mccalls 6833 | pattern review

our little excursion to NYC has come and gone already… what a whirlwind! capped by a long drive home, stuck in friday must get out of the city!!! east coast traffic. i had planned to give a mid-construction update on mccalls 6833, but the end of the school year busyness totally got in the way. anyways, here’s the deets!

(p.s. navy is really hard to photograph)


after my initial muslin i took all the lady curves out of the bodice so it better resembled a rectangle, and ended up with a decent fit. my waist measurement puts me in a size 14-16 (whut??) while my bust is more like an 8. so i traced off a 10 bodice, but added 4″ all around to the waist. this pattern doesn’t seem to have as much ease as i’m used to in big 4 (could it be that they’ve heard our complaints?) so i paid close attention to the finished garment measurements. after a second muslin, i ended up going back and tracing off the upper bodice in a size 8 and doing another SBA, plus a forward shoulder adjustment and some lower armhole fiddling. i was reasonably confident that would work out so i was off to cut my fabric.

i did have to scrap some of my initial plans of making the bustier underneath the fuller coverage bodice. that was me high on ALL THE IDEAS!!! and low on the thinking it through part. no worries, i’m perfectly happy with what i ended up with. the only thing i changed from the pattern was to create a V shape in the back. the pattern has the back piece coming all the way up to the base of the neck, and that was feeling a little too covered up. plus, i’m all about the lower back necklines these days.


i decided that even though this is a limited use dress, i would take the time to do some hand stitching. on the bodice, i hand-basted my underlining, catch stitched the bodice SA’s, etc. it was time well spent as i could work on the dress while thinking through how i wanted to construct certain things. i did leave my side and shoulder SA’s free in case i needed to make any adjustments once i was farther along. i ended up bringing up the shoulders a bit and taking in the waist by an inch, so thank goodness for that! nothing is worse than needing to rip out your hand stitching.

for the skirt, i cut the size 12 and adjusted the pleats to fit the bodice. i changed up the construction order by sewing the skirt front and back to the bodice separately so i could easier adjust the side seam. it’s pretty difficult to predict exactly how the bodice will sit before the weight of the skirt is there to pull it down.


i fully lined the dress with rayon bemberg. that stuff is such a pain in the ass to cut and nearly impossible to keep on grain! it does tear from selvedge to selvedge, so i did that to true up the edges and then i taped it down to my table to give me the best chance of getting a good cut. unfortunately… i failed to triple check that my selvedges were completely lined up and had a little mishap with one of the skirt lining pieces. at that point there was no point in getting upset over it, so in a very zen fashion (a-typical of me, don’t be fooled) i cut a strip of lining, patched it on, and called it a day. the skirt lining now has a huge “scar” running down the back, but eh… that’s the charm of handmade, right?

i hand stitched the hem in place (did i mention i lengthened the skirt by 1″? cuz i did), and hemmed the lining with horsehair braid—a technique gertie had just posted about. i should mention that the lining is actually a separate pattern piece. it’s cut as a circle skirt, so if you aren’t keen on the pleats, you could use the lining for a different look. anyways, the pattern has you sew a wide length of gathered tulle part way up the lining to give the dress some oomph. i was short on time at this point and didn’t feel like messing with tulle, which is why i opted for the horsehair. i’m just so/so on the result. the horsehair is really too stiff for the bemberg and it flops awkwardly. if i have occasion to pull this dress out again, i may re-do this per the pattern directions.


overall, i think this pattern is pretty great! there are a whole range of options for mixing and matching. however, getting a good fit for a small-busted gal like myself was more challenging that i had anticipated. the dart intake at the bust is in the ballpark of 2 1/2″, whereas i need closer to 1 1/2″. you almost have to drape it on yourself to figure out the shape for that piece… however that’s pretty hard to do on your body! i’ve since gone back and fiddled with the bust dart and upper bodice length because i’ve started working on the strap-y version with a gathered skirt for heather b’s #sewsundress sew-a-long! more on that later, since i have a few dresses planned…

as you can see above, i made a last minute clutch following a tutorial by skirt as top… who happened to post about it the day before the event i needed it for. it was super easy, and even though i’ve never made a zippered bag before, it only took about 45 minutes. win!

last thing, this pattern is rated EASY on the front. i whole-heartedly disagree. getting the front bodice pieces sewn accurately so everything lines up as it should was definitely challenging, and i can only imagine a newbie trying to work that out! and fitting… unless you tend to fit straight out of the envelope, it’s not for the faint of heart (or short on time).


i have to say, it was fun to set aside the t-shirts and basics sewing to make this dress. and it actually does fill a hole in my wardrobe, since i didn’t have a special occasion dress prior to this! now let’s just hope a few more special occasions come up so i can wear it again. 😉

—lisa g.

