Groovy Sixties Shift Dress: McCalls 7743

I whipped up a cute little dress this weekend! It’s a vintage McCall’s pattern from 1965, purchased on Etsy from this lovely seller. It was the open-back detail that sold me on this one, that and the little bow belt. So cute!

The fabric is vintage as well, also purchased on etsy from this seller. I’m thinking I may have a slight Etsy weakness. I love getting packages in the mail! It’s even worse than regular fabric shopping, because everything seems like the last great deal! Get it now or never, is what I hear. I choose NOW! Anyways, even though I bought the fabric long before the pattern, it reminded me of the cover illustration fabric so it was a good choice.

Look at the cute button-tab detail! If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s the only place where I’ve topstitched. Well it wasn’t supposed to have topstitching, but I made a mistake. Technically, I didn’t make a mistake.. I was so excited that I skipped reading the instructions, figuring it was so simple I could put it together on my own! Turns out, I could, but not in the way it was meant to be constructed.

I was supposed to sew the tabs only part of the way, and leave them open to be sandwiched around the bodice edges. Instead, I got a little overexcited and sewed all around the tab edges. I had to unpick the seam (which was already trimmed and clipped!) and topstitch the tabs on.

Once you start ‘improvising’ none of the next steps work, either. I did some creative construction work getting the shoulder seams done too. When I make it again (and I will! it’s too cute) I’ll be sure to actually follow the instructions next time. I’m lucky I chose a busy print for my trial run!

Bound buttonhole again, too! I love that all the vintage patterns ask you to make bound buttonholes. Especially if there’s just one, then it’s not too tedious, and adds such a tidy professional look!

You know you’re addicted to sewing when you’re up before the sun, sewing a bound buttonhole before heading off to work…yes, that’s how this one happened. It’s also how the ‘mistake’ happened. Early-morning sewing can be dangerous!

Actually, the button is vintage too! My apologies to the vintage purists who are reading this, as I have probably mixed different decades together. Although, the pattern is for sure from 1965, the fabric is estimated to be from the 60’s, and the buttons could be 50’s or 70’s. So I’m in the ballpark at least.

I started to make the bow belt because it was cute, but decided it was a little over the top. It was the one detail that took the dress from modern interpretation to almost a costume. The dress itself looks great with a belt… just not this one. Do you agree?

I still think the bow part is still super pretty. I’d make the bow belt next time on a solid colour version, maybe something super classic like a black and white print, with a red belt.

The person who made this pattern first made the A-line version like me, but without the open back detail. I wonder what kind of fabric she used?

Also, I thought about using an invisible zipper in this style, but you can’t! (Not if you follow the instructions anyways.) The lining is sewn to the bodice and turned along all edges, including the centre back seam above the waistline. So when you pull back the zipper seam allowance, you see lining! It’s a different way of doing it, but looks quite nice in the finished dress, and works well if you want to hand-pick your zipper. Which I did!

I admit, I zigzagged the skirt seam allowances because I was too lazy to change the serger thread. Is that bad? It was on white, and I was planning to use white for my next project, and the bodice of this one was fully lined so it was just two seams that needed to be serged. (I can hear my mother right now. “Tasia! Change your serger thread, don’t be lazy!” Ok, she probably doesn’t actually say the ‘don’t be lazy’ part but I’m sure she thinks it. She may be right, but she wasn’t there.. so I zigzagged.) The one thing to note is that compared to serging, zigzag is slow. Next time, I’ll serge.

The only change I made (besides the adventures in topstitching) was to shorten the skirt by six inches. Wow, I’m short! I’m especially short in the legs, sadly, so anything mid-calf length looks very frumpy on me.

I love this pattern, it’s a simple shift dress but it has a few key things that make it worth making again. The fit is really good, I’d make a few minor tweaks but overall it’s quite flattering. The open-back detail is fun and sexy on an otherwise simple dress. And it’s a great little dress pattern to use smaller lengths of fabric.

Even though I seem to always sew crazy bright prints, this would be a perfect dress in black, or red, or coral. I love the idea of choosing just one awesome button for the back closure. Simple in the front, then turn around and surprise! A sexy little peek of skin and one great button on the tab closure.

