Next Up: The Instant Dress, McCalls 3660

Next up, I’m sewing a new just-for-fun dress project. The pattern is McCalls 3660, labelled as an ‘Instant Dress.’ (Who doesn’t like the sound of that, Instant Dress? I sure do! Just add water, or something like that, and a dress appears!)

McCalls 3660, the 'Instant' Dres

What does ‘instant dress’ really mean? Well, it means that the pattern is printed on tissue, and you’re meant to pin the entire tissue sheet to your fabric, then cut around the pieces.

The instant part is that you’re saving time on cutting out the individual pieces and laying them out on the fabric. (Which doesn’t make it any faster if you’re a pattern tracer.)

prepping McCalls 3660

I am doing my usual preparations to the pattern – photocopying the front and back, and then taping them to a large manila envelope, so I can store the pieces and any traced ‘extra’ pieces in one big envelope.

(I have a handful of these envelopes left over from when I first started the business and for some reason, shipped single patterns in these massive envelopes. Now I use smaller envelopes so the patterns don’t bump around in there!)

Here’s the ‘instant’ pattern tissue:

instant dress mccalls 3660

and here is the cutting diagram (basically, place tissue on fabric and cut!)

cutting layout mccalls 3660

In order to make this work, the grainlines are turned so that the bodice piece can fit on the same piece as the circle skirt.

bodice back of mccalls 3660

Normally the bodice would have the grain running up and down the piece, but to make it fit the grainline is rotated to go across the piece instead.

You can see my fabric choice in the background there – it’s a cotton print that I bought on Etsy from SelvedgeShop – a great shop for vintage fabrics from all eras. It reminds me of playing cards and I thought it would be a great dress to wear in Vegas, except that I didn’t get around to making it beforehand.

I’m making View A, the one with the keyhole neckline. That’s the one that I loved most when I saw the cover, so that’s where I’m starting! I’m not making a muslin. (Such a rebel, I know!) I’ve compared the pattern pieces to dress patterns that I know fit and it’s comparable if a little on the large side, which I can always take in. Fingers crossed that it works out! I’m short on fun-sewing time these days and I really want to complete something, which is why I’m rushing in without testing the waters first.

That’s what I’m working on! Have you ever seen a pattern labelled ‘Instant Dress’ before? Do you think it actually saves time or it’s just a marketing trick?

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40 Responses to Next Up: The Instant Dress, McCalls 3660

  1. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) June 26, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    that’s kind of a fun idea, instant dress cutting out (ha, if only) I have some vintage-ish patterns where you iron the pattern piece onto the fabric and the blue lines transfered to the fabric. Probably didn’t work as it was a pattern company fad that faded away…
    Cute keyhole neckline, looking forward to seeing your dress.

    • CGCouture June 26, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      I kind of want patterns with iron on pieces now.

      • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:44 am #

        I like that idea too – it would be easier for patterns that are single-size otherwise you’d end up with a lot of transferred lines all over the fabric!

  2. Jennifer June 26, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    I really like the keyhole neck and fabric, looking forward to seeing the completed “instant” dress.I also like your storage idea. I have many Vintage patterns and I use ziplock baggies but I feel it looks messy.. Have fun sewing.

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Thanks! Yes, I used to do the baggies system for works in progress. It worked really well when I had a lot of hanging space, I would hang the baggie with the fabric. Now I have filing storage so this works well!

  3. Aunt Marti June 26, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Wow, I’m glad “instant” doesn’t mean “easy!” This will make an excellent summer dress, and I imagine printing the pattern on tissue was quite an advance in its day. Love your fabric choice, can’t wait to see the photos. Do you have enough fabric to make the bodice on the lengthwise grain? — I think it will wear better if you do.

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      No, I don’t have enough! In fact I have to cut a chunk out of the skirt at the hem, overlapping the corner of the bodice in order to squeeze all the pieces on. Luckily I’m short and I’ll end up hemming it anyways.
      I think this was shortly after the time that pieces were printed, I have a early 50s pattern that’s unprinted tissue, but then I also have a late 40s pattern that was printed tissue. So it’s around the time that printed tissue would be a selling feature too!

  4. Melissa June 26, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    I actually have this pattern! I haven’t made it yet and I’m not sure if it’s even close to my size. I can’t wait to see your version!

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Cool! Let us know if you make it!

    • Wanda August 8, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Do you know anywhere to get a copy of McCalls Vintage 3660 “Instant Dress Pattern”?

  5. Marie June 26, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    What a beautiful pattern, you’re going to look stunning in it for sure! And how interesting on the Instant Pattern front…never seen that before!

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      It’s neat eh? I can see it being a selling feature if you were new to sewing and saw that on the pattern envelope.

  6. Missy June 26, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    “Instant” reminds me of the older (think, 90’s) BMV patterns that say things like “2 Hour* skirt!” with the fine print that it doesn’t include cutting time :) For me, making a garment is going to take as long as it’s going to take :)

    Also, keyhole neckline aside, I think Butterick and Vogue have similar “vintage” style patterns.

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Oh yeah, I remember those 1-hour and 2-hour patterns! You know, it shows how much of sewing time is spent cutting, sometimes the cutting can take just as long as the sewing if the style is simple.
      I agree, there are tons of very similar styles to this one! Simple bodice, boatneck, circle skirt – it’s a very common silhouette from the era.

