And now back to sewing! Despite the quiet blog and relatively quiet Instagram account, I’ve been sewing as much as possible. With kids home, guests, and travel, the sewing has varied in amount, but it’s still happening. I usually blog mostly in the order I make things, but this dress is jumping to the front of the line because some of my other projects have been multiple versions of single patterns and, if possible, I’d like to feature those together.
On to the dress!
This season, I’ve really felt the urge to discover some Tried ‘N True patterns. I suppose that’s an endless quest, since fashion and our own opinions about it tend to change, but I’m looking for favorites nonetheless. I decided to try out McCall’s 7774, View C to see if I liked it.
I made a 16 in the bust and a 20 in the waist and hips. The dress hits your waist somewhere in the skirt portion, so I didn’t have to grade out to the 20 until I traced the skirt piece.
When I was younger, I really favored empire waist and A-line dresses and skirts, and I’ve been wondering if I still like them. This dress has a higher, empire waist, so it seemed like a good one to try.
It features pockets (yay!) and a bodice cut that looks like it might hide undergarment straps (always a plus, in my book).
It also has some interesting seaming that would allow you to play with pattern placement (especially stripes), which you can see in the photo on the pattern envelope. I was excited about this one, and I definitely wasn’t the only one in the sewing community.
In my stash, I happened to have a really nice, midweight yellow linen from Fabric Mart that I had planned to use for a ready-to-wear-inspired top, but which seemed perfect for this dress. It was quickly reassigned to this pattern. I gave myself a slightly crazy deadline of a wedding my husband and I were going to, and got to work, no muslin/toile in sight. I was going for it with my awesome fabric!
This is one of the designer linens that Fabric Mart regularly stocks, and it is AMAZING. I think they call it a light-medium weight, and it’s pretty opaque, which I really like. It is very linty when you wash and dry it, but you only notice that when you clean the dryer’s lint trap. It was great to sew, although I did press it on the cotton setting rather than the linen setting. I can’t tell if my iron is starting to go, but that seemed to be a better setting for this fabric. Usually the fabric retails for around $25/yard, which is way out of my budget, but they often have sales, so it is totally possible to scoop this up for $9 or $10/yard. Oh! And it’s a wider width at 57″. I highly recommend it!
On to the pattern! Being now older and wiser, 😉 I’ll tell you that if you attempt this dress, you should probably muslin the bodice. I really like the pattern overall, but I did have to adjust a few things, and they seem to be common adjustments for people who tried this one. Some good news is that if you just go for it, like I did, you can make these fixes on the fly without damaging your fabric.
The darts, which are under the bust, extend pretty high. You want your dart points to end 1/2″ to 1″ below (or beside if you have side darts) the apex of the bust. I shortened these by 2″, and they may still be slightly high. Shortening darts that much gave me darts that were very wide at the bottom, which made the bust very…pointy. That’s not for me! So, then I had to narrow the darts. I narrowed them by half (so that they were half as wide). If you do this, you must take the extra length you have created out of the side/bottom of the front bodice!!!! Learn from my mistake! I knew that narrowing my darts would give me extra length in the front of the bodice, but because the skirt was gathered and could expand and because I love ease, I initially left it in.
I ended up with a pregnant-’90’s-lady jumper. If that makes no sense to you, just trust me when I say that it looked bad. Apparently you can take a love of loose clothes too far. 😉
The original dart is in marker. My modified dart is in pencil inside the original.
Below is the area I should have adjusted when I narrowed those darts.
Above: the final modified front bodice piece with narrowed, shortened dart, and excess length (from narrowing the dart) removed where the side seam and bottom of the bodice meet.
I also noticed quite a bit of gaping in the back neck area, but I realized that if I fixed that, the bodice would be tight in the shoulders, so I decided I could live with it.
