Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 2: Making the Dress

7649
Art from the pattern envelope. I made View B.

See Part 1 here for general impressions on sewing with a vintage pattern.

For Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest, I made a vintage shirtwaist with lots of modifications.

I started out with a McCall Pattern Co. pattern 7649 printed in 1949.

The dress features:

  • Open collar
  • Dolman sleeve
  • Button front opening
  • Scoop front pockets
  • Unusual layered skirt back with many tucks and darts
  • Side zip
  • Belt
  • Shoulder pads
  • Darts at waist front and back

I left the basic shape of the dress alone, but knew I would need to shorten it and modify the padded shoulder to make it wearable. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this contest rule when I chose the pattern:

The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.

With that fitted waist, there was no way my dress was going to qualify. My solution: extend the button opening all the way down the front and eliminate the side zipper.

I had my work cut out for me!

shirtdress_1_26
Taking the padded shoulder away affected the fit of the back and the dolman sleeves, but eventually I got it sorted.

First order of business: unpad the shoulder. To get the shape of the bodice right, I made a muslin. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to change the length, waist, or bust. But those shoulders were awful! While still wearing the muslin, I pinched the bagginess out and pinned a new shoulder seam in place, constantly checking the back and front in the mirror. I ripped out the old shoulder seam and sewed the new one in place. Back to the mirror, I saw that it would need more adjustment. It took three tries, but I finally got it. Once I made a new pattern piece with the changes, I was ready to cut my good fabric.

shirtdress_1_10
Skirt muslin back view: so many tucks and darts!

Speaking of fabric…  I used an Amy Butler design entitled “Cotton Blossom.” I found the cotton woven on sale at Moona Fabrics on Etsy, but I would have paid full price. It’s really good quality material and I love that color combination! Here’s some more Amy Butler on fabric.com.

I didn’t have any problems putting the top half together. The only other change I made was to add fusible interfacing to the facings and inside the collar. Since the original didn’t call for any interfacing at all, I chose Pellon SF101, which is on the lighter side for a collar. I suppose in 1949 they would have used starch to stiffen the collar. I’m grateful for the modern materials that make starch unnecessary. I finished everything but the buttons and buttonholes and set it aside.

Next – the skirt. I didn’t think I would need to make a muslin for the skirt, but when I started looking at how it went together, I was baffled. To get that cute shape in the back, there are 5 darts and 6 tucks! I felt like it would take less time to test it with a muslin than it would ripping out the inevitable mistakes.

shirtdress_1_1
Sure, that makes sense. Practically sews itself!

It wasn’t difficult once I ran through it once, but it was time consuming. There was a lot more time spent marking and ironing than usual.

For the pockets, I tried to eliminate some bulk by using a lightweight woven on the inside (which does not show). The pockets turned out to be roomy and useful. Finally, I can wear a dress and not have to have a separate bag for my phone!

Here’s a little slideshow of the pockets going together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have to admit the next part made me nervous. I carefully cut the skirt front down the middle. I drafted a new pattern piece for the facings behind the opening. I used that to cut out two facing pieces and two more lengths of interfacing. Using the top half as a guide, I mirrored the steps I used to assemble the facings. Finally, it was time to sew the back to the front and the top to the skirt. By some kind of miracle, my math and obsessiveness worked. and everything fit!

I don’t want to do that again, but at least now I know I can.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As regular readers know, buttonholes are not my favorite thing to do. But I think I have finally turned a corner. Not flawless, but not bad!

shirtdress_1_11
Finally figuring out how to do buttonholes!

The dress also called for a 1″ belt. I’ve never made a belt before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty easy. I stiffened the fabric (there was a pattern piece for this) with a one inch strip of Pellon ShirTailor fusible interfacing. Then I fused a strip of heat-n-bond ultra-hold tape right on top of the Pellon. I folded over the seam allowances and just fused them to the back. Finishing was just a matter of sewing on the buckle. It was so easy that I will consider doing belts a lot more!

IMG_4093

I finished it with a simple invisible hem. I’ll definitely be wearing this dress a lot. It looks good on its own, but can also work under a sweater or other layers. I am really happy with the result, but I think I am ready for something quick and easy next time!

Until then,

Happy Sewing!

shirtdress_1_24

Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.

sewing_sig

 

Fashion

Floral Sundress: the UFO has landed

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 1.46.56 PM
Art for view B Vogue 8469

Beautiful fabric, cute pattern, halfway done….  why did I ever stop working on this?  Has this thought ever occurred to you?  I have a stack of boxes in a dark corner – each one containing everything that I need to finish a sewing project.

I found myself in the mood the clear out that corner recently. This incomplete sundress from 2013 called out to be finished.  It was really a fabric-driven project.  I fell in love with the painterly, multicolored floral the minute I saw it.  I splurged and bought some yardage at the full retail price, which is unusual for me.  It seems to be a cotton poplin with a little bit of stretch.

When I cut out this dress, I paid particular attention to the bright, large scale design.  I especially made sure that the large yellow sunflowers would be placed in flattering areas.  I also thought about how the pieces would connect to each other so the design would flow in a pleasing way.  Placed incorrectly, large design elements can ruin a garment.

flower_dress_lining
Fully lined bodice

The pattern itself was yet another Very Easy Vogue, now out of print (Vogue V8469).  I added pockets and omitted the sash, but otherwise left the dress pattern alone.  I am not sure this one should have been considered “very” easy though.  It requires lining, inserting a zipper, and installing kind of fussily small elastic casing for the cap sleeves.

I cut the lining from a soft old white bedsheet. Bedsheets can really make nice lining for casual clothes. They will not shrink, and most will outlast typical fashion fabric.

When I opened the UFO* box, I found that I had cut and marked all of the pieces and finished most of the bodice.  Oh…  yeah.  I stopped working on this because the top was too small.  I don’t remember if I cut it too small, or whether I made a sewing mistake, but instead of being semi-fitted, it was crushingly tight.  The bodice side seams were still unsewn.  At the time, I couldn’t decide if I needed to insert more fabric under the arms, or whether I could make it work by just changing the placement of the side seams.  Back then, I had to make alterations by trying things on and pinning in front of a mirror. Since I made a duct tape dress form, I don’t have to do that anymore.  I put the top on duct-tape Cindy and figured out my modifications in just a few minutes.

flower_dress_seams
Overlocked seams

The fit and flare style is flattering on so many body types. You have freedom of movement and a classic silhouette at the same time.

All of the raw edges are either encased or overcast, so washing in the washing machine will not lead to annoying loose threads and fraying.

*UFO: Unfinished Object