STOP RIGHT THERE, don’t cut Mcall’s 6696 till you’ve read this!

MCalls 6696 is a fitted bodice shirtdress pattern with a straight skirt option. I chose view B because I believed that my broad shoulders and buxom bosom might be balanced somewhat by the full skirt and I’m a bit tired of straight dresses. Tricky territory, I’d like to avoid the Alice in Wonderland look at all costs!


This pattern is being used by lots of peeps who are participating in the Mcalls Shirtdress Sew-along.


A fitted shirtdress with a ‘fullish’ skirt really does require good fit through the bodice. In order to get the best fit in the upper body I suggest you cut the waistband to fit the dress front and back (adding seam allowances of course) then sew the side seam from underarm to skirt hem. That way you’ll have the option for tweaking fit in the bodice later, once the dress is fully completed if necessary. Its the sort of smart fitting option you see on some trouser and jeans patterns, like Iconic’s Jess jeans. This lovely bloggger also prefers to sew the side seams as one for fit, have a look.

too much waist ease

I fitted my bodice toile having already moved the shoulder seams forward, lengthened the bodice (possibly too much, more later), tested the sleeves and was pretty happy with the fit. But now its all made up the weight of the skirt makes the bodice look too long, its pulling the bodice down and away from my body making me look about 10kg heavier, with no bosom from the full frontal view. Now there are times when I’d happily gift my bosom to any passer by, but heck they’re in there, why do they look so, well, ‘schlumpy’?!

Room for improvement?



For best proportion it may be possible to tweak where the waistband sits,  1/3 length in bodice , 2/3 skirt judging by those beautiful wasp waisted dresses by Mr Dior. So if the bodice is too long the proportion will look ‘off’, which is exactly how M6696 now looks to my eye. I need to bring the bodice up, even if that spot is not my waist. And here there seems to be a bit of wiggle room.

with 3 cm pinned out at side seams, dress sits higher, waist more defined.

If you need your bodice to look shorter then why not  choose your waist to be situated at the bottom of the waistband rather than the middle. But then I see this Vogue 8633 has done that and I’ve always thought the model looked to have a strangely square shape at the midriff. So perhaps the top of the waistband higher and bottom sitting below the waist?


It seems a square cut waistband is just not very flattering, so why not shape it?  The smallest point could be top middle or bottom, whatever your heart desires really! But once its sewn like this it’s a huge job to unpick.

fakey shibori print fabric purchased in Sapporo many years ago, lining from Grandmar (sic) stash!


Obsessed with adding waistline ease, I took it too far this time, don’t do it. The waist needs to fit so that your dress will sit at your waist supported by, in my case … my hipbones, the ones I put my hands on when I want to look indignant! If your waist is square perhaps thats where a ‘waist stay’ might help? At the very least don’t add waist ease beyond 2cm. The skirt needs to be suspended off your anchor points – waist in this case. Surprise surprise, the tighter waist doesn’t seem to affect my food consumption whatsoever!

Belt gathers the waist – blah!

When the dress is more fitted at the waist it sits higher on my frame and comes in under the bosom somewhat, changing the silhouette from ‘schlumpy’ to decidedly ‘less schlumpy’. Any thoughts?





Add yours →

  1. Now that’s what I call fine tuning…..or fine fitting. Some day, someday, I really really hope I’ll get to your level….won’t be any time soon…but I can always hope, pray and dream. Your blog is fabulous.

  2. Cool lining! I wouldn’t have been sure about lining given the buttoning so this is useful to see- thanks.

    I agree with you about the skirt to bodice proportion. I had a similar issue trying to make two shirt dresses I made last summer look less frumpy, although there was no waistband in those. For me the issue is as much the short sleeves though as I always feel I look like a cleaner in them. Yours are short enough to avoid this effect ( ie avoiding landind around the bust line).

    • Funny, it’s the short sleeves that don’t grab me either. From a distance this looks like a nursing uniform to me!! But I’m keen for another go in a nicer fabric, perhaps something a bit special for an event?
      The proportion thing is pretty important I think Steph, especially for those of us with chesticles!

    • And sorry, forgot… To make the lining I just used the straighter skirt option, pivoting out the dart to the hem for a bit of ease around the hip (and stride)!

      • Very helpful – thanks!! Yes, I agree about the chesticles. I find it’s easy for me to start to feel a bit matronly if I don’t get the proportions just right. I am wearing one of my shirt dresses here in Italy today as it is finally hot, though I am still not completely convinced. Yours is pretty and I like the skirt pleats and the finish is of course impeccable!

  3. One of the best ways to find where your waist sits is to tie the tape measure, or a piece of string or tape, round it, it will find your waistline. Then measure from the back neck down, to the lower part of the tie, giving you the centre back measurement.
    However the feeling of not being able to move, is often caused by the shaping in the armhole and sleeve.
    Ahh! Cutting patterns really can be a brain tease !!
    The second shirt dress looked great. It is so annoying spending time on the pattern and making for it then not to fit nicely.

