McCall's M6696 shirtdress pattern.

I wanted to post a blow-by-blow pattern review and tips for sewing McCall’s M6696 shirtdress (affiliate link), sewing friends. Alas, my fitting skills came up short. But hey, at least I posted today, right?

I fought this pattern all weekend, spending most of it in my underwear, sewing and trying on the muslin, sewing and trying on the muslin, repeat ad infinitum.

(Through THAT process I concluded that I need a sewing robe, something luxe to slip on and off while I’m working. But let’s return to the fitting story.)

I scoured blogs, watched YouTube vids, and pored over the fitting chapters of my sewing books. And this is the best I could do:

The front view of McCall's M6696 shirtdress. The back view of McCall's M6696 shirtdress. The side view of McCall's M6696 shirtdress.

Let’s talk about what’s happening, in no particular order:

  • I removed the comically poufy gathers from the back bodice. They were HUGE, a common complaint from bloggers who’ve made M6696. The slim-fitting straight-skirt view looks best with a tidy back.
  • The back bodice looks slightly wonky because it’s pinned for a swayback adjustment. I made the adjustment on the paper pattern piece and didn’t re-cut and sew it for the muslin.
  • The back of the dress — the flatness you can see in the side view photo — haunts me. I don’t have a prominent bum, but I look like a pancake in this dress. No bueno.
  • I thought the bodice fit well, but looking at these photos, I’m not so sure. It looks too big.

The agony and the ecstasy

When I thought I’d crushed the bodice, I was ecstatic. Getting a bodice right is happy times for a sewist.

When I spent Saturday and Sunday trying to get the skirt to recognize that I do indeed have SOME booty in the pants, I was in agony. I tried swayback adjustments, lengthening the darts, adding length between the skirt waist and hip point (because I am long hipped). The fit didn’t improve and I burned through bobbin thread like mad.

I tidied my sewing room Monday and worked on something else. I needed a reset from M6696.

Tuesday I was back on the M6696 train. (For the record, it’s not an express train.)

Revelations about my fitting skills

Turns out, I’m decent at fitting WHEN IT’S EASY. For example, I’m a fitting genius when it comes to adding length to a bodice.

I have miles to go to fit with competence. And it’s going to be rough, because I don’t have a fitting buddy.

As I worked on M6696, I realized that I need some in-person training on how to fit. I need to observe and practice HOW to correctly manipulate a muslin for fitting and transfer those adjustments to paper pattern pieces. I need help recognizing what is a good fit and what falling short looks like. (Case in point, why oh why did I think my bodice fit?)

Books are only going to take me so far now. And while I looked at various Craftsy courses on fitting (and I’ll probably do a few of those, too), I’m at the point where I need live instruction for this hands-on craft.

I know I’ll ask better questions about fitting if I can spend time with a teacher, and written guides and videos will make more sense afterward. Do you get that, too — where you take a class and then go back to reading about the topic and everything is an “aha” moment?

OK, now I want to hear from you — what adjustments do YOU think I need to make on this muslin? I’m leaning toward cutting a smaller size. Do you think that’s necessary? Seriously, guys — this is a cry for help! H-E-L-P!

P.S. ICYMI, my last blog post was a vlog about progress on my 2017 sewing goals. There’s a VERY interesting link in the comments about sewing vlogs as a whole. Check it out!

P.P.S. Let’s throwback to a garment that DIDN’T give me fitting fits: How I sew a muslin + Sew Caroline Larchmont T.