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Jan 19, 2013

1939 McCall's dress -- the muslin



Greetings, friends!  I am happy to report that my flu-like illness (which was probably flu) is finally behind me and I am slowly returning to normal: my normal, which is not very normal at all.

Yesterday I stitched up a muslin for my 1939 McCall (or McCall's, as it's currently known) dress, 3338.  This is the pattern I was inspired (some might even say challenged) to purchase by Debi Fry and her devilish 1940 Dress Project -- you know the story.

While McCall's 3338 is undoubtedly a very well-drafted pattern, there's really only one thing that stands out about it: the bodice, which is comprised of what I would call a plastron -- the instructions refer to it as a vest -- around which gathers are formed (instead of bodice darts, tucks, or other shaping).



Here is a traditional plastron.



There was a lot of gathering and shirring of bodices in this period -- arguably too much. (Check out my Fashion 1939 board on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean.)  In any case, here's how this is constructed:

Three rows of gathers or shirring.





The plastron (or vest) is then attached to the bodice with a lap seam, i.e., the seam allowances of the plastron are turned under, and the whole piece is laid on top of the gathered seam allowance of the bodice and topstitched on (edgestitched, actually -- the terms are often used interchangeably).







Next, the collar is added, along with buttons and buttonholes.  Rather than a neck facing, the instructions have you simply add bias tape to the collar edge (I skipped that step).



Here's how mine came out.  It's not perfect but for a muslin it's fine: I understand what needs to happen.



And here's the dress, with the bodice attached to the relatively slim six-gore skirt (which is not hemmed in the photo) and the sleeves added.  There's a lapped side zipper on the left.  The belt is supposed to match; I used a commercial one here.  The only alternation I made was to add 1/2" to the bodice length and approximately the same amount to the skirt.



The fabric I used is a very coarse cotton print I bought at the flea market last year.  It had a lovely glaze on it which disappeared in the wash, alas.  It was probably intended for kitchen curtains or something like that.  It drapes OK, but not enough for that gathered bodice to look its best.





A few interesting facts about McCall patterns of this period:

Unlike most other patterns at this time, they were printed -- a real plus!

Seam allowances are all 1/2".

A double notch on a sleeve designates the front of the sleeve, just the opposite of today.



This dress is quite plain.  It's going to require fabric that has excellent drape -- perhaps a rayon crepe or even velvet.  The sleeves (I'll probably use long sleeves on the final dress) might benefit from organza to keep them crisp -- perhaps just in the cap.  The plastron needs interfacing for the same reason.  Otherwise, this is a very straightforward pattern.  To make the gathers around that plastron pop, a solid or near-solid fabric would work best.  As far as the white plastron/ dark dress option, it's too girl Friday for my taste.

Actually, this dress reminds me a lot of Cathy's 1937 Hollywood dress, though the McCall's skirt is fuller and the bodice is somewhat different.





Really, it's going to be all about the fabric and the styling.

Here are the type of shoes I want.  You already know about the fur -- a contentious issue if ever there was one.



That's the story, folks.  Any ideas, tips, comments?  Styling ideas?

Have a great day, everybody!

37 comments:

  1. I LOVE it! The bodice is great on this...and I agree that something with a bit more drape will look lovely. I had no idea that modern patterns have the double sleeve notch on the back--that's really interesting! What colour combination are you thinking of for this dress? The white accessories will look great (btw love that hat and those shoes...I have them on my wish list...from Aris Allen?)

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  2. Adorable! Surprised the pattern is big enough to fit you.
    -The plastron could have a lace overlay.
    -The edge could be piped.
    It would be wonderful in a beautiful rayon challis print.

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    Replies
    1. I really love the piping idea, and the rayon challis print recommendation.

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  3. Wouldn't a blue-grey wool be flattering to Cathy? I can't help but think a nice forest green would be stunning as well. I think it calls for something rich. I love how the super busy floral looks on the pattern illustration, but your muslin does seem to indicate a solid is best to show off the details...

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  4. Tell us more about those shoes! Are they vintage?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, please! They look brand new, is there someplace that sells these?

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  5. I was tickled to see you model your muslin - so much flair. You are a one-man liberator.

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  6. Absolutely lovely! I think the muslin is good enough to wear too. I can't wait until you're finished with the actual dress.

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  7. Love that pattern. It would be great for a "one pattern, many looks" contest. I love His Girl Friday but I guess Cathy is more of a His Girl 3am kind of gal.

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  8. I made Simplicity 1777 back in November. It was the pattern you had on here that Simplicity reprinted, for todays sewers. It had all those gathers in front! I made it out of a slippery jersey, and it about killed me. My daughter loves wearing it though.