    • Oh the location of my waist wasn’t the issue, it was the perceived proportion of bodice to skirt, I think the bodice benefits from a stronger anchor point. But yes, a piece of elastic and “I’m a little teapot” to find the waist!!

      • Ah! I see. I think maybe the patterns we buy or self draft don’t always match what’s in the minds eye of what you want it to look like. Personally I think you could tweak a pattern forever!!

      • Oh I so agree Linda, by the time you’ve tweaked it 5 times the fashion dictates a different peccadillo! BTW I think you’re elastic idea might be good when someone has made the bodice and just wants to check the real ease and location of the waist. I’m going to try that next toile. Would love to hear all about your new job BTW?!

      • Hi Lesley. My new job is my old job, believe it or not. I left it 20 years ago to have the firstborn and the second is now about to leave for uni, so the timing is incredible! ! Official title is tutor and technical support. So simply fashion technician at Edinburgh College of Art. It covers a wide range of things, different from before because of technology. The exciting bit for me is the teaching sewing and pattern techniques and problem solving. Not so keen on the admin side…who is? I’ve just finished my first full time working week for said 20 years, and it included 3 days of fashion shows, degree show set up tomorrow and it goes on and on. All I think now is Never say Never!!

      • Wow, what timing you have Linda! Sounds like a great job, something to really get your teeth into. But isn’t a full working week tough?! Admin was the bit I hated the most as a midwife – so much paperwork for births! Would love to hear more about your days – perhaps a blog post from you?

      • Yes, a full working week was not something I had even thought about, and 3 days last week were12 hours long because of the shows!!
        What am I thinking…I forgot how short weekends are

  4. You’ve got an excellent fit there. I am short waisted so it is always a question of whether I fit it or leave it for a “blouson” effect. Glad I enjoy sewing! It’s a lot of work! 🙂

  5. I really like this dress, but it has involved so much work it is a shame you are not entirely happy. The colour, fabric, lining and construction are perfect and you do look so glossy, tanned, relaxed and happy.

    My guess is that your original instinct is right – Alice in Wonderland is not you. I think you rock a much straighter look because your hips and bottom are slim and you have amazing legs. This pattern really suits someone with a traditional hourglass shape. I find this all the time – I want to wear exactly the looks that are not really my best looks. It is possible to do it but it just needs so much more work.

  6. It’s really lovely, Lesley! I do like the proportions with the longer bodice, as per the first picture. And the lining is just divine. I’m about to cut a shirt dress myself, one of my all time favourite styles. Keep ’em coming x

    • Thanks Brita, will you do a full skirt or straight? Looking forward to a picture! I bought some lovely stretch corduroy to give a straight style a go, but I am creating such a traffic jam of ‘to do’s’!

  7. This reminds me so much of my Sureau dress (which was much less sophisticated however, having no collar). I liked wearing it as the unnecessary ease made it hang off and made me feel like a wasting-away victim of consumption: the dream of my chubby teenage self finally realised!

    Pattern fails are the mainstay of sewing blogs but your review contains beautiful shots, a great combination of fabrics (not nurse uniform at all), and the usual perfectionism so a joy to behold as usual (and I lolled at the chest giveaway idea!)

    • You know, strangely when I worked in London in postnatal, I loved nothing better than to put on a baggy surgical gown and swan around feeling like I was pregnant! I lost sleep last night thinking about another version of this shirtdress – call the men in the white coats!

  8. Hi, I really like your blog. I think you look pretty good. I have the same body type and it’s so frustrating cuz I always avoid shirt dresses for all the reasons you list…I was told to avoid any patterns that have a fitted waist from a professional pattern maker. So, I am just go with a sheath type. I can string a sash through the belt loops loosely and I don’t look too chunky or chesty. Excellent sewing!

  9. gorgeous – love the lining!!

  10. I’d love your advice on how to line to skirt. I treated the two layers as one to make the pleats at the waistline but now I’m not sure how to deal with the side seams. Should I treat the layers separately at the sides so the layers float like a real slip? Attaching the pocket to the outer layer only? That way I can hem the slip layer in one go. How did you do your skirt lining?

    • Hi Karen, yes treat the 2 layers separately. Include the lining in your centre front band and then hem it separately as you said. Yes, the pockets will sit between the 2 layers. You want your lining to hit a tiny bit below where your hem turn up (seam allowance) ends, so be sure to lengthen or reduce your lining the same as your skirt. Hope that helps.

  11. I’m so glad I read this, I have this pattern traced off and never thought about the waist. Great idea! It looks fab after the fine tuning. I agree that there’s really no point in going to the trouble of making your own clothes if the fit isn’t going to be spot on 🙂

    • I’m noticing more and more that a slightly raised waist (even as little as 1cm) appears more feminine and a lower waist more masculine. Benedict Cumberbatch illustrated this magnificently in Dr. Strange. He wears an A-line dress coat and the low slung waist is definitely masculine. Creating a side seam that runs from underarm through the waist to hem really gives you easy tweaking. Good luck with it 😉

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