Tuesday, January 15, 2013

McCall 3638: The Tea Dance Dress

Project Details

The Fabric:  Mystery fabric!  I got this dark grey fabric at a charity shop and I would say it's some sort of viscose.  It is very drapey but does not have the qualities of a knit fabric.  Though you would normally think of grey as a boring colour, it is an excellent wardrobe staple.  It goes perfectly with my Ness jacket, handmade belt and shoes!  So, yay for grey!

This was a very tricky pattern to sew up with the fabric I chose.  The yoke is attached by lapped seam from the shoulder edge, gathered and then sewn around the yoke circle to the other side.  It can be quite tricky to capture the gathers while topstitching a lapped seam.  I did make up a toile for the bodice in a similar drapey fabric just to see if it would be possible.  It was possible, but not easy.  Sewing a lapped seam on a drapey fabric that doesn't hold a fold very well is quite frustrating.  Overall, I'm quite pleased with how the yoke came out given the type of fabric I used.

Let's talk about the buttons.  I think my buttons may be a bit too large for the yoke.  Putting so many buttons in such a small space was very tricky as well.

As with most of the 1940 McCall patterns I have, the waist seam is also a lapped seam.  This is really difficult because it can be a bit of a blind stitch.  It's very hard to see if you've got the seam straight.  What I did was try the dress on again and again while it was pinned and when I thought it was good, then I just went for it!  I have one small place right on the front of the dress where the bodice front is slightly twisted when attached to the skirt.  You can see in the pictures that the it forms a bit of a fold across the waist area.  I'm not too bothered about this as there is no way I could unpick this fabric to redo it without destroying the fabric and making a big mess.  Anyways, it just looks like I've been dancing a lot and got my dress a little twisted...lol.

My favourite part of this dress?  The way the shoulders fit and the sleeves.  I was quite happy because I made the included shoulder pads and fit them into the dress as I sewed it up.  I am also very happy with my sleeve placket and the attachment of the sleeve to the cuff.  There's something about long-sleeves that is very elegant and very wearable (especially in Scotland!)

I hand sewed the hem and unfortunately the "invisible" stitches show through a bit, but I don't think it's too noticeable in person.

Overall, I would rate this pattern at an intermediate level.  It took about 10 hours to sew up.

Here's a beautiful illustration from the Summer 1940 McCall Fashion Book (um, I really want a hat like that...in fact, I love the whole look of the light yellow dress with the brown and white accessories!):

Here's another description of the pattern, this time from the April 1940 McCall Advance Paris Styles Book:
Most of our shirtfrocks have long sleeves in one version, for long sleeves and three-quarter length sleeves are high style.  But short sleeves are comfortable, cooler, quicker to make. The mass of spring dresses have them, so we include short sleeves too. This particular shirtfrock has softly tailored lines.  Its shoulder yokes and bosom fronts are cut in one.
If I was to sew this up again, I would...
  • Choose a more stable, yet still drapey fabric like a synthetic linen, batiste, pique, etc., primarily because of the yoke gathers.
  • Choose smaller buttons and would interline the button placket.
  • Make the short-sleeved, peter-pan collar version!  Wouldn't that version look great under a collarless jacket where the peter-pan collar peeked out above the jacket?
Here's an illustration from the April 1940 McCall Advance Paris Styles Booklet which is the same as the pattern cover illustration:

The 1940 McCall Project Rating:
I give this make 3.5 stars out of 4 for 1940 fabulousness.  If I didn't have so many other fabulous dresses in my sewing queue, I could see making this one up multiple times! 

David and I doing the fox-trot

I sense this dress will be a 1940 wardrobe staple for me! YAY!


  1. i love this pattern. Its so beautiful. I am currently planning my winter sewing and this style is a must i think!

    thanks for the inspiration
    love jaimee

  2. thisblogisnotforyou.comJanuary 15, 2013 11:18 AM

    Wow, what a great pattern and dress! It looks really good on you, I really like your style. I have to start buying vintage patterns, I somehow always stick to my Burda patterns...

  3. I love it!!!


  4. This is definitely one of my favorite dresses you've made!  I think the fit is spot on, and I love the sleeves and shoulders :)

  5. This is definitely one of my favourite outfits, and one of the more versatile pieces you've made.   I love the grey on you, especially when you pair it with a Ness jacket and accessories.   

    The buttons are a great pearlescent colour, and although you say that they're too large, they are a nice detail.   

    The photo shoots were memorable as well - I especially enjoyed the one on Lomond Hill, where you changed out of your wellies for the shot, and at day the Dean Gallery with your faux-fur jacket.   Of course, the Tea Dance was the best, when we (and hundreds of others) danced our way into the Guinness Book of World Records with that great band and dance instructors.I'd love to see you make it up again, maybe in the spring with one of the fabrics you've mentioned, and with smaller buttons.It's great that you're revisiting your earlier projects.  I think it shows how much you've learned and how your skills have developed, both through sewing and through the help you've received on these pages from more advanced sewists.You've come a long way, baby.

    Tea Dance Video:

  6. Love this on you!  And especially love your last picture - you guys are a cute couple!

  7. Wow, you look like you just stepped our of a magazine! A great look and I certainly applaud all the work this project will require. The construction techniques are different and sometimes cumbersome. I would have cheated and done it my way! 

  8. Adorable little dress, the sleeves are perfection and you look lovely in it

  9. Oh, I love this dress and remember when it first made its debut!  Was this the first time you sewed with jersey/knit?  I am so enjoying you 1940 Project!

  10. I was reading Peter's blog today where he talked about your 1940's sewing project.  I think it sounds like a cool project but a huge undertaking.  I wish you luck.  I have a couple questions for you: (1) do you have a master list of all the patterns McCalls put out in 1940?  Seems like you could miss patterns if you didnn't have some kind of list, and (2) where are you going to put all these clothes?  I hope you have a gigantic closet!  I've added your blog to my favorite's list so I can check in on all the great outfits you'll be sewing!

  11. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:45 PM

    I do have most of the source material which covers which patterns were put out in 1940..but basically I am following the pattern numbers...luckily all the 1940 McCall patterns have the copyright date printed on the pattern envelope!  And I haven't yet figured out where I will put everything but I'm hoping that I will phase out all my non me-made clothes so that I'm only wearing 1940 McCall :)  Thanks for adding me to your favourite's list :)

  12. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:45 PM

    I think this was the first time I sewed with jersey/knit.  I'm still not a huge fan...I do like my wovens...especially wool :)

  13. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:46 PM

    I have a feeling that half-way through the project that I'll get a bit fed up with lapped seams...lol... :)

  14. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:46 PM

    Fantastic you found a video from the day! Thanks sweetie!

  15. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:47 PM

    Thanks Meg! This is one of my favourite dresses too!  I wear it all the time!

  16. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:47 PM

    Thanks Luz!

  17. Debi_myhappysewingplaceJanuary 17, 2013 9:47 PM

    You should definitely try vintage patterns! They are fantastic!!!


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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