Sewing Projects

A MCCALLS M6696 SHIRTDRESS TO CALL MY OWN (IN AFRICAN WAX PRINT)

It’s so funny how we as a community can collectively get obsessed with a pattern. It’s basically how a virus spreads; one person catches it, sneezes on a few people, and before you know it we’re all feverish and shaking,  wearing Inari Dresses, Linden sweatshirts, or the blockbuster Big 4 hit of the last few years, McCalls 6696.

I caught the virus. Technically  I caught it last year, and in a fit of shirtdress fever actually bought the digital download since I was too impatient for it to arrive by post. This was a mistake. While I’ve personally never worried too much about pattern piracy (both because it’s completely out of my control and because I think most sewists are respectful of all the blood, sweat and tears I put into my patterns), the Big 4 clearly are, and as a result their digital download system is a little byzantine (if not downright annoying). You need to download a special program to print and view your pattern, and from what I can remember, there is no way to figure out what pages you need to print, which means that with a huge beast like this shirt dress with multiple cup sizes and options, you’re printing well over a hundred pages. Thankfully Deepika being the kind soul that she is brought me a paper copy when she visited Montreal last summer, saving me from the ultimate PDF assembly purgatory.

McCalls M6696 in African wax print-5McCalls M6696 in African wax print McCalls M6696 in African wax print-3McCalls M6696 in African wax print-9

For my first version (a wearable muslin), I decide to use up some of the psychedelic Vlisco African wax print cotton I had bought in a madness last spring. Why I thought I needed 4 yards of a bright orange Escher-esque 3D print is a mystery to me; I got the same print in 2 other colourways as well, but its so bold that I’ve mostly been using it as pocket linings in jeans these days (if you love wax prints, under no circumstance visit the Vlisco site. You’ll basically lose your mind and sell your eggs for every single thing they make). Boldness aside, it’s the perfect weight for a structured pattern like this; cotton loves waist pleats, trust me.

I had traced out the pattern last year but only got around to making it this spring, and you’ll have to forgive me for totally forgetting what size I made. I think I did the C-up bodice grading from a size 12 at the bust to a 14 at the waist, but I ended up doing some additional side seam tomfoolery to get her to fit. Like many, I removed all the gathering from the back piece, basically by folding it out and redrafting the seams so they ended cleanly in the yoke and waistband. If you’d like to skip that pattern adjustment, you could probably try M7351 , which looks like the same block minus all that back fullness.

McCalls M6696 in African wax print-6 McCalls M6696 in African wax print-10McCalls M6696 in African wax print-12

It fits beautifully through the front, but I am getting some pooling at the small of my back so I’ll be making a slight sway back adjustment for my next version. Of course, there will be a next version… this is a lovely pattern with perfect proportions and I am very excited to make a sleeveless version using a breathtaking hand dyed rayon sent to me by my pen pal Nicole.

McCalls M6696 in African wax print-17McCalls M6696 in African wax print-15  McCalls M6696 in African wax print_1

Even though it is loud as hell (not quite in line with the more monochromatic palette I’ve been fond of lately) it turns out it’s the perfect dress for picnicking and bike rides.  And it helps that if I got lost in the forest, they would be able to see me from space.

Have you made M6696? What’s your favourite shirt dress pattern?

  • I love it. I stick to a lot of neutrals but in dresses give me all the color. Yaassss!

  • Faaaaaabulous!! I love the pic on the quilt with your sweet pup. I’m working on this pattern right now and my print is also quite loud… not sure what I was thinking when I bought it. I’m making the sleeveless version with the full skirt.

    • It’s a summer dress so I think it’s okay to have a dress that screams form the rooftops! I felt very good riding around town in this thing on my bike,a big orange blur.

  • ErinAlter

    i keep circling back to the vlisco site, considering and then deciding against it. wax cotton is so expensive and you have to buy so much of it! but i could do that, if, if, if i had any idea what the consistency was like. my hope is that it is fairly drapey with body. how would you describe it?

    • It’s basically quilting cotton. I bought a voile that was a little lighter weight… I don’t actually find it TAHT expensive, but when you factor in shipping, currency conversion and teh minimum orders it can get a little spendy. I would say definitely go for it if you find a print you can’t live without though!

      • ErinAlter

        very helpful! Thanks!

  • Love this! I love that print. Great job!

  • Such a stunning dress!

    • Thank you Tanya! I quite look it too 😉

  • Gorgeous dress.

  • kristin

    I have this shirt-dress pattern and probably a thousand others that I’ve been collecting since I started sewing at age 12
    . I haven’t made this one yet but it’s next. I love yours! It looks excellent, that collar is fantastic. Awesome job.

    • Totally get to it Kristin! It’s a wardrobe staple.

  • UsefulBox – Caroline Adams

    I have made two of these dresses Heather! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this pattern. In the second dress, I removed some of the gathering at the back and added a little tiny bit to the waist. I love sewing it, it has lots of my favourite techniques in it – like what I like to call the Burrito roll with the back yoke! xx Here is my version: http://www.usefulbox.com.au/2016/03/maai-design-blog-tour.html

    • Oh, I like that pencil skirt version on you very much! I also used the burrito roll!