41 thoughts on “mccalls 6833 | pattern review

  1. lilysageandco says:

    You’ve done a really lovely job with this. I love the back V and the fabric is just perfect for it – screams special occasion to me, but the dress with it’s clean lines isn’t over the top. I love bodices like that, but I agree, not for the faint hearted when you are talking about fit. I often look at dress patterns with similar lines but then think about how many adjustments I would need to make to get to the point of what should have been simple at the start! Good on you for sticking it out. I could see this dress looking great as a simple cotton day dress too.

    • lisa g says:

      thank you! and yes, getting the fit right took so much longer than i wanted it to. you’d think that with so many seams to tweak it’d be cakewalk, but not so! i do love the final result though.

  2. goodbyevalentino says:

    Lisa- your couture dress is absolutely beautiful! I love the change you made in the back. I’ve yet to make a special occasion dress free of issues and have accepted this fact as part of dressmaking. Hopefully lots of special occasions will come your way to show off this lovely dress 🙂

    • lisa g says:

      thank you! and really, there’s always some mistake, isn’t there? best to embrace the fact that it won’t all go perfectly… especially if the mistakes land on the inside and no one is the wiser to it.

  3. Katie says:

    This turned out so well — it is so flattering on you! I always hesitate to take the time with hand sewing on stuff I know won’t be worn very often but I’m always glad when I do. It makes the finished product so much nicer!

    • lisa g says:

      the hand sewing, in this case, gave me time to think. and you’re right–i never regret taking the extra steps, but i often regret it when i don’t! thanks 🙂

  4. dokucug says:

    I know I’ve told you a few times already, but it’s so beautiful, and it looks so fantastic on you! Also, you’ve given a lot of great tips here – I really like the idea of sewing the skirt panels separately to the bodice front and backs, and the tulle (even though you didn’t use it) for adding fullness. Putting this pattern on my list!

  5. poppykettle says:

    Lovely stuff, Lisa! I love the idea of fitting the dress with the skirt already on by adjusting the side seams – makes so much sense when the weight of the skirt can change so much. The pleats (esp at the back!) are gorgeous. And oh, I’m hearing your on being high on all the ideas. I think that’s something I’ll never quite get on top of… I hope you felt like a million bucks for the occasion – love the dress!

    • lisa g says:

      thanks! it’s nice to have that little bit of insurance at the side seams, especially for a special occasion dress–it may need to be altered in or out over the years!

  6. crab&bee says:

    Your dress looks so luxurious… wow. The design and fabric choices are just so classic and your fitting efforts really paid off. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on construction order, too – smart to leave the side seams until later!

    • lisa g says:

      thank you! i’m so happy to have a dress like this in my wardrobe. i always try to make dresses more versatile (dress up OR dress down) but it’s nice to have a strictly special occasion dress!

  7. monica L. says:

    Love it! Beautiful as always 🙂 I have a very specific dress in mind that I want to make, and I may use the skirt from this pattern-love the pleats!!

  8. Carolyn says:

    I thought it was black at first and was amazed to see the print in the lower pictures!! It’s just beautiful on you, very classy and you look tres chic 🙂

  9. Carolyn says:

    This looks beautiful, and I love that you took the extra time to some hand sewing. I think it always makes a difference, especially on a special occasion dress like this. 🙂

    I agree than Bemberg rayon is a total pain to cut out, but I love the result in the finished garment. I lay it out on my table, aligning the selvedges with the table edge, and then basically don’t breathe until it’s all cut. No sudden movements!

  10. odetosew says:

    Love this dress! I am considering making this up for a Holiday dress, but thanks to your comment that this is not a good “rush job” dress, I realize that I need to take my time on this one and make the inside just as nice as the outside. Very nice work! -Stephanie

  11. Michelle says:

    Gorgeous fabric choice and I completely agree with your decision to change the back neckline. I’m making the version with the same bodice and straight skirt and was hoping for your feedback on the fit. It seems to have considerably less ease than usual in McCall’s, so I was planning to size up (I’m not making a muslin). Also I’m afraid the boob darts will come out pointy, what was your experience?

    • lisa g says:

      As I recall, the sizing chart was pretty accurate. If you don’t plan to muslin I would at least tissue fit the bust pieces. That should give you a good idea if the dart size is accurate. I always need to do a small bust adjustment, but that’s because I’m an A cup in pattern sizing.

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