one dress, three ways: mccall’s 6886

Right off the bat, let me say the following: this dress is magical and I love it. That statement makes me laugh because if I only knew a long time ago what I know now, you better believe I’d have more than just four versions of this dress. (See the first one here.) I have had this pattern – and genuinely wanted to make it – for a really long time. Longer than I’d like to admit, because I consider myself a pretty fearless seamstress, one who normally doesn’t let the “what if it doesn’t fit/look right/flatter me” mentality get in the way of a project or new idea. This dress, however, is different.

We all know the feeling of a failed or disappointing project. It stings, and the only thing worse than trying on something unflattering or unattractive or what-have-you is trying on something that is any of those things, except . . . you made it. Right?! It’s such a waste! And it happens to all of us, so that concern was always in the back of my mind about this dress until, one day, I decided to get over it and just make it. Fast forward a couple of months, and I have three new versions. I made two small fitting adjustments (swayback and grading down a size at the waist), and it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever sewn. Easy to sew and quick to sew – and all the positive reviews you’ve seen for it are true. Somehow, this dress looks good on everyone. This pattern is a versatile design that translates into a lot of different, wearable looks, which we sewists can appreciate.

I wanted something work-appropriate, a version that was a little more casual/everyday, and a special occasion dress in a knockout fabric. The navy super stretch denim, navy floral scuba knit, and the white super stretch denim (used as the underlining for the sequin mesh) all came from JoAnn. The cracked ice sequin mesh came from Fabrics World last year. And no, the fabric suggestions on the pattern envelope don’t mention the super stretch denim or sequin mesh or scuba knit that I used, but all of them can work for this dress. The denim has a backing on it which makes it as stretchy as a knit, and the scuba is a stable knit with just enough stretch to work for this design.

We all need pieces in our closet that are appropriate for the office – and even better if they work for after-hours cocktails, right? This dress will work well for me year-round for countless different events, and I am absolutely over the moon about this fabric. I saw it at JoAnn a few weeks ago and knew it had to come home with me. It’s a lot of my favorite things in one fabric: navy blue, shimmer, florals, stretch. It’s just so pretty! (I don’t think it’s available online, but check your local store in case it’s still in stock.)

Construction of this dress was incredibly easy. I serged all the seams and went with a blind hem stitch to hem the skirt and sleeves. The neckline is turned under, turned under again, and stitched.

The denim version is my new go-to dress for running errands or traveling. It’s stretchy and comfortable, and it’s easy to toss in the wash. I combined the neckline from view E with with sleeves from view C for this version. All three of these dresses are the length from view E, simply because I like that length on me (a couple of inches below my knee). Attaching the neck band is pretty straightforward, but I did find that I had to clip the neckline at center front before sewing the band to the neckline, which is opposite the typical order of operations.

Last fall, I made Butterick 6244 in this creamy double wool, and it’s a nice outerwear piece with this dress. Here in Texas, we’re lucky to get a couple months of super cold weather, so it’s all about smart layers for the days when it’s too warm for a coat but too chilly to wear a dress on its own.

Now, for the showstopper. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been dreaming about this dress. When I bought this fabric over a year ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with it: a sequin skirt and this very dress. The skirt happened earlier this year and now, finally, the dress is a reality too. I make a lot of things, and I make a lot of things that I love, but this dress is pretty incredible. It’s classic and simple, but special and beautiful.

In order to hide seams and hems, I used the sequin mesh as the outer layer and the super stretch denim as the underlining. Basically, it’s the same concept I used to create the skirt in this fabric earlier this year. In place of hems that you turn up and stitch, I went with hem facings using the stretch denim. This does two things: it keeps the hem neat and clean and keeps the sequins off your skin. I wanted a prettier seam finish on the inside of the dress, so each seam is bias bound, and the hem facings (sleeve, skirt, neckline) are all sewn down with a hidden catch stitch.

To get a more personalized fit, I graded down a size at the waist and made a swayback adjustment to the back pattern pieces. This is an adjustment I have to make to most of my patterns, but it’s not always needed in knit garments. When I made this dress for the first time I didn’t make this adjustment and I should have. It’s probably not obvious to anyone but us seamstresses, but I wanted to take out some of that excess fabric before making these versions. Put simply, all “swayback” really means is that you’re curvy and there’s not enough of your back to fill out all that fabric.

Here, you can see the fabric that is pooling at my lower back in the first version of this dress:

To eliminate the excess fabric, you simply pinch it out, pin the excess so you know how much to remove from the pattern, and transfer that to your pattern piece. The adjustment starts at the side seam, but be sure to not lengthen or shorten that seam at all. We’re only interested in removing the fabric from the back.

