McCalls 5974 – aka the perfect knit dress

It’s pretty cheeky – inspirational and aspirational – to name a pattern ‘the perfect knit dress’ – but McCalls did it. And this pattern was  #1 in the 2010 Best Patterns selections on Pattern Review, where it has an amazing 95 positive reviews. hmmm.

I looked at it a lot when reviews popped up, but I always thought it looked like many other dress patterns, including some I already have. So I passed. Then I noticed it’s out of print, and I starting thinking it might become hard to find. My goodness, I might need it! and I finally purchased it on Etsy last fall.

So – why so popular? Well, it includes a separate instruction set that is entirely devoted to fit and alteration of every aspect of the dress. Written by Palmer/Pletsch, it’s like a mini-‘Fit for Real People’ and is mentioned in many of the pattern reviews.

IMHO, the design itself must be really pretty challenging for a lot of body types. It’s almost a fitted silhouette, with a slim bodice, back and sleeve. The front midriff band hugs the waist and supports small open pleats that extend up into the bodice and down into the skirt. And the skirt is fairly close to the body at hip level, except for those front pleats.

Moving on from those thoughts, my dress! And I like the design much more than I anticipated – it’s feminine and pretty.

I used a Maggy London ITY knit from Fabric Mart. I love sewing with ITY, it just feels so good. It also makes the skirt of this dress very swishy, which is always fun.

Sewing notes:

  • Sewed size 12 in View C, total 4 yards at 60″ wide (the extra yardage is for the added length).
  • Left off the midriff tie. I did cut it out, sew it, and baste it on, but found it a little fussy.
  • Used black ITY to bind the neckline.
  • Left off the zipper – as noted by many sewists, it’s just not needed with either neckline.
  • Lengthened it to a maxi by adding 15″ to the back and front skirt. There aren’t any lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern, so I just added the length at the hem and redrew the side seams.
  • Cut the 3/4 length sleeve, but shortened it by 6″ to make it elbow length. The longer sleeve felt very formal, and with this skirt length, kind of dowdy.
  • I did change one small thing: the sleeve head. It’s ‘high’ and full.  I like a smooth sleeve head on knit dresses, so I did a little trimming and was able to ease it into the armscye with no gathers. Just a little tweak but it made a big difference.

OK, is this a perfect knit dress? Well, it fit me straight out of the envelope with no changes (I’m 5’7″, bust 35″, waist 30.5″, hips 41.5″) so I have to admit it’s pretty nice.

Ciao! Coco

17 thoughts on “McCalls 5974 – aka the perfect knit dress

  1. I tried to leave a comment a couple of days ago, but the internet would not allow me. Better late than never, you look beautiful in this dress and I love your lush backyard photo shoot:)


  2. What a beautiful and well fitted dress. I would never have got the idea for your dress from looking at the line drawings; the zipper and fitted waist would have put me off. Now I also want the pattern.


  3. Hi ladies! all of you are wonderful. Please forgive my group thank you (I'm under the weather this week, temporary, temporary!). I so appreciate your comments, you always make me feel good 🙂 and I love hearing from you. Such good friends. Coco


  4. Yes, the perfect dress on you. Your blog gets me in such trouble. I just love everything you make and want one of my own. LOL. LOVE your dress and the length is perfection.


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