Little Letter Dress: McCalls 7743

It’s finished! My second version of McCalls 7743 is complete. I’ve called it the Little Letter Dress because that’s what the fabric is called. (So uncreative, I know. This is why I stick to a  theme when naming my patterns. It’s easy to name the next one when they’re all named for Vancouver area places and streets!)

little letter double gauze

Back to the dress!

mccalls 7743 little letter dressIt was really sunny out so all of my photos turned out very pale. In some the dress looks almost white! (And my shoes completely blend in with my legs. It’s a bit weird but we can’t complain about sunshine after all the rain we’ve had!) To be honest, I’m not thrilled with the photos, I feel like they don’t do the dress justice. Light colours in bright sunlight are hard to photograph!

Here is the first version of the dress here, now faded and pulling apart at the seams, too worn out to wear. Goodbye, old dress! (Many of you suggested that I keep the fabric and try to do something with it, and I will. Or I plan to, anyways, it’s in my scrap box waiting for me to learn to quilt.)

mccalls 7743 (frosting)

The fabric is a Nani Iro double gauze that I bought at Spool of Thread. The last time I was there, they still had some in stock! It’s lined with a cream cotton voile from Télio. 

Double-gauze fabric seems like it would be sheer, but with a lining of cotton voile it’s quite opaque. I’m wearing a black bra and you can hardly tell!

The bra I’m wearing has a slightly vintage shape to it, so it fits the dart placement of this 1965 pattern well and has less of a rounded effect. I’d tried this dress on a few times with a modern padded push-up bra and you can really tell the difference. This bra makes my chest look smaller, but more suited to the bodice of this dress. It’s really true what they say in fitting books, wear the bra you plan to wear with the finished garment when fitting a dress! You can see the different bra shape in the side view photo here.

mccalls 7743 side view

I changed the neckline, raising the back to cover the back bra strap and lowering the front so it would sit more comfortably. I also lengthened the bodice a little, but with the change in bra it now looks like there’s a little too much space in there, especially if I’m not standing or sitting up perfectly straight. (No slouching in this dress!) Probably if I were to make it again, and plan to wear the same bra, I’d go back to the shorter bodice, or alter it again so the length is in between the two.

bow belt on mccalls 7743 vintage dress

I made the belt! It’s a bit over-the-top sweet but I like to have the option to wear it. I think for a daytime summer wedding it would be pretty with the bow belt. (Who are we kidding, I’ll probably always wear the bow belt, it’s adorable!) The bow pattern piece was missing but I faked it with a piece cut the same width as the belt, and 18″ long.

bow belt on mcalls 7743, vintage sewing pattern

The belt is secured with heavy-duty snaps. (Or poppers, or press studs.) These are the type of snaps that are hard to open again, so they’re great for a snug belt. I sewed them very securely, going around the holes several times. I wore this dress to walk outside, take the photos, and wore it while I typed up these notes. The snap didn’t budge at all! (Very reassuring for wearing the dress for longer periods of time.)

that snap is sewn on tightly!

The skirt did not actually end up longer than my first version, because I followed the pattern instructions for hemming the skirt with a wide hem. (Because I’d already trimmed the lining to the finished length, which gets tucked in the fold of the skirt, and I didn’t mind it being shorter.) I kind of forgot what I had planned, as I worked on this dress in stolen moments of time, a couple minutes here and there.

The instructions call for you to trim the lining to the finished length of the skirt, so the hem of the skirt fabric folds up and over the raw edge of the lining. Then you sew the hem to the lining, so the hemming stitches are completely invisible on the right side. It’s nice because the lining doesn’t separate from the skirt and there’s no possibility of it hanging down longer than the skirt, but it doesn’t allow for any changes to the hem length after cutting.

hemming the dress

Next time, especially as I’m thinking of making a solid-colour version, I will add to the length. It’s cuter when it’s short, but a couple of inches would help bring it from cute to elegant.

mccalls 7743 vintage dress from 1965

The other thing about lining cotton fabric with cotton lining is that the layers stick together a bit, so the skirt can look wrinkled when in fact it’s the two layers of fabric gripping to each other. It’s soft and very comfortable, and it will be breathable in the summer heat, but it requires a little smoothing out now and then! (Something to think about for your upcoming summer sewing projects.)

