Shirtwaist Dress: Review of McCall’s M6503 & Simplicity 1880

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January 2, 2014 by magpiemenina

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall's M6503 (skirt) with modifications.

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall’s M6503 (skirt) with modifications.

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to 2014, and good riddance to bad rubbish to 2013!

My New Year’s resolution (one of three, including, yes, exercising regularly) is to blog weekly. That was what I set out to do when I started and, oh my, how I have fallen off track!  Here’s to a fresh start!

For my first post of 2014, I’d like to share a dress I made recently, as well as a review of the patterns I used to make it.

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall's M6503 (skirt) with modifications.

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall’s M6503 (skirt) with modifications. 

Are selfies admissible on blogs? I took some pictures and had my mum take some. The one above shows the dress in a different way than the first picture.

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall's M6503 (skirt) with modifications.

Simplicity 1880 (bodice) and McCall’s M6503 (skirt) with modifications.

I really like 1930s – 1950s-style clothes, especially dresses. I decided to make myself a nice shirtwaist dress. At first I thought that I’d make the pattern (I do very well when I undertake pattern-making), so I sketched out what I was imagining. I looked through my patterns, though, and decided that I had all the necessary components to make a shirtwaist. Those parts belonged to two separate patterns.

I encountered some problems making this dress. Let me be clear: at no point did that problem arise from pattern splicing.

I used the bottom and waistband pieces from McCall’s M6503 pattern, version B/D (pleated). I’ve made that entire pattern before (you can see the finished project here). Lapels and buttons were in order for this dress, though, so I used Simplicity 1880 pattern for the bodice, version A (buttons) with short (not cap) sleeves.

Planned modifications: I wanted the lapels to be a different color, so I cut out the bodice/lapel piece (1) in white cotton (the print is cotton, too), roughly halving the pattern piece, excluding the armhole. I also wanted contrasting cuffs on the sleeves, so I eyed up  two pieces of white fabric that could be folded in half, then half again into the fold, leaving about an inch to an inch and a half. I also halved the waistband piece, because it did not need to be so thick for this project.

Unplanned modifications: I really like the skirt and waistband of M6503, or I would not have used them again. Unfortunately, the Simplicity pattern has some problems. I’ve sewed quite a bit and, granted, I wing some of it. (I cannot follow a pattern exactly any more than I can follow a recipe exactly. I love to improvise!) Perhaps that is why I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to attach the Simplicity 1880 collar. The back part of the collar was far too thick to lay flat, and the manner in which the front wings were to be attached seemed an exercise in theoretical rather than practical pattern making. I had to…well, quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you what I did to make it work. I know I shaved off a lot of the back part of the collar so it would lay flat, and I cut off a chunk of the front wing on either side, but beyond that it was a haze of pinning and repinning and probably swearing. Eventually I got it to sit as I desired, but it was no thanks to the pattern designer! (To be fair, Simplicity states on the pattern that the bemused seamstress or tailor can call for help. I’d rather not, so I did not.) By the time I was done, I decided I should have just made the darned bodice pattern myself. The collar ended up being almost equal in width with the lapels, making the neckline lower, which was perfectly all right with me.

Further unplanned modifications: I had to adjust the armholes a bit (with scissors) so I could move my arms. If using Simplicity 1880, I suggest you leave some extra fabric on the sides of the yoke, just in case your back is broader than the pattern. It worked out all right for me, but I can see how it might be an issue.

On the bright side, I loved the short-sleeve pattern pieces from Simplicity 1880 and plan to cobble them together with a bodice pattern of my own design in the future. The buttonhole marker was nice, too.

My dress is more bloused than Simplicity 1880 because I made the waist higher.

In conclusion, I remain pleased with McCall’s M6503, particularly the skirt. I give the pattern generally a B, and the skirt/waist an A. I was pretty disappointed with Simplicity 1880 bodice A. I give it a D for the collar. The sleeves, yoke, and buttonhole marker save it from an F. I did not use the skirt part because the seam runs down the front, which is contrary to my personal preferences.

2 thoughts on “Shirtwaist Dress: Review of McCall’s M6503 & Simplicity 1880

  1. gildedcrow says:

    Nice dress, thank you for the pattern review.

  2. you are adorable!!! and so talented!

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