Rompers, Dresses and Shorts – Oh My! With McCalls 7626

Hello friends. Since I took a big sewing break some months back, it occurred to me that I was happier whenever I got quite thorough use out of each pattern rather than making a single item and moving on. Part of that constant desire to move on was that I would get bored, doing the same thing repeatedly, but it was also certainly driven by a desire to consume the same way I saw others doing, churning out garments like there was no tomorrow. So as a result, I have put into practice a new method for securing second-hand patterns, where I don’t make a purchase unless that particular pattern haunts me and won’t leave my thoughts. I’d also like to use patterns that have different options on how I can construct them, and what I can do with them. This pattern for McCalls 7626 was the first to tick all those boxes, and although it was a little outside what I’m comfortable paying for a pattern cost-wise, I did end up getting quite a lot of value out of it.

What I love about this pattern is the fact that it has quite a lot of options about what you can actually make with it. There are several views, two of dresses of different lengths and with different options for securing the straps, a romper, and a jumpsuit. Of course, anyone who knows me will know that I have a definite weakness for rompers and jumpsuits, even if they are a nightmare to fit. However, in this case it was more the dress design that swayed me. I simply adore the pinafore dresses of the 1950’s and have never been able to secure a pattern from that era in my size. So, I took one look at the line-art for the dress and realised that I could transform it into the pinafore I dreamed of simply by turning the skirt from a rough quarter circle to a full one, or at least as close as I could get with the fabric I had on hand. However, it is worth noting that the pattern doesn’t go above size 20, and so is not at all size inclusive. This is something I believe McCalls needs to address for future prints.

But being the glutton for punishment that I am, once the pattern arrived, I started muslins for the romper first. I was dismayed to discover how much grading I would need to do between sizes in order for this pattern to fit me in the hips. For reference I have hips around 49” wide, and a waist around 29” wide. Usually, I can squeeze more easily into wide-leg pants designs, but this was not the case with this pattern. I ended up needing to grade from about a size 12 in the waist, to a size 18 in the hips, redrafting the pockets in the process. This did result in a somewhat bubble shape along the side of the leg, but there wasn’t another option in making it fit. The bodice was also a bit of an interesting experience, as it was connected to the shorts via a waistband, which I had to cut on a bit of an angle to account for grading from slightly above a size 12 waist, to exactly a size 12 in the bodice. I also shortened the straps by about 1.5” after multiple attempts at positioning them revealed I couldn’t keep them on my shoulders. However, much to my dismay this did leave me with something of a wedgie situation when I sat down, even after lowering the crotch by a full ½”. I suspected that the fit of the shorts would be much better without a bodice section pulling them up, and since the bodice was the perfect length on me I was also loathe to lengthen it to add more room that way. Also was the zip difficult to insert? Oh yes it was.

Next, I decided to move onto the dress, vowing to have a break from crotch curves until my stamina had come back and I could try making shorts as a standalone item. I knew at once that I wanted to keep the straps simple, forgoing the buckle as I had in the romper. I also knew that I wanted to test grading from a size 12 bust to a 14 waist, as I found the waistband a little tight in the romper when I bent over. I had already determined that there were gaping issues in the bodice, which I had roughly fixed in the romper. I retraced the bodice again, using my slash and fold method as per my video below, to remove 3/8” from both the front and back bodice to keep it much snugger. I then attacked the skirt, first using a slash and spread method to add an additional 3” to the width of each piece yet leaving the waist the same. I then added an additional 1” of length, as I prefer dresses to hit mid-calf, and I divided the front and back pieces into 2, adding seam allowances for joining them together as otherwise I couldn’t fit them on the fabric I had on hand. A friend was also extremely helpful in helping me to figure out the layout so the print would be mostly directional. As I had used a sturdier zipper in the romper which wasn’t quite so hard to do up, I mistakenly thought putting an invisible zipper in the back would be fine. It’s actually quite difficult to reach the zip where it is, so next time I would change the zipper to be in the side seam instead. The result was a dress that was pretty much exactly what I had in mind.

However, I would have to say that the single most successful item of the bunch is in fact the shorts. I had it in my mind that if I could somehow fix the crotch curve, the fit of the shorts would be precisely what I was after. I stole the crotch curve from Simplicity 8447, size 14, and retraced that whole section of the shorts. I didn’t realise until I was constructing it, I still needed to lower the front crotch somewhat, but I managed to finagle it to fit the front and back crotches together. As the waistband comes in two pieces, I knew I would have to double the height of the waistband and remove seam allowances to make it one single piece that I could fold over. In the end I still found this too tall, so what I did was to remove about 1 ¼” of height from the waistband after doubling it. I also cut a straight size 14 waistband, and simply removed some of the excess when it was attached to the shorts. Next time, what I would do apart from lowering that front crotch a smidge more is to add about an 1-1.5” to the length of the shorts. As I found them the tiniest bit too short for comfort. However, having sat about in them a bit as a thorough test I am quite pleased to say they are extremely comfortable. Having only recently replaced a broken invisible zipper in a pair of me-made trousers, I also went with a sturdier zipper for this pair and took it right to the top of the waistband.

All three of these projects ended up using a substantial amount of fabric from my stash. For the romper, I went with some black second-hand corduroy that I had been saving for a little while, as earlier attempts with leftover denim scraps had been somewhat disastrous. I had a little under 2m of the corduroy, and so had to be quite economical. Where possible I also cut the linings, pocket facing and inner waistband out of extremely thin cotton lawn – also procured second-hand, as this reduced overall bulk. For the dress, I went with about 5.5m of cotton drill, with a cactus print I’ve used before except with a white background, which I found in the discount section of Spotlight. The dress barely fit on the fabric width, and in some cases was missing tiny corners of the skirt panels due to going right over the edge! The remainder of the fabric I turned into a big ole tote bag for a friend’s birthday a little later. For the lining I used a printed cotton I found at the op-shop, as it was also a black base. For the shorts, I was fortunate enough to have found this stunning cotton-linen at the op-shop, and while there was very little of it, the fact that I was only doing the shorts meant I was able to squeeze it all out and still have a little square leftover for something else.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic pattern for intermediate sewists who want some garments in their wardrobe with a fun vintage twist. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, if only because of the serious fit issues that could crop up and how much work is needed to address them. However, if you do find you tend to be a straight size in McCalls patterns that might make this pattern far more open to you. I am pleased as punch with the garments that I got out of it, and how slow I was able to take the fitting and construction process for each garment. It’s meant that these are well constructed, with the edges finished with my overlocker, and that I’m going to get a lot of wear out of each piece when the summer weather rolls around.

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