McCalls 4228: The Claire McCardell Day Dress

About six months ago, Tasia over at Sewaholic mentioned this pattern on her Facebook update…. or was it a blog post?  I cannot remember, but I do remember clicking on over to the Etsy shop that was selling this pattern and purchasing it on a whim.

It was the first ever vintage pattern that I have owned, and I was quite excited to open it up and have a look.  It was in perfect condition, although there was no pattern envelope.  It was housed in a paper bag with a magazine photo of the pattern taped to the front.  No information about yardage except for a handwritten notation “3 3/8 yards” on the back.  The dress is a size 16, which I thought could be tweaked to fit me, since that’s usually where I start with a pattern.  I loved the blue of the dress, and thought about making it in a deep teal jersey, but couldn’t bring myself to purchase the fabric since I’m really trying (really, I am) to whittle down my stash instead of adding to it.  And I had purchased the plum jersey, pictured, to make up the Donna Karan Vogue 1259 dress, but decided I’d use it for the McCardell dress.  But I cut it wrong.  Bad.  Very very bad.

And then I went to Fabricland.  Ugh!  I honestly only went to purchase fabric for DD3’s winter dress coat, but they had a 50% sale going for members, and the table of knits was BOGT and…  and…  and…  So much for shopping my stash.  But, in defence of economy and wise fabric purchases, this dress cost me all of $15 + HST, so it’s a steal compared to what I usually sometimes end up coming home with.McCardell 4

The fabric is a rayon lycra knit in a rich chocolate colour, but it’s got little olive green fuzzy polka dots all over it. They’re really a nice touch – a little like velvet spots – they catch the light and change from light to dark like velvet will.  And they shed, but that’s beside the point.  I really liked the green dots.  The interesting part of this dress is its construction.

If my memory serves me correctly, Claire McCardell was an American designer that revolutionized daily dressing, mostly through her use of knits and her swimwear.  I’m not a McCardell expert, so if any of you are, please correct me (or fill in the details) if I’m wrong.  I’m also pretty sure that jerseys or knits were a relatively new thing in terms of fashion fabrics, and the give in a jersey wasn’t something designers were making the most of, like today’s designers do.  So, this dress has reinforced seams.  I think the fluidity of a jersey appealed to McCardell , but she didn’t want the garment to stretch out of shape.  Here’s a shot of the interior of the bodice.interior of bodice

Every seam is reinforced with seam binding.  I used lace seam binding for the bodice.  The sleeves, CB seam and side seams are all stitched with the seam seam bindingside zipbinding to prevent the jersey from stretching out of shape.  The back pieces are cut on the bias, so that the “V” neckline edges are cut on the grain.  And every single facing is bound.  I could have omitted this step, but I wanted to do the dress as the instructions dictated for the vintage flair.  I used olive green china silk from my scrap stash for the pocket lining and the skirt CB and side seams.  I was running short of the lace binding, and wanted to use it for the skirt hem. There is a waist stay, which you can probably barely see in the picture above, and a side zipper inside the pocket opening.

I did not do any adjustments to this pattern because it’s made of jersey, and because there’s a lot of fabric in the crossover front (about 6 pleats, each 4 inches deep), and a lot of fabric gathered into the skirt.  I’m not so crazy about the pockets, but I left them in because of the zipper.  I didn’t want to mess around with the zipper placement. McCardell 1I did not make up the belt that came with the pattern for a couple of reasons, mostly because I just cannot find a two-pronged belt buckle that’s 3 or 4 inches wide.  I do have a date for the Fashion District next Wednesday, and it’s on my list, but until I get the right buckle, this purchased belt with have to do.  It’s the right width, but it’s very stiff and the bottom sits at my natural waist.  The belt pattern is only 2 inches wide, which I don’t think would be wide enough for this dress.  I much prefer the wider belt that the model is wearing, so if I ever do find the perfect buckle, I’ll be making this up as a wider belt.McCardell 5 And I have to wear it backwards, which is probably really stupid, but it works for now until I find that perfect belt buckle.  BTW, there’s nothing like a rearview shot to bring a hefty dose of reality to one’s view of oneself.  I had no idea I was so w-i-d-e across the back hips.  Brother.  The gathering of the skirt fabric does NOT help, either.backBut you can get a good idea of the bias cut of the back bodice from this picture, and the small “v” back neckline.  The sleeves are raglan, and a little shy of my wrists.  I don’t mind that length, as I prefer them pushed up a bit anyways. McCardell 2

This was a fun pattern to put together.  It’s a classic cut of dress, comfy because it’s knit, and the style suits me, I think.  I’m not sure if I’ll make up another one, but if I did, it would be in a dark teal blue, I’d shorten the waist by about 2 inches, and probably try a circle skirt to eliminate the dirndl look. But then I’d probably have totally different dress!  As it is, I’ll probably wear this dress a lot once I get the perfect belt!