one pattern, three ways: mccall’s 7163 (and a tutorial)

This may come as a surprise, but I love trends. I love following them, I love watching the industry evolve and grow, and I enjoy watching the somewhat predictable cycles of styles go in and out of fashion (flared jeans are coming back, you guys!). The trick with “trends” is making the ones you really like work for you. Some trends are worth figuring out for yourself because they’re that fun or cute, and some are here and gone so fast–usually because they’re terrible–that all we really need to do is watch them crash and burn. (Anyone remember the ridiculous exaggerated shoulders and epaulettes on jackets a few years ago? Or the huge monograms on handbags that were around for a second one season? Yeah, either you have no idea or you do remember because they were so absurd.)

In college, I took a fashion forecasting course (one of my favorites), and that class had an immersive component to it where we studied in Paris and London one summer. (It happened to be the summer that Yves Saint Laurent died. We were in Paris the day of his funeral, and a couple of us braved the crowds to get as close as we could to the cathedral for the service. We watched Valentino and Armani walk right by us. I will never forget that day, but that’s a post for another time.) Being in Paris and London and studying in real time and up close what was happening in street wear and in the shop windows there was incredibly interesting. The next big thing in trends usually hits the European market before it finds us in the US, and there’s usually some clues about what’s going to happen next if you watch closely enough.

This year, we’re seeing a few different things as far as trends go, but sleeves are a big, big trend (the more interesting and detailed, the better), and off-the-shoulder, ruffled blouses are everywhere. Everywhere. I happen to like this trend, because it’s a nice alternative to silly tank tops and it’s a fun option for warm weather. The more billowy the top, the more air is able to flow around you. Plus, they’re cute and anyone can wear them. I thought I’d give this trend a spin, and in my search for a pattern came across a pattern from the McCall’s catalog that is a few seasons old, but no less adorable or on trend.

I first made this pattern in a floral cotton sateen I had in my stash. I made a dress using the same fabric last summer, so this was a great use of what I had left over, plus it’s always nice to see a fabric more than once in a collection, and you know that’s what I’m all about when I sew. Instead of making changes to the pattern right away, I cut it as is, view D. Talk about an easy project!

The blouse comes together in a snap, and it couldn’t be lovelier. I will say that it takes a minute to get used to seeing yourself in something so loose-fitting and billowy after spending most of your time in things that more fitted and tailored, but the instant comfort that comes with a piece like this helps with that.

Online reviews suggest going down a size or two, which I will say you could probably do. Just remember that this top is designed to be billowy and big, so going down too much negates all of that. I cut a medium, and while I could size down to the small, I’m good with the look and fit of this size. Just make sure you keep things nice and fitted on the bottom to balance out the fullness.

I didn’t have enough fabric to cut both the front and back pieces on the fold, so I added seam allowance to the center back and cut two. Actually, I do this most of the time with commercial patterns to save fabric. It’s easier to cut both pieces on the fold, but it’s also a smart play to use your fabric in the most economical way.

The neck band is about 1/4″ too wide, so I had to sew an additional row next to the sewing line indicated on the pattern to make the lower casing the right size. You can see the two rows of stitching in the middle of the neck band here:

The pattern instructs you to adjust the elastic and trim it if necessary, and I definitely needed to do that. I trimmed off about 3″ from the upper elastic, and about 2.5″ from the lower elastic. I also wanted the top to sit a little higher on my neck to cover the scar I have there, so the blouse sits higher on me than it does on the model on the pattern envelope. It’s only because the top is so loose that I was able to get away with this, but I was only raising it about 1.5″.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make more of this blouse, and my first thought was something in white with a delicate, pretty trim on it. I again followed the pattern making no changes except to cut the sleeve from view B. Finishing the hems was as easy as serging them, turning them under, and attaching the trim using a zigzag stitch. Of the three versions of this blouse, this one is my favorite. I used white cotton poplin shirting, and the trim is from JoAnn. (All of these tops are cotton, so they can all be tossed in the washer and dryer no problem. They needed to be pressed a little when I got them out of the dryer, but not too much.)

Now, this last little cutie came to me one afternoon. Something off-the-shoulder, blue, and with white pompom trim. I couldn’t make it a reality fast enough. All I did to create the ruffle was determine how wide I wanted it and draft a ruffle piece. So, I determined the width by pinning at various spots on a finished blouse and then picking what I liked the best. I’d actually like to do this version one more time but with a double layer, so what I’ll do in that case is copy the ruffle pattern and shorten it for the second, shorter layer.

I went with a ruffle 9″ in width. It will get sewn into the neck seam with the bodice pieces, so I measured from the bottom of the elastic:

Once I decided on the width, I pinned all the way around the top to get a visual of what that would look like.

Then, I taped my bodice and sleeve pattern pieces together, overlapping the seam allowances to make them one piece. I only wanted one seam on the ruffle in center back, which is why I did this.

I marked the width on my pattern and traced it to make the ruffle piece.

I cut the ruffle on the cross grain, in order to accommodate the width of the pattern piece. Then, I basted it to the neck seam of the bodice and attached the neck casing like I normally would.

I really, really like this pattern. I will love any pattern this versatile and that looks this cute on, but this one is especially great. I think it would make an adorable dress too. Just lengthen it and add a sash belt and you’re good to go. Instant summer dress! It’s an incredibly easy sewing project, and a wonderful blouse option for spring and summer. I can even see it in harvest colors transitioning into fall. With cute boots and skinny jeans? I’m all over it. I will say that I might make one more off-the-shoulder top, but that will probably be it for me for that trend. They are, shall we say, tricky to wear? I mean, forget about raising your arms more than a few inches. And they’re really just after work or weekend pieces, which is fine, but you can’t wear anything over them. Some things aren’t meant to be more than what they are, which in the case of the off-the-shoulder blouse is a trendy, cute top that is super cute top with limited wearing opportunities. I’m good with that.

If you’re loving the billowy, ruffle blouses this season like I am, I have good news: there are tons of options out there in terms of incorporating this trend into our wardrobe without showing too much skin. More on that soon, but I’d start here. I’m already working on view C in pink check linen . . . 🙂


  1. Elizabeth | 25th Mar 17

    I love the tops and the info on trends. A very fun read! I have M7573 already cut out and waiting for the right fabric. Thanks for inspiring! BTW I love all your Texas and Baylor references as my husband and I both graduated from seminary at Baylor. Cheers!

    • Emily | 26th Mar 17

      Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for the comment, and thank you for reading the blog! I’m hoping to have M7573 finished in a day or two. I think it will pair nicely with the white linen pants I finished a few weeks ago. Those are coming to the blog soon too! Sic ’em! 🙂

  2. Elizabeth | 25th Mar 17

    A very fun read! I have M7573 cut out and waiting for the right fabric, can’t wait to see your version! Thanks for the inspiration and details on trends! BTW I love the little Texas and Baylor references as my husband and I both graduated from seminary at Baylor. Cheers!

  3. Vanda | 17th Mar 17

    All three of those blouses are beautiful.

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