Fantasy Sewing: McCall’s 8858

McCall’s 8858

All right, while I remain in sewing limbo, let’s fantasize a bit more.

This is McCall’s 8858, which I got from the thrift store in my hometown (now once again my home), back in the spring. It’s © 1952, and is just my size.

I mean, exactly my size. Bust, waist (well, on a good day, anyway), and hips. I am trying to figure out how companies, in an era that championed the wasp waist and idealized the hourglass figure, where women still wore girdles as a matter of course (or at least, my grandmothers did), put out patterns that match my own rectangular measurements. I’m pretty sure that I do not have a “vintage figure.”

Now, when I bought it, the envelope to this pattern was totally trashed. Well, still is, really. I took the front and back (since they were already completely separated) and ironed them on to some cotton iron-on interfacing I had around. Is interfacing archival? If not, well, I doubt it’s worse than what they’ve been through already. At least those shredding edges are reinforced.

While I was messing around, I sorted through the pattern. By some miracle of the Sewing Gods, it’s all there. Every little facing, as far as I can tell. Furthermore, it had been folded in the most awesome way imaginable—skirt pieces together, bodice pieces together, bolero pieces together. How cool is that? Whoever last used this pattern is obviously a far more meticulous lady than I.

McCall’s 8858 envelope back

Here, since I was in the mood for scanning things, is the back of the envelope. Ok, so there’s one measurement I’m pretty sure won’t fit, which is back length. It’s not listed, but I presume it’s on the order of 16″ or up, as it usually is, and my back length (nape of neck to waist) is 15 at best. Also the hip measurement indicates it’s at 7″ below waistline, and my full hip is more like 10″ below my waist.

Now when I make this (and I will make this, although I make no promises as to timeline), I will need to figure out how to petite and square shoulder a kimono sleeve. I’m not too concerned about the dress itself, but the bolero is a little more scary. And I really like the bolero.

Some other observations about the pattern:

It calls for the skirt to be cut with the grain paralleling the side seam. Interestingly, this is something that my 50s sewing manual cautions against; I’d never actually seen a pattern call for it before. Most everything else I’ve read on pattern-drafting and selecting grain suggests you should put the straight of grain midway between the two angled edges, unless you’re going to put one side on the fold, anyway.

In classic 50s style, it also calls for a self-fabric belt. I’ve never made one, as I generally don’t find that I “cinch” well. I feel like it always creates a certain blousing effect that just never seems to work for me. Of course, there is also the question of whether this should become part of Project Drop-Waist, but I think I may just possibly be able to pull off a waist seam as long as the skirt is un-gathered and sleek, as it is here.

I’m excited about the bolero, in particular. I’ve noticed (now that I have a small plethora of full-skirted dresses) that the style of jackets they work with are pretty limited. It has to be either a huge opera-style coat that can completely cover the skirt, or a petite, cropped bolero that doesn’t impinge on the skirt. I guess in theory something like my Lady Grey coat should work, but in practice I find I only like it with skinny bottoms. My empire-waist jacket is a complete fail, and the situations where it’s cold enough for my winter coat, but warm enough that I might wear one of my full-skirted dresses are very, very limited.

As far as I can tell, the only difference between View A and View B is that the bolero is made out of a different fabric in View B. Hmm.

The skirt will be a half-circle when all is said and done.

Of course, no Fantasy Sewing interlude is complete without musing on fabric. The problem is, I don’t think I have any lengths in stash that would be adequate for a dress like this—most of what I have is in 2m lengths. And I am not buying fabric right now, having just been traumatized by how many freakin’ boxes it actually filled.

It would be fun to make up even just the bolero, though. I have some black poly twill that would work (actually, I have a crap-ton of that, probably enough for the whole dress, but I have no desire to have a whole 50s dress in black poly twill suiting.) This is when I begin to wish that I’d catalogued my fabric stash more thoroughly… Not only do I no longer have everything on a shelf to paw through, I don’t even know which box most of it is in (I did label my boxes things like “Coating” and “light weight fabrics & interfacing”, but what exactly is where is pretty unclear.

