McCalls 6503: 1950s style dress

Summer’s here guys! I made a new dress to celebrate. Here I am enjoying the sunshine on my balcony.

McCalls 6503 1950s dress

Oh alright. This is me pretending there isn’t a biblical downpour going on around me. The constant, miserable rain in London is really getting me down. Personally I blame Thames Water. As soon as they launched their huge media campaign telling us all to conserve water due to a massive drought in the South of England,  the weather gods decided to take the piss by ordering 40 days and nights of constant drizzle. It’s very ironic, or something.

McCalls 6503 back

The pattern is McCalls 6503. I went a bit mad when Jaycotts had a half-price pattern sale and bought loads. McCalls are the only one of the big 4 that I haven’t sewn from before, and I was really impressed with this pattern. The styling on all their envelopes is uniformly terrible though. Exhibit A below:

The garish fabric totally obscures the lines of the dress, not to mention the truly nasty 80s shoes and whatever’s going on with the hair styling. See how much better the midriff and bust gathers actually are in real life:

I think this dress has a very 1950s look, with the midriff band, the cross-over bodice, and the gathered skirt. It even closes up the side, so you could go really authentic and do a lapped zipper, although I couldn’t be bothered on this version.

The fabric I used is not vintage, but it’s along those lines. It’s from Fabrics Galore and I’ve hoarded it for about 3 years. The print is so crazy I needed to do it justice. Here’s a close-up:

Yes, it’s a black and white line-drawing of some scarily intense ballet dancers. My boyfriend described it as looking like ‘a scene from hell’, and there is a slight hint of Dante about it. These are not pink tulle wearing ballet dancers. They are ripped and will probably cut you if you get in the way of their jetés.

At first I wasn’t sure about this dress. I love the print on the fabric so much I should probably have made an everyday item with it,  not something so costume-y. .But after wearing this dress all day today, I’ve come to appreciate it more. It’s super comfortable, and looks okay with a cardigan and tights, which is no doubt how it will be worn for 51 weeks of the year.

I added lace trim to the collar, and black piping to the midriff seams (the piping was another score from the Brighton meet-up! Thanks Clare!). I also added some big old pockets which are always necessary.

The only fit changes I made were to lengthen the bodice an inch, the skirt two inches, and the sleeves one inch. I also took out a bit of the fullness in the bust gathers, as recommended here, but I think they could be left in if you’re working with a lighter fabric. I didn’t need to do a FBA on this as the style is very forgiving.

Prior warning: this dress needs a lot of hand-tacking to hold down the cross-over bodice, otherwise it will never sit right.

Now all I need is for it to stop raining…


29 thoughts on “McCalls 6503: 1950s style dress

  1. dana February 28, 2015 / 5:57 PM

    any left over fabric? i would love to purchase it! any usable amount, no matter how small — it’s such great fabric!

    • dana February 28, 2015 / 5:58 PM

      any left over fabric? i would love to purchase it! any usable amount, no matter how small — it’s such great fabric! p.s. the dress is a fantastic use of the fabric 🙂

  2. Janet March 13, 2014 / 6:14 AM

    Amazing! Looks like you stepped out of “Call the Midwife”!

  3. michelle July 18, 2012 / 8:53 PM

    Just ordered this pattern & was tooling around looking at finished projects. Love your choice of fabric– very wearable & also quirky/fun. 🙂

    • yesilikethat July 19, 2012 / 9:28 AM

      Thanks! Good luck with making it, it’s a nice pattern. It should be more popular.

  4. shivani May 8, 2012 / 4:21 PM

    I love how this turned out! I have this lined up in my queue (but I’m planning the blue version on the envelope, in a black shirting). Thanks for the details on where you added length – we’re about the same height, so I reckon I might have to add length in the same places too.

    • yesilikethat May 8, 2012 / 8:58 PM

      Yep, I always add at least an inch in the bodice as I’m very long-waisted (had no idea until I started sewing!). Really want to make the blue version too…

  5. D.G May 4, 2012 / 11:00 AM

    heheh…you make me laugh. thank you! 🙂 d x x x

  6. gingermakes April 30, 2012 / 7:24 PM

    Gorgeous! I love this! This looks like a dress you could live in! Hope the rain clears up soon so you guys can enjoy some sunshine for a change!

  7. Chuck April 30, 2012 / 11:06 AM

    Summer? Where?? Seriously, it is getting me down so much. This is lovely though! The shape is great and the angry ballerinas are AWESOME. x

  8. Leah April 30, 2012 / 9:08 AM

    Really lovely dress and great fabric, its very unusual. Hopefully this rain will stop at some stage and you will get to wear it without the tights and cardi!

  9. Molly April 29, 2012 / 11:43 PM

    Great dress! You’re totally right about the pattern cover, it’s horrible. But I love your fabric, you almost don’t notice at first that there are people on it because it’s black and white.

  10. 7cakes April 29, 2012 / 11:40 PM

    Gorgeous! I love 50’s dresses! I kind of did the same thing today =D

  11. Rehanon April 29, 2012 / 9:22 PM

    this is so lovely! I think it will actually bring out the sun. The collar is gorgeous. Here’s to sunnier days 🙂


  12. prttynpnk April 29, 2012 / 9:01 PM

    This is lovely- demure. Totally love your fabric choice- you definitely beat the envelope on this one.

  13. Jacq C April 29, 2012 / 8:09 PM

    I bought this pattern yesterday, one of several because they were reduced. Your version is beautiful, very reassuring as my daughter and I were trying to see past the styling on the packet repeating ‘focus on the line drawing’ as our mantra! I don’t have anything like your fabric, which is lovely, and works really well. I’ve yet to pluck up the courage for piping but it looks so effective on your dress I might need to face the fear!

    • yesilikethat April 29, 2012 / 8:51 PM

      Definitely give the piping a go, it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be when I first tried it. Good for patterns like this one.

  14. Jane April 29, 2012 / 6:21 PM

    It’s absolutely lovely and looks very 1950’s. Ahem, just ordered that pattern actually, I couldn’t resist! x

    • yesilikethat April 29, 2012 / 8:49 PM

      Hooray! My cunning viral marketing for McCalls has worked. I do think it’s a real gem unfairly hidden by the envelope styling. Can’t wait to see your version. Xx

  15. Didyoumakethat April 29, 2012 / 5:29 PM

    Very, very pretty. The tortured ballerinas make it. I particularly love the collar.

  16. beebeesvintagedress April 29, 2012 / 5:16 PM

    beautiful! I am also feeling down about the weather I’ve started looking at sheds so I can be in the garden and dry! Love the dress and the fabric is awesome. Gotta love fabrics galore! x

  17. Miriana April 29, 2012 / 4:38 PM

    I did a double take when I read the first three words of your post! Both my toddler daughter and I need it to cheer up so we can get out of the house pronto!

    • yesilikethat April 29, 2012 / 8:52 PM

      It seems to have dried off now here (fingers crossed). Nothing worse than being stuck indoors all day when you want to get out.

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