  • Lisa Poblenz

    I have not made it, but I’ve certainly been tempted! I love your version and I agree 100% about the Vlisco website. Hopefully I’ll have a shirt dress in my future. I’m going to go look at the similar pattern you mentioned. Thanks for sharing this awesome make. It looks great on you!

    • Thanks Lisa! This is a great pattern, one of those ones I wish I designed 😉 Definitely worth a try!

  • Leah Franqui

    I’ve made this dress three times now, and I’m just about to finish a fourth version. it’s just so baller, I love it, I love the darts, the shaping, the waist band, it’s awesome and leads to so many variations and options. I’ve made the gather a pleat in most of my versions.

    • Something to consider! I am found of the pleats though. A Little more slimming around teh waist.

  • Hélène

    This dress really parts from your regular style, but it looks great – à la Dolly Clackett. Love your analogy about the *virality* of certain patterns in the sewing community. The good thing is that when a pattern becomes feverishly popular, it’s usually because it is exceptionally well drafted and everyone gets happily infected.

    • This is very true! I certainly liked teh Ginger virus taht went around last year, haha. I was definitely channeling Roisin with this make…. she makes crazy prints look so natural.

  • Beautiful dress! I adore that print! <3

    • Thank you Andie! I’ve worn it a few times now and it’s definitely growing on me 😉

  • Samantha Lindgren

    I missed this pattern when it first surfaced, but now having seen yours, and Sallie’s, I need to go pick up a copy. l love me a good shirtdress… I agree that you can absolutely go overboard with a crazy print in a dress, in a way that doesn’t work well in a separate. This orange is dreamy on you….

    • Shirt dresses really do take to prints, don’t they????

  • Folkwear has a forties style shirt dress that is a dead ringer for this (the banded waist, the slight puff at the sleeve head) that has been a maintstay in the wardrobe (in rayon, natch’) for years. I recently bought copy 2.
    Yours is one of the smaller wax prints I’ve seen, certainly one of the quieter ones. Lookin’ sharp!

    • Double pattern purchase! You must really love that pattern….

  • Miranda Jey

    Ooooh! I love seeing everyone’s shirtdresses. I’ve been too chicken to work on one for myself just yet. That and I have a backlog of projects I need to get through first.

    The fabric is great, and doesn’t seem all that loud or bright to me. It’s very much like something you’d see on some of the contemporary clothing sites.

    • Chicken why? Shirts aint that hard, promise. Just get over having perfect topstitching the first time around!

  • sallieforrer

    I’ve been waiting to see this in it’s full glory ever since you let a sneak peek fly on in the ‘gram awhile back – and it DOES NOT disappoint! This dress definitely made me pull out my own copy of M6696 that I’ve been sitting on for who knows how long and make the kitty cat print version. I absolutely adore this in the loud vlisco print! Even the most monochromatic, chic and understated of wardrobes needs a crazy orange print dress to keep things kooky!!

  • I love love love this in the bold wax print! This pattern is totally the best ever! I have two versions so far, but now I think I need a sleeve version after seeing yours.

  • This dress looks beautiful on you!

  • This is gorgeous and such a fun colour. I’m keen to make this too, in the straight skirt version next summer.

    • I am intrigued by that straight option as well….

  • I love the shirt-dress but worry they may look dowdy on a 58 year old. you’ve given me two style ideas here – vibrant fabric and a waisted design. Thanks for that

    • No way would it look dowdy!!! Its such a flattering silhouette on everybody!

  • Margo Bergman

    Great dress! I have made this one and I think that next time I will also remove the back fullness.

    • Yeah, I think it looks much sleeker without it…

  • GAH I love it so much!! I also have this pattern in my queue, but it will likely wait until fall at this point. A delicious Robert Kaufman dotted chambray, mashing the Bruyere bodice with the M6696 pleated skirt. Freaking. Love. WITH YELLOW WOODEN BUTTONS. It’s going to be epic.

  • missceliespants

    I know I said so on IG. But, I wanted to say again how INCREDIBLE this dress is. It’s like everything I want and need in a dress. Also, thank you for blogging it. I love reading the details that you can’t get on other mediums.

    • Aww thanks Renee! And I love blogging about my stuff. Its most of the reason I still make time to sew for myself, haha

  • I ahve this pattern stashed and the only thing putting me off was the back yoke gathering. If you can get rid and it still works – perfect! It seems quite labour intensive but I’d like to give it a go. It’s crept up to the top of the ‘to do’ list! Loving your version and the fabric – I have duck print in mind for mine (classy). 😉

  • This is gorgeous!

    • If you ever wanted to come up for a sewing retreat weekend we could totes make you one at my place. JUST SAYING.

      • JAW DROPS. Once I get my skills to a level worthy of a sewing retreat with you, YES!

  • Love love love love love this! Killer print, great fit… altogether super awesome!

  • You’re looking great, that fabric is fabulous!