I hand-picked the zipper. (Tutorial here!)

hand-picked zipper

I did a bound buttonhole at the back opening, but sewed the button on top of the buttonhole through both layers so it’s not functional.

little letter dress, mccalls 7743, bound buttonhole

And on the inside, I whipstitched the loose edge because I remember safety-pinning the first version of the dress in place.

whipstitch loose edge

Hm, what else? I really like how this turned out. The shape of the dress is simple so that the pretty, girly fabric doesn’t look too cutesy. (Something with gathers or ruffles would probably be too much cute.) I loved the original dress so much that I literally wore it out, so it’s nice to have a new version.

back of the dressHere’s the back view – not a great photo of the dress as I’m twisted around, but you get the general idea! (I have better photos of the back from the first version.)

This is the beauty of sewing – no dress is ever irreplaceable! You can use the same pattern, look for similar fabric, and re-make a dress you love as many times as you want. Even if you’ve lost the pattern and have to buy it again, it’s still worthwhile to get the dress of your dreams back.

More posts about this dress:

I did a quick search to see if this pattern is for sale anywhere, but sadly no! It appears that there are at least two other patterns called McCalls 7743 and neither is this dress. It’s a good one though, pick it up if you see it!

What do you think of version #2? (What would you pick for version #3?)

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61 Responses to Little Letter Dress: McCalls 7743

  1. Sølvi May 13, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    This is beautiful! it really screams spring! :-)

  2. Bella May 13, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Looks great, Tasia…so pretty for the summer.

  3. didyoumakethat May 13, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    I just made a Ginger skirt out of that fabric! It’s lovely to wear and work with. I love the back detail of this dress and, of course, the bow.

  4. Tanit-Isis May 13, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    Oh, it’s gorgeous! I love the fabric, colour, the little bow—gorgeous. Also your insanely neat hand stitching. :)

  5. Diane @ Vintage Zest May 13, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    I love the little bow belt and the bound buttonhole. I have yet to tackle one!

  6. Sue May 13, 2013 at 7:06 am #

    This is super cute! I really love that fabric.

  7. Sarah May 13, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    So pretty! I keep looking at double gauze fabrics, maybe for some pyjamas

  8. Far May 13, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Very very lovely! And so wonderfully done. Thanks for the link to the handpicked zipper tute. I forgot to bookmark it the last time you shared it and I totally forgot what it’s called (lol) and has been racking my brain to recall… now i will remember, hand-pick, HANDPICK!

  9. Roisin May 13, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Tasia, this is really sweet. I know what you mean about the length taking it from cute to sophisticated though – I’m sure your next one will be quite different as a result. I love the fabric though, and I think the belt is spot on!

  10. Elizabeth May 13, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Super cute!

  11. Candace Duffy Jones May 13, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Love the dress, the fabric is perfect for it.

  12. michelle May 13, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Did you leave the selvage on the dress? That’s super cute!

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      I did along the centre back zipper, but it’s now hidden by the lining. That’s where the picture came from! (It’s a good trick to avoid finishing the edges, using the selvedge edge as one of your straight edges.)

      • Elisabeth May 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

        My mom gave me my first few sewing lessons and she admonished me to never ever use the selvedges when cutting my pattern out, not even in the seam allowance. Why was not exactly clear, I think because the fabric in the selvedge is different from the rest of the fabric and therefore will behave differently (I’m not sure why this would matter in the seam allowance, though)? Anyway, is this one of those things that each person has their own opinion on or are there some places in the garment it’s okay to have the selvedge in the seam allowance and some that are not?

        The dress looks beautiful and I love the fabric. It’s so cheerful!

        • francesca May 14, 2013 at 12:23 am #

          According to my guru (my aunt Bibi) you never leave the selvedges on as they shrink at a different rate…. haven’t you ever had to snip selvedges before actually laying out patterns, because they were sort of shorter than your pattern? Happens to me often with cotton. She had taught me that you can use selvedges if you’re desperate for a bit more width but should at least cut the very edge off.

          • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:34 am #

            Ah, that is a good point! In this case the fabric hardly had a selvedge, it was soft fabric all the way to the edge nearly. (May be something to do with the construction of double gauze?) I know what you mean about the selvedges being shorter and tighter than the rest of the fabric. They weren’t really stiff or tightly woven on this fabric, or I wouldn’t have used them for that reason. Sometimes I will use the selvedge on the inner edge of inseam pockets, so it works as a bit of a stabilizer. Haven’t had any problems but you’re right, it may be a good idea to avoid the possibility of anything unusual happening to the fabric, especially because you can’t go back once the fabric is cut. Your aunt Bibi is a smart lady!

        • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:29 am #

          You’re right, it depends on the fabric but in many cases the fabric in the selvedge is woven tighter than the rest of the fabric. In this case the fabric hardly changes towards the selvedge. If the fabric is noticeably different, then I wouldn’t do this. It’s not something I normally do but because the fabric texture doesn’t change in the selvedge here, I decided to try it. I’ll see how it wears over time and if that seam does anything unusual!

        • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:32 am #

          To answer your question on ‘is this a matter of opinion?’ I would say that it’s probably not a very popular thing to do, because it’s unpredictable how that fabric might change, and if you’re newer to sewing you won’t be able to make the judgment call on whether it’s OK or not.. so the rule books say don’t ever do it.
          It’s hard to explain and I have tossed the scraps, but I am pretty sure the selvedge was soft all the way to the edge else my instinct would be not to use it!

      • Angela May 19, 2013 at 4:33 am #

        Hi, how can I get a copy of this pattern? I guess I was expecting the pattern along with your write-up. It is a lovely dress.

        • Tasia May 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

          Hello Angela, I haven’t seen this pattern for sale anywhere! It’s McCalls 7743 if you wanted to search for it online. It’s a vintage pattern, not a pattern I designed. I’m just sharing it as a sewing project I made. Sorry if my post was confusing!

  13. Alice May 13, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    It looks great!

  14. Amanda May 13, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Such a gorgeous dress!!! And I love that pattern on you!! I have some similar double gauze fabric I was planning to use soon for a dress.I want to underline the top, but line the bottom, and was planning on using a cotton / polyester blend lining fabric. Do you have any other suggestions for a lining for a double gauze that’s maybe less likely to stick to the dress fabric??

    Congratulations on another lovely dress!! Your sewing skills really amaze me – such an inspiration!!

    xo ~ Amanda

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

      That’s a good question, I picked cotton so it would be soft and breathable. If you pick a slippery lining, the layers won’t cling to each other but the dress won’t be as breathable. So the dress might look better, but it won’t be as comfortable to wear in the heat. I really like the feel of cotton linings, I’ve done them on both Chantilly dresses, the linen Cambie and the bird-print Cambie, so to me, the cottony feel is more important than the sticking layers.

      A cotton-poly blend may be ever-so-slightly more slippery than a 100% cotton so that may work well! It’s hard to tell sometimes until you get the fabrics together in a garment. It also depends on the style – a fuller skirt wouldn’t have quite the same problem as the skirt and lining layers are farther apart. The slimmer the skirt, the more likely that the layers will stick.

      I hope this helps!

      • Amanda May 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

        Hey Tasia!!

        Thank you so much for the quick reply!! I will go forward with the cotton / poly blend, because, like you, I like some breathability!! Especially here in Texas, the summers here are sweltering and I’d rather have something cool to wear out in the heat!!

        Thanks again for all your help!! I use your site SO MUCH while sewing – you are like a teacher for me!! Anything I’m not sure about, I refer to your site. :) And I’m so grateful for that, especially in my first couple years learning to sew. :)

        xo ~ Amanda

  15. Katy May 13, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Ah this brings back memories from 3 years ago! Nice that you’re finding time to sew for yourself. The dress looks lovely!

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      That is so great that you’ve been reading along the whole time! :) I’m squeezing a little bit of sewing time in here and there, even just ten minutes at a time!

  16. Rin May 13, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Gorgeous! I love Nani Iro fabrics. I’m translating one of their Japanese patterns for a men’s judo pants right now.

    Great tip about wearing the right bra when measuring/fitting. I’ll have to definitely do that for a color block dress I’m making next :)

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      Yeah, it really makes a difference! And then you have to remember to wear the right bra with the right dress after the fact. Even if the sizes are the same, the silhouette can be totally different from bra to bra.

  17. ClaireE May 13, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Absolutely gorgeous! I love the belt and your practically perfect hand stitching. Great choice of colours.

  18. Lynn May 13, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    I think dress 3 should be a pretty jewel tone, solid and a little longer. It would be very different — and quite elegant.

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Agreed, my next version will be longer, and I agree that the solid colour plus the extra length will be more elegant!

  19. Leigh May 13, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    It looks great!! As for number three – perhaps a solid color? Something that coordinates with your sweater? It would hide the back, but sometimes, the afternoon starts out fine (outdoor party), then it gets to be a cool evening and a coordinating sweater is nice.

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      A solid colour would be great. Easy to wear, easy to style differently for work and for weekend! Here, it definitely still gets cold in the evenings or when the sun goes away. A sweater is pretty much always necessary!

  20. Kerry May 13, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    So pretty! I love the hand picked zipper- it works really well as an extra detail in the double gauze. I have some of this fabric so I am imagining the softest dress!

    • Tasia May 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

      Thank you ! It is so soft, it’s going to be nice to wear!

