McCalls 7948 Sundress

This dress was a departure from my usual style of sewing, in many ways. It features a bold, colourful print, gathered tiers, a cotton blend fabric and not even short sleeves with which to combat the office air conditioning. Let’s face it, “the office” (as opposed to my working from home setup) feels a million miles away at the moment.

Times are changing, and with them, I’m changing too. I’ve managed to sew four things this month, which has been lovely and far exceeds my usual output. Two of them were finished this week, which is half term week so I’ve had a little extra time without the same amount of daily home school lessons for my sons. I’ve noticed that most of my May makes are not particularly office-centric. Whether I’m working from home, playing teacher in our little home school, cooking in the kitchen or just enjoying some family time, I’m now far more motivated to sew comfortable and breathable summer garments. Three of my May makes were from linen and this one is a cotton/rayon lawn. Not a crepe or suiting in sight! I’ve enjoyed embracing new silhouettes,  fabrics and colours, and thinking a little more about the gaps in my out of office wardrobe.

One other thing I’ve changed in lockdown is my hair! You may notice that the bob has gone, and in its place are my cropped natural Afro-textured curls. I even tried dyeing my hair, by myself, for the first time. I’m not sold on this particular shade but over the coming weeks I will figure out what I want my teeny Afro to look like! It’s also nice to step away from chemically straightening my hair. But I digress. Onto the review…

The pattern

McCall 7948 features a dartless, boxy bodice (sleeveless or with short sleeves) with either a pleated skirt or a gathered, tiered skirt. The back bodice has a bound slit opening intended to be fastened with a small button. 

It’s labelled an ‘easy’ pattern and I would agree. The only difficult bit was sitting through all that gathering!

My rating?:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I knocked off one star because I would have preferred a separately drafted sleeveless bodice – the same bodice is used for the sleeved version of the dress, which means the sleeveless armscye still comes all the way out to the end of the shoulder. I would have liked to see a narrower, shaped armscye.

The fabric

The colours in this fabric are vibrant without being overwhelming and I love the leaf motifs against the aubergine purple backdrop. as you would expect from a lawn, it is light and breezy and feels lovely to wear in the sun.

Fabric details

  • 65% cotton
  • 35% rayon
  • Lightweight, lawn
  • £10/m
  • Source: Croft Mill, http://www.croftmill.co.uk. It appears to be sold out but if you search for ‘Essex’ there are other varieties of the same type of lawn.

Sizing and alterations

I sewed a straight size 10, the size recommended for my high bust. There’s so much room from the bust downwards that I didn’t need to grade up at the waist and hips. I should just highlight the fact that the waist is not at all fitted – you can see below that there is zero waist definition happening. My waist measurement is 1-2 pattern sizes above my bust/high bust and there’s still looooooads of room – as you might expect for the style of dress! I like it just fine like this.

I made one minor alteration to the bodice. I’m not a fan of bound openings at the back neck, because I have a combination of a round back and prominent shoulder blades that makes bound openings flare out strangely. They never sit right on my back. So I decided to slightly widen the bound opening at the top (by sewing a wider v-shape for the bound opening  than the pattern indicates, and to replace the button with ties. I made the ties from a 1” bias strip of fabric and caught them in the seam when stitching the bound opening.

I also reduced the width of each of the skirt pattern pieces slightly, mainly for fabric layout purposes, but also for fear of the dress being toooooo wide. I think this has worked out nicely but I’m undecided as to whether I would bother doing this again. In this fabric I think I’ve gotten away with it as the print is so busy that (I hope) you don’t really notice the gathers are not super full, but I’m not sure whether it would be too ‘poofy’ with the additional inches of gathered fabric. It will depend on the type of fabric I use next, I think.

Pretty insides

I serged the seams, bound the armscyes with bias binding made from the same fabric, and machine stitched a narrow turned up hem.

Time spent

I think I made this dress within a few hours, not including cutting time. The gathering actually took a while, mainly because I was trying to get them to be vaguely even, gathering and pinning in sections, and trying hard not to break or lose my gathering threads!

The verdict

I really love this sundress. Like any good smock dress, it’s super comfortable with room for all the inches that my waist expands by after a good meal.

The lawn fabric makes it weightless and really comfortable to wear around the house and garden on a hot summer’s day. I could see myself packing it on holiday too (whenever and where ever that may eventually be!).

I’m also looking forward to making more versions of this in due course. I have in mind a black version with sleeves and possibly a contrast ribbon trim (so, view D) for winter, and I think the bodice makes a great starting point for various pattern hacks.

Until next time…!

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