Wednesday, June 12, 2013

McCall's 6503: A Sweet Summer Dress

McCall's 6503 eluded me for many months--possibly years--as I searched faithfully for it in the pattern cabinets of Hancock's and JoAnn Fabrics during every pattern sale. I would spy the cover art and think, "Finally, you will be mine!" to discover that the only copies were the wrong size. It's a sign of how much I wanted the pattern that I finally broke down and ordered it for the princely sum of $7 from an eBay seller.

For my first try, I chose a drapey Maggy London rayon challis, purchased on sale from FabricMart. One of the many, many lovely versions of McCall's 6503 online is Gertie's, also in a Hawaiian-ish print.

Without Gertie's example, I'm sure I would have skipped the ruffled trim around the turnback lapels. Luckily, she made me see that the extra texture is an unexpected and happy addition to a busy print.

Another blogger (and I'm sorry I can't recall who) mentioned that she was able to omit the side zipper and pull the dress over her head. I wanted some of that action! Fitting the dress loosely through the waist is necessary for this to work. I used the size 6 at the upper chest and shoulders--thank you, thank you, McCall's, for going down to a 6 in this style--and then graded up to a 12 by mid-waist. The other alteration was shortening the bodice by 1 1/4" at the petite adjustment line printed on the pattern. Putting the dress on is pretty easy, even without the zipper. Taking it off requires a bit more wriggling, but it's very doable. 

Even without a center back seam or a rounded back alteration, the back of the bodice seems to fit very nicely, with no gaping at the back neck or at the armhole. Too bad the hem isn't really level at center back, but I'm letting that go. I tried to level the hem by marking it with the dress hung over a lampshade (after hanging it for 24 hours to stretch out the bias bits), but the lampshade doesn't necessarily have a booty like I do.

My slightly obsessive desire to not waste fabric has taken on a new twist lately: now I want to use it all up on the garment at hand. This determination has grown out of an awareness that oddly-shaped scraps of brown print rayon will not be of great utility either now or at some point in the future. I had three yards of 54" wide fabric, and the dress only required about two yards as designed. I gave myself permission to be lavish with the skirt, substituting a 3/4 circle for the gathered and pleated options provided with the pattern. 

With the final half yard of fabric, I made ruffled trim for the whole 150" hem! That required nearly 10 yards of unruffled strips (cut on the straight grain, 2 1/2" wide), folded in half and run through the ruffler attachment. The added weight of the ruffles gives the already swingy skirt an almost frightening amount of bouncy momentum.

Don't worry, there are some bloomers under there. Even though a circle skirt is not period-correct for the heyday of Lindy Hop (which would have been more in the 1930s and 1940s), it surely does make for good fun while dancing. Wouldn't a lime green crinoline be cute underneath the skirt? I also want to find a nice chartreuse orchid or hibiscus to wear in my hair with this dress. But last night I stuck with a fifties-era multi-strand bronze "pearl" necklace as an accessory. I was so comfortable and happy in my new dress!


  1. oh! It is absolutely lovely :-)

  2. So chilly here in Sydney and your dress just sings summer. I'd like a similar dress come November and I'll tease you with it as the cold wind blows!

  3. I think I gave away this pattern because I didn't bother to look at any makes and decided it looked dowdy in the envelope illustration. Curses!!! This is so cute. The colors are great on you and I love how twirly it is.

  4. And so, while so many blog posts and articles have been talking about how we have become too casual, how women don't know how to dress up anymore, I have to disagree. stoned emoji

  5. She just made me come all over myself