  21. funnygrrl May 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    So cute! And yes, wear the bow!
    This is perfect for summer. Great make.

  22. Jane May 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Tasia that is just so adorable! And you simply must always wear the belt :) I had the same trouble photographing the colours of a Nani Iro double gauze in similar colours… it was almost impossible to capture, and in bright sunlight looked completely washed out! Maybe some effect of the weave.

  23. Adeline May 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    The prints are so girly and pretty!
    Where do you usually buys your patterns from? Certainly hope you will do a tutorial on the belt some day because it’s super functional. You can make 1 for any dress and jazz up a shift dress almost instantly. And even more awesome because it’s going to be handmade!

    Ade (

    • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Vintage patterns I usually buy from Etsy, or check the thrift stores. To be honest the thrift store patterns are usually 80s and 90s. Etsy has the biggest selection, and if you find a seller you like, they usually keep getting good patterns in stock so check back frequently!
      For the belt, I could show how it goes together next time around, but in the meantime here is a bow-belt tutorial on Tilly’s blog:

  24. Mezmerina May 14, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Lovely fit and great fabric. Such classic lines – reckon I might try the version without the cut out back for a work outfit! Not that I don’t love the cut out and your fab bound button hole!

    • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      It would be perfect for work without the cut out back. (Or with a cardigan!)

  25. ZoSews May 14, 2013 at 3:29 am #

    Tasia this is gorgeous! The belt is so not too much all :)

    • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks! You all have convinced me it’s not over the top :)

  26. Donna G May 14, 2013 at 5:49 am #


  27. Jennifer May 14, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    So cute!! I think the bow belt is a must.

    • Tasia May 14, 2013 at 11:46 am #

      I agree! Seeing the photos helps, it really does finish off the look!

  28. Stephanie May 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Gah! This is so gorgeous! I think I prefer it even to the first version which I also loved! All your little hand stitched details are fabulous :) Love love love!

  29. Dorothy May 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Your dresses are so pretty and neat!

  30. Truly Myrtle May 16, 2013 at 3:38 am #

    It’s so cute! I love the front – and isn’t the vintage shape with your bra just so flattering? There’s something to be said for a smaller bust :)
    I love Nani Iro fabric – haven’t tried the double gauze yet … but I sure will now :)

    • Tasia May 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      Ah thanks! It takes a bit of getting used to, especially after wearing padded bras with such a rounded shape. This is totally different, but I’m finding it fits the dart placement of so many of my dresses.
      The double gauze is really soft and pretty, it may be a little delicate for a fitted garment but so comfortable to wear!

  31. Kera May 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    This pattern is so cute and could be even nice as a below the knee length! Your photos are beautiful! I love to see what your doing and your so inspiring!!

  32. Kelly May 19, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    It looks beautiful! You’re so right about dresses never being irreplaceable when you sew, I love that!

  33. crystalpleats May 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Your new summer dress turned out wonderfully.

  34. Vivian May 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    About the Japanese double gauze material, do you prewash it? I’ve heard from other places that it shrinks quite a bit. I’ve been ogling at loads of Japanese double gauze fabric; they’re just so pretty! Hope you can give some advice about handling this kind of fabric, because its my first time using them!

    • Tasia May 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

      Yes! I pre-wash everything, especially cottons. I don’t know if it shrunk as I didn’t measure before and after but I expect cotton to shrink. Other than that I treated it like any other cotton, handling it a little more gently and bring careful not to snag jewelry on it as it’s quite soft and a little delicate.

  35. Melissa May 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    This dress is so pretty! This is a gorgeous dress for spring and summer – the open back is so nice.

  36. Olivia May 30, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Tasis, would it be weird to ask the make of your bra? I’ve been looking for a more vintage shape, but bullet bras are a bit too much if you know what I mean.

    • Tasia May 30, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Not weird at all! It’s What Katie Did, the balconette bra. Look under Bras and you should find it, Glamour Underwire Bra I believe. Hard to post a link on my phone but that should get you started!

  37. Salla Makkonen June 25, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Hi! I love those dresses. The models are feminine and so are the fabrics. Can I ask how expensive fabrics do you use? Your creations just look so nice that I thought they might be made of expensive fabric. I usually buy fabrics from 5€ to 15€ per meter.

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:58 am #

      It depends, I’ll use fabrics that cost anywhere from $3/metre to $25/metre. In this post we talked a bit about choosing fabrics that look expensive but don’t necessarily cost more:
      Good fit and a flattering style are often more important than using the most expensive fabric, I’d say. Hope this helps!


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