All these issues aside, I think the instructions for this pattern are really good. You are on your own for seam finishing, but other than that, this was really enjoyable to make and was well-thought-out. The bodice is fully faced/lined with self fabric, and it’s a nice dress. There is quite a bit of hand-sewing involved in putting in that facing/lining, but if you know that going in, you can enjoy it, and come out with a beautiful result. Using a comfortable thimble to push my needle through the fabric and running my thread through beeswax to keep it from tangling has really helped me in the hand-sewing department.
If I made this pattern again, I would do what @artsy_tiff did and lengthen the bodice, lower the neckline a smidge, and maybe lower those dart points a bit more. I’m new to doing forward shoulder adjustments, so I’ll have to wear this a bit more to see if I think I need that. Initially I thought not, but now I think maybe I do. This dress is very comfortable to wear, especially in this fabric. Belting it really helped when I wanted a more form-fitting shape. The belt is some wide ribbon (maybe upholstery trim?) from my stash.
Here are some pictures of the dress without the belt:
Final thoughts on this project:
- Fabric Mart’s designer linen: recommended!
- McCall’s 7774: recommended with reservations–do your research and maybe make a muslin of the bodice.
I’d love to make this again just to see what it could be with those fitting changes, but I don’t think I will this year, so we’ll see if it happens. I considered the maxi length, but my mom and I both think it might just be too much. I need a good woven maxi pattern. There are a few contenders, but I haven’t settled on anything.
I hope you all are having a great summer. No thoughts of fall here! It’s usually warm where I live through September, so I’m sticking to summer sewing. Yay!
Thanks to my wonderful husband for helping me out with some of the pictures in this post!
- I read the most fascinating book after I saw it on Peter Lappin’s Instagram account. I planned to just skim through it, but ended up reading it cover to cover, even letting it go overdue at the library since I couldn’t renew it and wasn’t quite finished. A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution by Joy Spanabel Emery was really well done. The older I get, the more important history seems and while this isn’t world history, it’s history that covers one of my favorite little corners of the world.
- I really like hats and, for the past few summers, have been thinking I’d like a white summer hat. After doing a little research on Panama hats, I found one that looks like the real deal (made in Montechristi, Ecuador of toquilla straw) on eBay and ordered it. I love it!
- I haven’t been able to shake my summer obsession with wooden-bottom clog sandals (is it just summer love or is it true love forever??). Here is the latest pair I keep looking at by Cape Clogs. They’re pink!
Thanks for the details on the dress, Lisa. Amazing color match with the ribbon. Incredible that it was already in your stash. I bet if you were looking for it on purpose, you’d have trouble finding the right shade. It really elevates the look of the dress.
Thanks so much, Barbara! I was pretty amazed when I found that ribbon in there, too. A lot of times people give me sewing supplies when they are cleaning out their things or their relatives’ things, and they often come in really handy. I’m pretty sure that someone gave that to me at some point, but I can’t remember when or who. I’m definitely glad I had it, though!
Wow, that belt really enhances your dress! I like how you explain your fitting and style choices. With the belt it looks more dressy,; without it looks more like a casual summer dress.
I love your blog!
Thanks. I really appreciate that. I’m hoping the (sometimes extreme) detail will help people if they want to try the pattern or fabric. It also helps me because I tend to forget things. 🙂 As for the dress, I wasn’t quite sure about it at first, but after taking in the front bodice, I’ve been trying to wear it in different ways, and it’s definitely growing on me. I like your assessment.
Oh my! Can I say … how much different the dress looks with the belt! I loved it with the belt. This is a very nice pattern and I’m tempted to have a go at it myself, especially now that you have written all about it! Thanks! You look lovely!
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Thank you, Linda! That’s so kind of you. I agree about the belt. I didn’t really like the dress before adding it, but it helped me see it in a new light.
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I still love this dress and think it’s incredibly flattering on you, belt or no belt. I continue to be impressed with your making ability. Way to go!!
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Thanks. I appreciate your continued support! ❤️
This is beautiful! The color is amazing, and how lucky was it that you had the exact right trim for the belt? Though honestly I like it unbelted – so easy breezy!
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Thank you! It is really great to have both options.