Good afternoon, friends! As you know by now, the Curvy Sewing Collective editors are big fans of tried-and-true patterns. Once we perfect the fit of a garment, we sew it up again and again, supplementing our wardrobes with splendid variations on pencil skirts, knit tops, and shirtdresses. Well, maybe that last one is just me. I am a hardcore shirtdress fan girl. Though I love dresses of all sorts, the ones I wear to death have buttons and collars. That feminine twist on a men’s classic shirt brings me back every time.
For the past month, I’ve been on an absolute roll with one particular shirtdress pattern: McCall’s 6696. With the cutting of my fifth version last night, 6696’s tried-and-true status became glaringly obvious. After years of hunting for the perfect shirtdress pattern, I’ve finally fallen in love. So, what makes 6696 a keeper exactly?
Let’s take a look at her style lines, shall we? With three sleeve variations and two skirt options, pleated full and straight, McCall’s 6696 can reproduce so many variants on this wardrobe staple. Thanks to those options, this pattern beautifully fits a number of body silhouettes. The real strength of this pattern lies in the details, however. Instead of taking shortcuts, 6696 has all the best shirtdress bells and whistles: separate waistband, button bands, a collar with a collar stand, pockets, yoke and waistband facings, and optional belt loops! There is even an additional bias-cut slip pattern, for wear under sheer and lace fabrics. It’s the holy grail of shirtdresses! I can’t tell you how many patterns I’ve cooed over, only to end up with floppy collared muslins, thanks to the lack of a stand. This one has given me four perfectly turned collars, without any hideous buckling or flattening.
The rest of construction is just as satisfying. The full skirt, which is the version I prefer stylistically, is heavily pleated all the way around. It’s a bit laborious to do all those pleats, but some good markings and a bit of patience should see even beginners safely through. The way McCall’s has you construct the pleats means they won’t shift around, during construction, and give you headaches aligning them with the waistband. There is a bit of hand-sewing involved throughout the dress, but most of it is easily bypassed with top-stitching. It adds detail and saves you time. Woohoo!
6696 also looks good in a wide range of fabrics. I’ve made it in three different weights of cotton–poplin, quilting, and dotted Swiss lawn–and have just cut out a wool crepe version. Changing the body of one’s fabric will change the impact of the skirt’s fullness, but both floaty and structured iterations suit the pattern lines. The included slip pattern is super easy and quick, made up in silk or cotton voile. If you’re longing for an eyelet or lace dress of any sort, it’s a can’t miss slip pattern, in its own right.
Even better, the sizing on McCall’s 6696 is more expansive than your average Big 4 pattern. Not only does it go up to a size 24 (46-39-48), but there are separate bodice patterns for cup sizes up to a D. That means the pattern’s actual out-of-the-envelope bust measurement goes up to 48 inches plus ease. To test this more inclusive bodice sizing, I made my first version without any alterations other than grading. I cut a size 20 at the shoulders, to a 22 D-cup bodice, back to a 20 for the waist and hips, to cover my measurements of 46-34-45. It was a miraculously good fit! With a bit of dart lengthening to take care of some fabric excess, it fit my 36E chest without pulling or gaping.
Since then, I’ve perfected my personal fit a little bit more, with an FBA on a smaller bodice. However, this is a fantastic pattern for those concerned about bust adjustments, both full and small. With the amount of ease involved in this pattern, and my own personal experience, I would say most DD and E cups can beautifully fit into this D-cup bodice without an FBA. Though, should you wish it, this is the pattern used in our very own FBA tutorial! Both an FBA and an SBA are very straight-forward on this bodice, thanks to its two dart construction.
Overall, I would give McCall’s 6696 four out of five stars on the curvy scale. Though expansive, I wish the size range went up another two sizes or so, to include an even larger range of body types. With its classic, tailored design and silhouette options, however, I heartily recommend this dress. If you’re looking for a project to perfect buttonholes or collars, this is a fantastic dress to construct. The instructions are vivid and helpful, with surprisingly clear diagrams. (Note: I do use a different collar construction order, found on Four Square Walls.) Happy sewing!