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69 Responses to Groovy Sixties Shift Dress: McCalls 7743

  1. Stacy July 19, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    Looks great! It’s okay to zig the edges…that is what those of us without a serger do. Love the fabric and all the tiny details. Great work!

  2. Peter July 19, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    Beautiful dress and wonderful pics!

  3. Belly July 19, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Groovy it is! Love the open back, it adds so much.

  4. kathleen July 19, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    That is really cute on you. I love that open back and your bound buttonhole is beautiful

  5. Susannah July 19, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Lovely! This has actually inspired me to get started on a very similar dress pattern I’ve been sitting on… although mine lacks the daring back interest. I don’t know what the market’s like where you are, but here in London there are so few fitted dresses for sale in RTW that a simple sheath like this can really turn heads. Elegant, classic, summery and stunning.

  6. Sam July 19, 2010 at 7:37 am #

    I love it! I went searching for the pattern and no luck, so I’m super jealous. And the buttonhole is awesome!

  7. Ms.Cleaver July 19, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Looks great – the dress is incredibly flattering on you and the back detail is great.

    Oh and when I’m in the midst of a project, I’ll totally squeeze in some sewing before I run off to work :)

  8. Gordita July 19, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    This is a great dress. And I really love the print. You’re right about the open-back detail. It really sexes up that simple dress.

  9. elizabeth July 19, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    Love it! It looks super cute. Love the fabric.

  10. Margie July 19, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    I absolutely love both the style of the dress and the print!! I grabbed some vintage patterns last time I was visiting my parents and this post makes me want to try them out!! I’ve been nervous cause of the sizing, but your dress just looks soooo cute!

  11. What-I-found July 19, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    Wonderful dress and it fits you like a glove!
    Well done.

  12. Tasia July 19, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks everyone for all the compliments! I know, I realize this pattern isn’t for sale anywhere – if you google McCalls 7743 it pulls up a Raggedy Ann doll pattern!
    It would be fairly easy to use this detail on any shift dress pattern though, just add a low V to the back and make two tabs to go across the back neck.
    @Margie: The sizing can be all over the place, I’d suggest making a muslin to be sure, although this is a step I never do. At the very least, measure off the bust, waist and hip on the pattern pieces to see how it will fit across your body?
    @Ms.Cleaver: Yay! Glad I’m not the only one. These days I find myself doing it more and more since the sun’s up so early. @Susannah: Nope, it’s hard to find nice (and affordable) dresses here too! A lot of cheap, polyestery choices, anything nice and classic is way out of my price range.

  13. Lisa July 19, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    What a beautiful dress it does indeed fit like a glove . It’s stunning !

  14. Megan@Moxie July 19, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Wow…..I love how your dress turned out. The open back is such a cute surprise. I’m so happy my fabric ended up being put to such a great use!

  15. The Cupcake Goddess July 19, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Gosh it’s so fabulous! I simply love the sexy back! The fabric is fabulous and I really love the handpicked zipper! So sweet, so fun, so flirty! Lovely, lovely job!

  16. A Sewn Wardrobe July 19, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    This *is* a great dress. The back is what really makes it. I’d love to see the straight-skirt version!

  17. Eleanor July 19, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    What an adorable dress! I love the fabric you chose for it. And you look lovely, as always! :)

  18. Jenni July 19, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Super Cute! Well done.

  19. learningnewtricks July 19, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Love the dress and pattern. It’s lovely and quite flattering. I think the bow is so cute, and doesn’t add a costume look to the dress. In fact, I think it adds an extra feminine quality.

  20. Jessica July 19, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I love getting sewing related mail too. Your dress is lovely – you know I love an open back, and I love how it’s all covered up in the front with a surprise in the back! I don’t think I could sew in the morning, since I need about 2 hours to manage any sort of wakeful state, but I will often catch 20 minutes of sewing time if I have a break in my day! (I work at home, so I am always near my sewing… which is great, but torturous on particularly busy days!)