Simplicity 4232

While I’m rambling, I might as well add that a little more recently I stumbled upon this sixties pattern with a very similar neckline, although this one has raglan sleeves rather than kimono, and your choice of full pleated or wiggle skirt. It’s quite adorable too, although the size is rather further from mine. Also, I love the cummerbund-style belt in the left view. I wish I looked good in those…



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15 responses to “Fantasy Sewing: McCall’s 8858

  1. that neckline is gooooorgeous. Do you have access to Threads magazine? There is an article in the Sept/Oct issue on scaling patterns down for petite sizes. I can’t find the link, but I’ll be by a scanner in a week or so and can send it along if you’d like it.

  2. I made Simplicity 4232 and it’s my favourite dress ever:
    Kimono sleeves can be very forgiving on most shoulders – maybe it won’t need too much work.

  3. Do you really not suit cinched or cummerbund style belts? I wonder I’m rectangular too and have, on occasion, worn a skinny belt relatively successfully….. Or maybe I deceived myself :o)

    • So, I have seen other “rectangles” do it successfully. I just never feel like I can do it. I suspect it involves the combo of rectangle + short waist, with a healthy dose of my own neuroses. I have a high tolerance for muffin top and tummy gathers, but a low tolerance for too-short sleeves or pant legs or blousing. 😉

  4. I made a simplicity dress very similar to the 4232 in your post. Mine was the 3222, raglan sleeves and option of full gathered or wiggle skirt, self fabric cummerbund. I made the version with the wiggle skirt and the cummerbund was a great thing to learn 🙂

    Link to my Simplicity 3222 if u wanna see 🙂

  5. LinB

    You’re quite right about the difference in views being minimal: lots of my patterns that brag “8 different views!” are simply listing differences in fabric design: a solid, a chintz, and a plaid are listed as different views. I really like the neckline in the McCall’s 8858. Squaring the shoulder on the kimono sleeve will merely involve cutting to a “hinge” and swinging the arm up to a better angle for you — you don’t want (probably) to change the circumference of the sleeve. Try making a muslin in heavy paper, or interfacing, so you can mark any changes without the marker bleeding into the fabric and obscuring your changes.

    • Don’t you hate that, when the pattern advertises “8 different dresses” and most of the variations are, say, with or without ribbon? Although usually there’s at least two different lengths of skirt or sleeve or something. It is occasionally nice to have instructions about cutting pieces on the bias (like should they be interfaced or underlined) but yeah, I’ve seen some that really bugged me.

  6. Cute patterns,Does view A and B refer to long and short sleeved versions of the dress,i notice both shown on the envelope back.The second one is close to my size 😉 Im really being inspired by the vintage and vintage replica patterns available.

    • No, there is no long-sleeved dress version. The back view you’re talking about just shows the bolero in place over the dress. Oh, the cuffs are turned up in one view of the bolero, and turned down in the other. 😉

      They are really cute, though, aren’t they?

  7. Don’t know if it will help, but I made Cathy a dress that was nearly identical, also from the early 50s. If she can cinch, so can you — she’s as rectangular as a grandfather’s clock! The bolero and kimono sleeves give your upper torso much more width, making your waistline look narrower.

    Have fun with it!

    • Thanks for the link! This is why I think part of it is the short waist—I know plenty of other “rectangles” who cinch just fine. Of course, the possibility that it’s all in my head can’t be discounted, either. 😉

  8. Cute patterns! And I knew I had seen the 1952 one before, but that must be Peter’s version for Cathy.
    About the possible issues and alterations, I agree with livebird that kimono sleeves can quite forgiving, so you may not need a square shoulder alteration. If you do, I agree with LinB on the recommended method.
    I’d like to add that most 1950’s patterns (at least in my experience) are drafted with shorter body lengths in mind than today’s so you may need no or less bodice ‘petiting’ than you’d think.
    Oh, and I’m rather puzzled by that measurement chart. I had noticed myself that most 1950’s patterns aren’t as ‘out there’ in terms of bust- to waist- to hip- ratio as one would expect when looking at the pictures. However, my patterns from 1952 still kindly suggest I’m a bit of a rectangle while and this one definitely wouldn’t

  9. Janice

    That’s going to look gorgeous! I can’t wait to see how these turn out.

  10. Pingback: Fantasy Sewing: World’s cutest blouse edition | Tanit-Isis Sews

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