1950s dress McCall’s M7748
Some months ago I found just amazing fabric from a remnant bin. It was silky sheer polka-dot fabric that felt soft and luxurious. I think it was cotton batiste perhaps mixed with some silk, due to its slight sheer. The piece was about 5 metres so enough for the most amazing vintage dress but since it was almost weightless (and the fabric was sold by the weight) it cost only 7 euros! I bought the fabric and started waiting for a perfect pattern and occasion. The newly re-issued McCall’s M7748 from the archive collection was just a pattern that I was waiting for and, as my cousin was getting married, I needed an occasion dress.
The pattern comes in two size ranges 6 to 14 and 14 to 22. I spend quite a long while pondering about the right size. I found no advice online since no-one seemed to have posted anything about this dress. According to the size table, I was between the sizes 12 and 14. However, my previous McCall’s dresses were made mostly in size 8.
I tried making a toile using the size 12 but the top of the bodice was just huge and the complicated construction with all the gatherings and the multiple bands made toiling very tedious and I skipped making the bands. As my previously made dresses, such as this shirt dress were a bit snug, I finally decided to go for the size 10 for the top and grade towards size 12 for the waist down part. (Basically, I went one size down from the size that the sizing chart gave me.) I took a risk since I only had a limited time to make the dress and I was pretty certain that the number of the vertical seams would allow me to fit the bodice even if the fit wasn’t good. This paid off since finally I only had to take in from the centre back seam.
Sewing and my adjustments
Lining and the sheer fabric
This dress has been designed to be lined. My fabric also required lining because of its sheerness. However, the seam allowances would have shown through the sheer fabric if I had lined the dress in a traditional way. I decided to treat the lining and the fabric as one so that the seam allowances would be better hidden under the lining. To make the seam allowances even more invisible, I cut my own bias binding out of beige coloured lining fabric and covered my seam allowances with it.
I also used a trick that I just learned in a lecture at Ommel festival: The lecturer was talking about the couture sewing methods and mentioned in passing how the darts for a sheer gown were made through both the fashion and the lining fabric to hide them better. This dress was a perfect way to try the method. I basted the darts through both fabrics and sewed them only after that to keep the layers unmoving.
making the bands
The sheerness also complicated making the bands. According to the pattern instructions, the facings were supposed to be interfaced and the front pieces un-interfaced. After I had sewed the bands I realised that the seam allowances showed through and the band looked ugly. Luckily this was remedied by turning the bands the wrong way around. I put the interfaced parts to the front and the bands ended up looking neat.
The halterneck straps have plenty of length. I did not have enough time to shorten the straps but at some point, I will probably remove about 3 cm from both halterneck parts.
The skirt of this dress has about 4 metres of fabric at the hem! I left out the crinoline since I already own a puffy petticoat that I could wear underneath the dress. Otherwise, I did no chances for the skirt. I kept the length as it was and only made sure that the hem was even.
The final part of the dress was the cummerbund. After some consideration, I decided to make a contrasting white cummerbund. To make it pop I dug out some white silk scarves that I had bought very cheaply to do some silk painting. I cut the top fabric out of two layers of silk to add some weight to the sheer silk. For the support and backing, I used general white cotton lawn.
I was a bit disappointed when I was finished. Firstly I could not even fasten it properly since it was poking in an odd way. The curvature of the cummerbund was completely opposite to my body shape. So, the only way I could wear it was to turn it upside down. Even then I felt like it added too much bulk to my waist and made me look much thicker in the middle than what I was.
Finally, I realised that the cummerbund needed to be tight for it to work and that it looked much better if I folded under the curved part of the front of the cummerbund. At this point, the party was already drawing pretty close but well… what could I do? I chopped about 1 cm off from each end and re-sewed the hooks and eyes back. I also straightened the top (for my upside down cummerbund, the bottom) of the cummerbund. Finally, I finished the hooks and eyes in the morning of the same day that I needed the dress!
my overall take on the instructions
Despite my changes concerning the lining and the other things mentioned above, I still followed the instructions pretty carefully. I found them clear and easy to follow. I only found one mistake: When sewing the back portion of the cummerbund the instructions do not mention (or show) that you need to gather also the centre-back edges. This is written on the pattern but is left out of the instructions. However, you’ll notice this obvious mistake immediately when trying to construct the cummerbund.
the finished McCall’s M7748 dress
I think that the finished dress is just dreamy! The lightweight fabric almost floats and moves beautifully. I found this pretty vintage purse from Hoochie Mama Jane vintage shop in Helsinki to finish up the outfit. It’s just perfect to have my phone, powder and lipstick and some money. The white vintage gloves were something that I got some months ago at the local Recycling centre.
The wedding was in Turku that is the oldest city and the former capital of Finland. The couple was wed in the yard of an old villa just next to the Aura river and the historical city centre. The villa had an amazing rose garden with dozens of different varieties of roses and other flowers and I cannot imagine a much more perfect place for a wedding. The day and the evening were warm and sunny, so I was much cooler in my dress than the poor men in their suits.
All in all, this McCall’s M7748 dress pattern was something that I can recommend. However, take your time with the details! The dress requires some hand-sewing and basting and due to the number of pieces and details, it’s not a dress that you can sew up in a day. I had a busy week, so I could not dedicate all of my time to sewing, so it took me about five days to get it finished. I still miss the final hook and eye at the top of the zipper that I completely forgot to add!
The pattern recommends a bit more structured fabrics than what I used, such as cotton blends, taffeta or sateen. However, as I have demonstrated, the dress can be made out of lightweight fabrics. I think even chiffon would work as long as you do the lining like I did and choose a bit stiffer lining fabric to give a bit structure and lift to the bodice and the hem, respectively.
I hope you find this post interesting! Thanks for all the nice comments about my previous bra post! Happy sewing, everybody and see you soon!