      • Jillian Wasiewicz June 26, 2013 at 11:01 am #

        I made a supposedly “2-hour” skirt – but I think they were working on the basis that it didn’t include cutting time AND it would fit straight out of the envelope! With fitting issues it took me several days lol

        • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 11:06 am #

          Aw :( I think that can be discouraging if you are new to sewing! That’s a good point, it doesn’t include fitting time either.

        • Missy June 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

          One of the “2 Hour” skirt patterns my mom passed down to me is a bias cut skirt with an elastic waistband. That would probably be the easiest (to fit, at least), but would still take longer than 2-hours to make, I’m sure. Yay for gimmicky patterns! :P

  7. Kelly June 26, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I’ve never seen anything like that! It’s such a lovely, simple dress – I’m looking forward to seeing it all made up!

  8. Irene June 26, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    I have that pattern too! I’ve traced off the bodice pieces and made a muslin, which fits pretty well, but I haven’t made up the dress yet. The instant-cutting idea is a cute one, but being a fabric miser I can’t bring myself to actually cut it as-is. I have another one from that line, McCall’s 3971, but I haven’t done anything with that one yet because I bought it in size 14 and need to grade down.

    • Irene June 26, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Oops, forgot to mention that by the time 3971 came out, the sizing system had already changed and 14 meant a 34″ bust.

      • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:46 am #

        Cool! Once you get the fit right, the sewing part looks pretty straightforward. Let us know if you make it!

  9. Beata June 26, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I love this siple vintage designs… It will be wonderful summer dress :-)

  10. johanna@projects by me June 26, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Oooh, looking forward to seeing how the dress turns out. Love the fabric!

  11. Ami June 26, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Gorgeous dress pattern! I’ve never come across an ‘instant’ one before even tho I love using vintage patterns! Fun concept tho! :) Happy sewing!

  12. Dana Cetz June 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    I love your red hair. Mine is bottled but yours look natural.

    I hope this is not too forward but I love the vintage pattern. How much did it cost and where did you purchase it?

  13. Sue June 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    I have lots of old fashioned, I mean Vintage, Patterns! Dating back from the 50’s. I was about to throwj them all out but I see them in a different light now! Maybe they will get used again afterall!! Trouble is I don’t have flat tummy & tiny waist anymore! I wonder if I could adapt to suit?

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Oh no, don’t throw them out! There are so many people that love them, at the very least take them to a secondhand shop.

      You can totally adapt the waistline, just decide how much to add at the waist, and divide by the number of seams. (So if there are two side seams, and you need to add 4″, then add 2″ to each side seam, 1″ on each side of the seam. Draw a diagonal line connecting the bustline to the waistline and that’s your new sideseam line.)

      • Missy June 26, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

        Hah! I have a bunch of patterns from the 90’s that totally scream NINETIES, but I can’t bring myself to throw them out either :P

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      Hope that didn’t come across as bossy – you can do whatever you like with your patterns! :)

      • Nothy June 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

        Sue, the dresses from the 50s were made to flatter all body shapes – think about how much women’s waistlines were fluctuating during the baby boom! Do look at those patterns again!

        Note to Tasia: You never come across as bossy – just enthusiastic, fun and charming! I can’t wait for your next pattern – I;m hoping for a dress pattern….

    • Wanda August 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Do you have this pattern? I would be interested in purchasing.

  14. Gjeometry June 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Oooh, the idea of ‘instant’ dress does sound appealing! But, I’m really not too sure how this is any faster or why you couldn’t do it with any pattern. Regardless, i can’t wait to see it sewn up!

  15. Lucy June 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Wouldn’t work for me – all my dress bodices have to come up at least an inch, if not more, at the waist or they bubble.

    It seems like an interesting idea for people who can fit something out of the envelope – but even without all the tracing that I do, would it really be that much harder to roughly chop round the pieces and cut them out properly? Smells like gimmick to me :-)

  16. Sarah June 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    ooh la la what a beautiful dress to make – and instant too! I love that pitch of theirs and it makes sense to just lay it out and cut it. I always trace off patterns so I can keep it to make other sizes but with this it would be a delight (and as it is sewing for fun) to just cut straight in. PERFECT fabric too, cant wait to see it all done. enjoy!

  17. Bernadette June 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    When you consider the fabric widths of the mid 1950’s, the layout offered by the “Instant dress” is most economical for the pattern printer as well as the fabric yardage. Working with 32″, 36″ and 42″ fabric widths for circle skirts would require just the layout shown for a two seam skirt. With the skirt cut on the crossgrain, the bodice (also cut on the crossgrain) would “match” patternwise at the center front for an obvious patterned fabric. Don’t think “wear” would be much of an issue for this type of garment in a closely woven cotton….

  18. Megan June 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Such a cute pattern! Although the instant portion doesn’t sound like it would save all that much time. Can’t wait to see it!

  19. Virginia June 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I’m a tracer so the instant part wouldn’t help much. Then again, pattern companies will always favor cutters.

  20. Lisette June 27, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    I think since it fell out of favor with the pattern companies not soon afterwards, it must have been a bit of a flop. Trying to pin giant pieces of tissue pattern piece is a pain. So one that equals a whole dress? No thanks!

  21. Wanda August 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Anyone know the where abouts of this Vintage Mcalls 3660 pattern for sale either paper or digital?

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