A great resource for fitting patterns is a book called The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and it walks you through each step of this process really well. I’m on my own when I make adjustments like this (and yes, it’s a bit of a challenge), but I would recommend enlisting the help of a sewing buddy to help you with this if possible.

It’s an easy but significant adjustment to make. This is what the back of this dress looks like now:

Sewing your own clothes is a rewarding endeavor by itself, but adding pieces to your closet that are well made, flattering, and wearable is an exceptionally satisfying feeling. Love these dresses!

Special thank you to the McCall Pattern Company for sponsoring this post.Ā 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Andrea Cormick | 14th Dec 17

    Georgeous! I’m about to fit this pattern to make a couple sweater dresses. I noticed you divided the dart in two. What’s the reasoning for this? Is it to avoid having to true the pattern after creating a sharp angle with one dart?

  2. Nancy | 7th Dec 17

    Beautiful work! Very inspirational.

  3. Kuai-Kuai | 6th Dec 17

    Love the dresses! I just got fabric for this exact pattern and am really excited to make it. Unfortunately, I ordered the dress online and my fabric is a twill that only has a slight stretch (definitely doesn’t stretch the amount on the back of the pattern). Do you think it’d be possible to make this dress with a not-so-stretchy fabric and add a side zip?

  4. Denise Thompson | 5th Dec 17

    All three dresses are gorgeous! And now I see that I should be doing a sway back adjustment as well for my garments… Beautiful work on the dresses! I have that pattern and you’ve inspired me to make it again.

  5. Karen Alexander | 29th Nov 17

    Looking Good Emily! I love the way you show the details, and especially this important fitting tip, something many might not notice or know how to deal with! Have you thought about teaching? There are some locations in town where you could rent space “by the class”… I get a lot of requests for help with clothing that I can’t meet at our shop! Hey… love that RED Husqvarna!!

  6. Nathalie | 29th Nov 17

    Thanks for your post! Iā€™m new to sewing and have made this pattern before and did not know how to get rid of the pooling in the back. Very informative

  7. Sew2all | 29th Nov 17

    Wow! I love how you made this dress in 3 different fabrics and all so useful for our lifestyles. Thank you for the swayback instructions and how you faced the sequin dress. Seems like the white stretch denim under the sequin mesh would serve as a support garment as well as a lining. (Hmmm, I feel some ideas coming on). Also love how you paired the navy dress with the wool jacket and boots. And the rose dress is just gorgeous. You’re giving me the confidence to give this pattern a try. Thank you, again.

    • Emily | 29th Nov 17

      Hello! Oh, my goodness – you are so right about the stretch denim pulling double duty as a support garment! It absolutely does that! I am so glad you’re feeling inspired to try this pattern. I was so worried about it for so long, and my biggest concern was that it would be too tight around my tummy, but it isn’t. I’m not wearing any shaping undergarments under any of the dresses either! I can’t stand to wear those things, so I really try to only make garments that I can wear without them. I’m so happy with these dresses that I think I’ll put this pattern away until spring and maybe wait a while to make another version. I have a yummy coral stretch lace that would be lovely!

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate the time you take to do that! <3

  8. PsychicSewerKathleen | 29th Nov 17

    All your dresses are beautiful and such a reminder to us all that simple is often best šŸ™‚ It is painful to make something that just doesn’t work – I just did and threw it all in the bin yesterday almost making me cry. It was SO much work and quite a bit of $$ (about $120 with fabric and pattern) I’m now making something rather simple and I’m confident will look fine and will get worn. That’s why our TNT patterns are so important (like this one will always be for you I’m sure!) – they provide us with that assurance we can make things we love and will wear with joy.

    • Emily | 29th Nov 17

      You’re so right, and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, simple and classic is all it takes to make a standout garment. I’m sorry about your recent project disappointment. I have been there so many times! The best medicine for that is diving into a project, usually a wonderful TNT, and creating something beautiful. I love this pattern, and yes, it’s definitely become a TNT for me. I’m excited to see what 2018 brings in terms of new patterns that become a favorite TNT! Thank you for the comment. <3

  9. Norma Lucas | 29th Nov 17

    You look stunning in this dress! So glad you decided to make it! Thanks for sharing the swayback adjustment! You are an awesome seamstress!

    • Emily | 29th Nov 17

      Hi, Norma! Thank you, and I’m so glad you like it! I was starting to mention “swayback” a lot, so I thought it was time I explained a little more about it. šŸ™‚ Thank you for reading, and thank you for the kind words!

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