    Not to shabby for a muslin, well done!

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  9. Peter - how about a wool challis or wouldn't that be heavy enough to use the drape? As for the shoes, I love them but I also recall that my teacher in the sixth grade (ahem) wore something exactly like them... only her's had perfs like wingtips on them. But they were white and she wore them in the month of June before the end of school but did NOT wear them in September.

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  10. Love it, Peter! Rayon crepe sounds like the way to go, fabric wise, and I would use the organza in the sleeve caps only, just for support. I like the idea of long sleeves, as long as you're using a solid; I think a print makes it more spring-like and that seems to call for shorter sleeves. That's just MHO, of course.

    Cathy looks lovely in the purple - it's definitely her color. How about something in a rich jewel tone? For some reason I'm picturing this in a deep teal color, something that would set off the fur, highlighting the reddish tones in the fur? And have you thought about maybe using a contrast color for the collar alone and then using buttons of the same color? For example, a black collar against the teal I mentioned before? That could look stunning and the buttons would call attention to the plastron and gathers even though it would be the same color as the dress.

    Hmmm, a lot of ideas. Maybe I should go hit my sewing room while I'm in a creative mode.

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  11. Does Cathy ever wear red or raspberry? I was thinking some jewel color for the dress with black gloves and shoes, maybe a little black fascinator?

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  12. Love the dress. Even more so, I enjoy seeing Michael sitting on the sofa oblivious to the crazy man in the dress.

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  13. Love the dress, but positively adore that radiant face of yours. I can't help but smile right back!

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  14. Nicely done; Totally suits you. Please promise us you will use rayon or silk, no synthetics!

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  15. The dress is fabulous on you I mean Cathy, but those shoes!!! They stopped my scroll completely. WANT! In a different color. Tell me about those shoes, please!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, those are Aris Allen white peep-toe swing dance shoes. You can find them here:

      http://www.dancestore.com/8829-WH-aris-allen-womens-white-mesh-peep-toe-heeled-oxford-dance-shoe.aspx#.UPtiWbaPX-k

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    2. The sole is suede, however, so they're not really for the sidewalk.

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    3. Dance shoes w/suede soles! Even better! Thanks - I have to see if I can find them locally (on sale, of course lol)

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  16. The best thing about these pictures is Michael working away in the background, seemingly oblivious that you are wearing Cathy's dress. I like the idea of this dress in raspberry crepe and I agree about the sleevecaps.

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  17. I think Cathy is a lucky girl to have such a devoted cousin to sew for her! I was wondering, though, could you maybe or did you at some point and I missed it post a tutorial about how you made the faux white stole in your last post? I think it looked absolutely fabulous!

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    Replies
    1. I actually found it at the flea market. It's basically just a rectangle of faux fur (or maybe two sewn together) with a poly satin lining.

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    2. Ok, Thanks!

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  18. Wow! Your muslin looks fantastic! I find that things sewn from vintage patterns can lack the style of the original (in my experience, and probably due to lack of girdle...) but the main design element on this dress doesn't rely on a tiny waist. Very pretty!

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  19. Those front gathers are really lovely on a slender frame.

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  20. Not sure I like the puffy shoulders but the rest is so beautiful. I like that plastron the best however, it makes it look so chic. And the skirts subtle curves or flair are very nice.

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  21. What is Cathy going to wear for the Oscars whether she is watching on TV, at a party, or there in person?

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    Replies
    1. She usually just sits on the couch in a ratty bathrobe with a big bowl of Doritos.

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  22. If you find those shoes in any other colour but white and in a size 8.5-9, let me know.

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  23. Actually, I wish these shoes came in another colour besides white:

    http://www.american-duchess.com/shoes-1920s-1930s/23-skidoo-womens-1920-flapper-spectator-shoes-brown-white

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  24. Your muslin looks fabulous! I think you should finish and style it - it would make an excellent summer frock with the right hat (although the sailor hat is cute) and bag. The cotton may not drape like the pattern illustration, but it works just the same.

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  25. Peter, you look amazing in this muslin. Very handsome. It makes me think you shouldn't hand all of your dresses over to Cathy...you could wear some of them yourself.

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  26. I have a question about one line in your blog Peter: You say that the seam allowances are all 1/2". At the tutu making seminar I just attended it was mentioned that the "standard" seam allowance that most commercial patterns have, of 5/8" "was a mistake" - and I'm wondering if you know anything more about this? How could a mistake be so all-pervasive?

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    Replies
    1. I think it had something to do with corresponding to 1.5 cm.

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