Sewing a Vintage Inspired Dress Pattern - McCalls 7381

Sewing a Vintage Inspired Dress Pattern

As soon as this delicious mustard (ok saffron, but I keep calling it mustard) John Kaldor peaseblossom fabric landed at Sew Essential HQ I knew I had to make something with it.

There is just something about mustard in the Autumn that I find comforting. Weird? Probably. In fact I never really wear yellow at any other time of year, but in the Autumn I'm all about my mustard jumper or my mustard striped T, both of which were worn whilst sewing the mustard coloured dress.

Besides the glorious colour I knew the quality of this lightweight crepe would be second to none. I mean you just can't go wrong with John Kaldor.

Pattern and Fabric


I initially planned to make a Sew Over It vintage shirt dress. I love Sew Over It patterns, but unfortunately the drafting of the back bodice, particularly the armhole, on their dresses really doesn't seem to fit me. I made three toiles and was getting there, but then I spotted McCalls 7381 and like a fickle child my head was immediately turned by something new and shiny.

I loved the gathered sleeves, V Neck and although it was a vintage inspired design I thought it could actually look quite bohemian. Wavy hair, ankle boots and a leather jacket should bring it bang up to date.

Front view

Adjustments and Sizing

I decided to make a toile and I'm glad I did. I made a medium based on my bust measurement and it was massive. I cut a small and the fit was much better, but there were still a few adjustments to make. These are adjustments I have to make to every pattern so it isn't a reflection of the drafting, but my oddities!


The neckline is supposed to be low at the back on this dress as indicated on the pattern, however, it was falling lower still. I decided to make a high round back adjustment. This would also help to bring the shoulder seams forward, which were way back as usual.

Forward Shoulder

Next I made a forward shoulder adjustment, which I did after sewing the pleats on the front bodice. It would have been difficult to alter the pattern piece pre-pleating and if you're bringing the shoulder forward you are taking off the front piece anyway (rather than adding on) so I knew I could work from the original pattern piece.

Pleated Shoulders on McCalls 7381

I followed the Palmer and Pletsch guidance of not moving the dot at the shoulder seam forward on the sleeve to match the new position of the shoulder seam on the bodice.

Instead I matched the original dot on the sleeve shoulder seam with the new, more forward shoulder seam on the bodice. This meant there was more fullness in the front of the shoulder and less at the back, which is perfect for forward shoulders! They also suggest adding on at the back under arm sleeve seam and taking off at the front under arm sleeve seam if you want it to match the side seam.

I think the sleeves also fall better at the back thanks to this adjustment. In the past I've noticed creases down the back of the sleeve whereas these have now been removed.

Back view


Before adding the sleeve I noticed the armhole was gaping at the back. I've noticed this on other garments recently and think it is possibly due to protruding shoulder blades. I slashed the pattern piece in two places and overlapped it then taped it in place to reduce the fullness here then slashed the sleeve piece from the shoulder towards the cuff and overlapped it to match it.

The fit was much better now and I'm really pleased with how the bodice and armhole fits my body at the front and back. However, I think I may have taken a little too much out of the back bodice where the armholes were gaping because it is difficult to take the dress off! I can live with this seeing as it looks good, but it is a learning point for next time not to go too snug here.

Now I was ready to crack on with the real deal, which I knew would be easy when all I had to think about was sewing.

Side view


The construction of this pattern is so, so easy! I did make a couple of changes, but that was just down to personal preference.

Instead of lining the bodice as suggested in the pattern I added a self drafted 1/4" visible binding in the same fabric to finish the neckline. You can see a tutorial on how I did it here.

I hand stitched down the side of the binding to secure the dress where it overlapped. However, once I put it on I realised it was pulling a little on the stitches so Angela suggested I stitch in the ditch down the binding to secure it. What a brilliant idea, I will be doing this ASAP!

I also decided to overlock the hem and hand stitch it in place rather than machine stitch it. This is purely down to personal preference and enjoying a bit of slow sewing in front of the TV!

I did take 1 and 3/4" off the hem to make it shorter too. I knew I would want to wear it with thick black tights and wanted to make sure it looked modern.

Another tip from Angela was to run a little row of stitches inside the pleats to help them stay crisp before pressing.

Pleated Waist Seam on McCalls 7381

Final Thoughts

This dress is definitely going to be a firm favourite in my Autumn Winter wardrobe for many reasons:

  • I love injecting a bit of colour into my winter wardrobe.
  • The pleats at the waist and curved waist seam are very flattering. They really seem to draw your eye to the waist and emphasise it in a good way, although I'm not sure the camera angle shows this off too well.
  • The bell sleeves are right up my street and coupled with the pleats on the shoulders give just enough interesting details to make this otherwise simple dress a little bit special.
  • It is just perfect for days and evenings out. Dressy enough to feel smart and put together, but not so dressy I would feel uncomfortable or over dressed.
Finished dress

Shopping List

Have fun sewing!


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