – thank you for taking the time to write out a tutorial! I hope it helps a lot of people, I can already see it’ll help me a LOT! 🙂 I may even attempt a tutorial too so people can switch between two two, we’ll see, if I even manage to make the thing in the first place! 😀 Well done youuuu! ♥

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