  21. Sox July 19, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    That is really cute. I’ve never checked Etsy for patterns- now I am in trouble.

  22. Jennifer July 19, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I am in love with that pattern! I never would have thought of it and it looks wonderful. I’m also completely in love with your shoes. I want them just as much as I want that pattern.

  23. Venus de Hilo July 19, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    That dress is absolutely lovely, and worth the “improvisational sewing” headaches (I am far too familiar with those). Early morning is my favorite time to sew, perhaps because I am less prone to the impatience and resulting errors that seem to go with sewing later in the day.

  24. Erica July 19, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    This is so lovely!! Reading your blog makes me want to run, yes run! to my sewing machine. But I suppose I need to be running to the fabric store first! LOL! But this is a gorgeous dress, gorgeous fabric! Great job!


  25. petite josette July 19, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    this is lovely, well done ! I love the shape of the open back ! and the fabric you used is very pretty !
    BTW I love your shoes too, where are they from !

  26. Tasia July 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    @Lisa: , @What-I-found: Thank you! I’m lucky it fit as well as it did, considering I didn’t make a muslin :)
    @Megan@Moxie: Well thank you for the fabric! I’ve got a little stash from your store to work on and can’t wait to share the results with you.
    @The Cupcake Goddess: Thank you! I know you like a handpicked zipper too, it’s such a couture detail and something you never see in ready-to-wear! (Well in the stores I’d shop at, anyways..)
    @A Sewn Wardrobe: I like the straight-skirt version but always worry about fit over my wide hips! A-line naturally fits my body better. But I do like the little gathered-waist details! And the slim version is more elegant, too.
    @Eleanor:, @Jenni: Thanks so much!
    @learningnewtricks: One vote for the bow! I’ve cut it out and sewn the bow part so I might as well finish it, even if I don’t always wear it.
    @Jessica: Oh man, if I worked at home, my sewing machine would be a constant temptation! I’d be squeezing in a ton of mini-breaks to my workday :)
    @Sox: Uh oh, you ARE in trouble! There are always so many wonderful and unique vintage patterns on Etsy. I even subscribe to the shop feed of my favourite sellers so I’m instantly notified of new arrivals!
    @Jennifer:, @petite josette: The shoes are super cheap little pumps from Payless that I bought last fall, or perhaps the year before? They’re 100% synthetic and probably cost me less than $20. Love the purple colour and style and they’re surprisingly versatile, for a coloured shoe!
    @Venus de Hilo: Funny, because my early-morning sewing is usually full of errors due to rushing and cramming as much as possible before I have to head out the door. Whatever works!
    @Erica: Ahaha, I feel that way about most of the blogs I read! So many lovely things out there being made by you all. And everytime I swear off pattern purchasing, one of you shares your latest haul (Jessica, I’m looking at you!) and I head back to the Etsy search..
    Thanks for all the wonderful comments, everyone!

  27. Rebecca July 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    This dress is adorable. Love the fabric too! What a great print.

  28. ~Sherry~ July 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    This is very cute and looks lovely on you! It would also be nice in black with the bow!
    It is reminding me so much of the dress I have just done – also 60’s – but it has a tab (with button and bound buttonhole) with a keyhole at the front! It looks totally different to yours though!
    You can change your serger threads quickly if you cut them at the reel end, knot them with your new colour, and slowly draw them through. Knot securely or you’ll be rethreading the long way! This way I only have to thread my needle – no excuses now for the wrong colour!! :)

    • Tasia July 20, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

      Sherry, would you believe I have a serger that threads itself? And yet I’m still too lazy to change the threads.. what does that say about me? Probably that I don’t have enough time to sew :) Your 60’s dress is so cool, I love the pockets on your version!

  29. lsaspacey July 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Really cute and I love that fabric! If it’s not there already you should really add this pattern to the Vintage Pattern Wiki, at

  30. Janice July 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    It’s beautiful! Good job!

  31. Allie @ icepinkstars July 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    The back looks so sexy and cute!!! I love this dress! I wish I had the pattern, as I’m sure a lot of other sewers do too ;) This looks amazing and the fabric looks so retro. Great job!

