Brain busting dress: McCalls 7429

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

I don't often sew with knits but other sewists rave about how quick and simple they are for projects. So I thought I would whip out a quick long sleeved dress whilst it is still cool here in Sydney, not that I have any where to wear it or any compelling reason for making a new dress other than for the fun of it!

white lady posing in a blue dress with red shoes in a lounge room

However, the joke was on me because this dress was not quick, simple or fun to make. At all. I like to think I'm pretty experienced and skilled - I sew Burda regularly and manage with their befuddling instructions after all! But this pattern - McCalls 7429 - took all the brain power I could muster to get it finished. It's a fairly plain straight dress with a twist in the front:

front cover of a sewing pattern showing four different versions

The pictures in the instructions and the text telling me to "pleat in fullness on lower portion of the front to fit between large circles on upper left front" just did not click for me.

sewing instructions and diagrams for making a dress

Thankfully Brittany Jones  has done two blog posts and a video on how to construct this dress which was really helpful, but it still took me several attempts to figure out how to gather the fabric in the middle and sew the right seams together. In fact I had to unpick the seams a few times before I finally got it right - is there anything more tedious than unpicking a lightning stitch in a knit fabric? Happily once the front bit of the dress is sorted everything else is pretty easy to finish.

It's also not very often that I don't recommend a pattern, but this is one of those times. Other people seem to like this pattern, but there are a few things that annoy me.

Firstly, the wrap part of the lower front dress is not very wide and tends to flap open when I walk. Luckily the under layer extends almost the whole width of the skirt so you aren't flashing too much leg, but it is annoying having it flap around. Also, my fabric is white on the wrong side so it's pretty obvious when it flips to the outside: 

white lady wearing a blue dress holding the front wrap portion open

I also don't like how the gathers from the centre waist seam tend to bunch up between my breasts and form a pleat in the front. Maybe that's caused by my rather flat chest and the fabric not needing to be stretched open across the bust, but I feel that the gathers in the front just sit weirdly. 

white lady posing in a blue dress with a twisted front

The gathers and twist at the front of the dress create a bit of bulk over my stomach, which is one area I don't need to add any bulk to right at the moment. The fabric I've used was advertised online as a ponte, but it's rather thin and more like a double knit. I think a thicker fabric like a firm ponte would be even worse, and it's probably best to stick with thinner fabrics for this pattern.

a side view of a white woman wearing a blue dress

Finally (as if all that above wasn't enough moaning!) I find this dress to be really short. I'm only average in height, and I was surprised when the raw length of this dress without the hem turned up barely reached my knees. The pattern envelope (I know, I know - you should always be sceptical about those!) shows the model's dress hitting her knees so I expected the dress to be a little longer on me. 

So all in all, this is not one of my favourite patterns and I probably won't make it again. I'm sure Burda have done a similar style, and while their instructions are probably just as likely to be as confusing I'd rather take a chance with their drafting than use this pattern again if I feel like I need another twist front dress in my wardrobe!

white woman posing in a blue twist front dress wearing red shoes standing in a lounge room


  1. I would hate it flapping open. I really like the gathers, it is an unusual dress. It looks nice on you.

  2. Despite the anguish in the making, this dress looks really good on you. I hope you get to wear it one day! It looks like it would be a good office dress paired with with a jacket.

  3. Ha ha ha Your honest, but-not-wanting-to-offend, comments made me smile...And I felt your bewilderment up here on the North Shore of Sydney as I WFH...I too have no need for a new work dress, but this is on my hit list of patterns I want/need after I saw theravelout's glowing red make in an Englishing sewing mag. Mind you, she has boobs, so does not have that front fold, so it sits really flattering on her...I'm rather lacking in that department!

    Overall though, despite your reservations, this shape really suits you, you look very vampish...its far more than a regular work dress!

  4. Great review and like you I am sadly lacking in the bosom area for those pleats to spread out, let alone the flapping wrap would be rather annoying.

  5. The issue here maybe that while the pattern called for a knit, the silhouette is really one that normally would be made in a woven. Knits are easy as they usually are in easy unstructured styles.

  6. I think it looks lovely on you, but would be tempted to tack down the part that flips open.

  7. Your dress is gorgeous. Thank you for your review.

  8. In the pictures it looks really nice on you! I hadn't thought about the bulk of the twist in the front, I don't think I would like that either.
    Thanks so much for your honest review!

  9. Those frustrations are a shame, because the style really suits you very well. Despite the flaws, it is a classy dress.

  10. It looks great on you but I understand about all those issues. I made Vogue pattern (oop 1191)with a similar front twist and some of the bulk is taken up by clever hidden pleating.

  11. You look great. Could you sew a small weight into the corner that flaps open?

  12. I think it looks good on you and is a perfect work dress. We are always our own worst critics, where you see flaws we all see a pretty frock!

    I have been scouting for some new work dress patterns and I will add this one to the list. And the helpful tutorials. I'm not normally a knit fabric sewer but am trying to broaden my horizons.

  13. It looks wonderful on you so was worth the effort.

  14. It does look great on you however I would not say it was an easy 'knit' sew at all. Thanks for your honest review. Sam the Aussie

  15. I made this one (last year?) in purple stretch velvet intentionally cutting one side of the lower skirt with the nap going the "wrong" way for visual interest. I also had to follow the video v e e e r r r y carefully to get it right, although I NEVER use a lightning stitch because it is impossible to unpick neatly. After I made it, I discovered that I had another very similar pattern in my stash (from So Sew Easy, I believe) with much easier instructions. Darn. Your version looks nice though.

  16. A lovely dress, it will be lovely for when you return to work in the office. Thank you for your review. I would consider you an experienced sewist. I don't think I would like attracting views to my ISO waist line either however I think it is minimised by your fabric choice. I believe I saw your Amara vest in a recent email too!