  32. --ginger. July 19, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Love this dress–and especially your fabric choice. Totally excellent.

  33. Christy July 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Wow – this dress is amazing!! the fabric, the design! Congratulations on such an awesome dress!

  34. Gail July 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I am a true admirer! Love the print – pretty but not unsophicated. Love the cut – sexy but not not revealing. And what’s more you are encouraging my 14 year old daughter into sewing. My stuff is too well, middle aged to be enticing.

  35. Angela July 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    AHHH!!! What a fabulous dress! Love all the details and the print. You look amazing in it!

  36. Brumby July 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Love the fabric, seriously envious, luckily shipping cost so far south of the equator deters me from Etsy fabric purchases!

    The back detail is super sweet, I love open backs and have a few patterns in my stash eagerly awaiting summer to use!

    As for the changing of the serger thread, I will guiltily admit that my overlocker is one of those fan dangled things that virtually threads itself (you just push a button and it air-feeds the lower loopers) but I still avoid changing thread too. I tend to save all my black garments to sew together, then all my navy, then all my red. Now THAT is laziness!

  37. Katie July 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    I have a question!
    What kind of dress form would you suggest purchasing? I’m running around in circles trying to pick one out. Any advice would be awesome! By the way, the new dress is really, really cute.

  38. Andrea July 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Wow, that is really cute! I love designs from that era, and you’re right, the back detail does make it special. It looks like you did a fantastic job sewing it, too!

  39. Lisette July 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    I saw this on Burda and loved it and then you commented on my blog. So there you go.
    As soon as I saw this I tried to find a copy of that pattern, but no luck!

  40. Wanett July 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    It’s absolutely stunning!!
    And your shoes are FAB! I’m not sure which to envy more, your superb sewing skills or your shoe collection ;o)

  41. dei July 19, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    What a cute dress. Perfect for the summer and yep, I so get the cramming in sewing whenever you can.

  42. Joanie July 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    Nice! I saw this on Wardrobe Refashion. You’re an inspiration to me. I sew for work so I rarely sew for myself. It’s always good to see people who love to make their own things because I would like to more of that. Good work. :)

  43. Kristie July 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    I love a dress or top with a surprise sexy/unique back. Nice job! So adorable.

  44. Rachel July 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Gorgeous! And kudos for you for making it all turn out so beautifully after a few misreads. I love the key hole back, and the tab is very fun.

    I’m obsessed with etsy too — you’ve added fuel to the fire with two more sellers to look at!

  45. Uta July 20, 2010 at 5:44 am #

    Super cute! I love the back.

  46. Sofia July 20, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    JEALOUS! Can I pretty please borrow this pattern???????? It’s SO cute. This is going to be lame but it’s early and I’m saying it anyways: You brought sexy back!

    HA HA. But really, so adorable.

  47. Tasia July 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    @lsaspacey: Thanks! You know, I have heard about the vintage patterns wiki and never spent any time on it. I’ll definitely add this pattern to the database!
    @Janice: , @–ginger.: @Christy: , @Angela: Thanks for all the compliments! I liked the dress when I saw the pictures, but I’m even more sold on it after all the nice comments.
    @Allie @ icepinkstars: Thanks! I kind of feel bad after making a dress out of an out-of-print or unavailable vintage pattern.. it’s like ‘look what I made, oh but you can’t have it!” I’m such a tease :)
    @Gail: That’s fantastic! I’m so flattered that your 14-year old is inspired by me and the things I make.. I wish everyone thought sewing was cool! When I was 14 I loved the possibilities of sewing, you really could make anything and usually, more affordably than shopping!
    @Brumby: Ahaha.. I must have the same serger as you! It sucks the threads into place, it’s brilliant. We’re equally lazy.. or shall we say, efficient?
    @Katie: Thanks Katie! Wow, I could devote a whole post to dress forms, as I get that question a lot! Mine’s a Diana dressform and she’s adjustable. I love her and would highly recommend getting a similar model, that comes in a range of sizes.
    @Lisette: Aw.. thanks for the compliments and my apologies for getting your hopes up. If I see anything similar I’ll be sure to share on the blog!

  48. Tasia July 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    @Wanett: Ahh thanks! These shoes are a cheap pair but look way nicer and expensive than they actually are! Great for photographs :)
    @dei: Glad I’m not alone with the sewing cram time! It feels like a race to get home and get into the sewing room all the time. If I get ready for work 10 minutes early, I automatically wander into the sewing room and start fiddling with things..
    @Joanie: Thanks Joanie! You must mean Sew Retro, I posted the dress on there yesterday.
    @Kristie: Me too! It’s the business in the front, party in the back thing happening.
    @Rachel: Uh oh.. now I’ve shared two of my favourite sources! I’ll have to be quick if I want anything :) Etsy’s an awesome resource.
    @Uta: Thanks!!
    @Sofia: HA. hilarious! And of course you can borrow it! But only if I can take pics of your version to post and share as well :)

  49. Amy July 20, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Love, love, love it!

  50. Tasia July 20, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    @Amy: Thank you Amy! I love what you did on your jeans pockets, awesome stitch designs! (Completely separate note, but I thought of it when I saw your comment :))

  51. Shannon July 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    This is definitely a groovy little dress. I love the purpley fabric, and oh those shoes! Great job making it work with the way you constructed it. I can see why you would want to make this again. Love the open back!

  52. Ali July 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    Gorgeous! I love the sixties and have a juniors pattern that has a similar back closure. I love all the little details :) Definitely a pattern to do-over!

  53. Tasia July 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    @Ali: I’m loving open-back details in general – make your 60’s dress up so I can see it!
    @Shannon: Thanks Shannon! I was tempted to put it away in a drawer when I screwed up… but then I wouldn’t have a dress right now to wear. A little improvising and it’s all good!
    I’ve worn it a few times now and the only thing I’d change would be to raise the centre back by about an inch. It just barely shows my bra, and I’d like to not worry about it. Other than that, it’s super comfortable!

  54. Marie July 25, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    This is seriously cool and so beautifully made!

  55. Suzie July 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Wow! I love the back detail on this dress, it’s really cute.

    Those are amazing shoes

  56. Trisha July 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Love love love this dress! The print is something that I’d be attracted to in the fabric store. Great job!

  57. Karin (the Mrs.) July 27, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Tasia, I love this dress. The back is such a cute, surprising detail, and the fit is so lovely on you. Very nice!

  58. amber July 28, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    OMG, I LOVE this!! I’m such a sucker for an open back and this so fun and sexy. Please make this one again – it’s too cute to be a one and done pattern.

  59. Khristie September 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I love everything about this dress, I want one! Seriously, I have been looking for this pattern for ages….. if you ever want to pass it on, or lend it out to where it would be loved and treasured…..

  60. Julia April 15, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Gorgeous dress on you! I’d love to get hold of that pattern as the little details really make it special.

  61. bella July 21, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    What a pretty dress. Groovy!

  62. Alli May 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    It is SO cute. I would love to modernize a vintage pattern. Are they hard to work with because of their age?

  63. Rebecca February 17, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    What a great choice of fabric!

  64. Danielle November 8, 2014 at 5:45 am #

    I love this pattern! I’ve tried looking in a few places but can’t seem to find it; any suggestions? I’ve looked at the McCall’s website, Amazon, and eBAY (who only had a juniors copy of the pattern)

    • Tasia November 10, 2014 at 9:31 am #

      Those would be my recommendations along with Etsy – sorry you can’t find it! If you found a juniors copy you could possibly grade it up as needed. Check the measurements, Juniors is usually shorter in the torso and might be less curvy. More of a preteen figure than a woman’s figure. You could also look for similar styles, and add the back opening detail. Good luck!

    • Tasia November 10, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      Also here are some facts on junior sizing, for reference:
      Juniors’ for the Young Miss figure, about 5’2” to 5’5” in height. This figure, not being fully matured, has slightly fewer curves than the Misses’ size.
      Shorter, and less curvy. Both are fairly easy to adapt – lengthening if needed, adding to the bust or hips if needed.


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