Back in March, I posted a guide to plus size shirtdress patterns. Of all those dresses, one particularly caught my eye. McCall’s 7351 seemed to have it all: a proper collar construction, interesting design options, and even multiple bodice cup sizes. While I already have a tried-and-true shirtdress pattern, this one begged to be tried out. Would it live up to expectations? Could it replace McCall’s 6696 as reigning shirtdress champion?
Spoiler alert: It absolutely could. This pattern is a winner!
Pattern Name: McCall’s 7351
Size Range: Up to Size 22 D-cup (46″-37″-46″)
Pattern Description: M7351 is a classic darted shirtdress, with three skirt variations (circle, handkerchief, and shirttail), three sleeve options (sleeveless, short, and elbow length), and either side seam or patch pockets. The bodice comes in multiple cup sizes, up to a D-cup, with one side dart for shaping. There isn’t a waistband on this pattern, which differentiates it from M6696, but there are separate button bands and a proper stand collar. Pattern pieces are also included for a fabric covered belt to coordinate with the dress.
Let’s talk sizing first, shall we? Picking a size with a multi-cup pattern can be tricky. Traditional wisdom says use your high bust measurement, then adjust to fit, but the urge to pick a straight size is tempting. On this pattern particularly, I would caution against that impulse. Based on flat pattern measurements alone, this pattern runs big. My measurements are 46-35-47, which should put me in a Size 22 D-cup, according to McCall’s. No way. That would have been comically large, y’all! Instead, I made a Size 20 D-Cup, then added a Full Bust Adjustment (one inch) and a Narrow Shoulder Adjustment.
During the FBA, I made two other major changes. As someone with a larger bust, I hate one dart bodices. They result in big honking darts and overly large waistlines almost every time. So, when doing a standard FBA on this bodice, I added a waist dart to the pattern. Then, I lengthened the side darts by two inches, as their original end points made the bodice muslin too blousy. I’ve noticed this tendency toward very short darts in other multi-cup patterns, so it’s something to watch out for. Nothing makes darts pointier than ending them too soon!
Despite being intended for measurements smaller than my own, the Size 20 with adjustments is a nice fit. The bodice fits well, without gaping, and I have more than enough ease in the waist and hips. Any more and the dresses would verge into too-big territory! After my first version, I also raised the armscyes by an additional inch, as they were sitting a little low for my taste.
To date, I’ve made three versions of this pattern. My first two were variations on the full skirted View D, one as-drafted in a khaki floral sateen and another altered into a pink gingham half-shirtdress. I love the swishy three-quarter circle skirt of those two dresses! It’s a much fuller skirt than most other shirtdress patterns, but the flat insertion at the waistline prevents additional bulk. The result is a pretty, feminine silhouette that is easier to construct than the endless waistline pleats of McCall’s 6696.
My third version, sewn up in a bird-print stretch cotton twill, used the narrow skirt and shirttail hem of View A. While I am more comfortable in the full skirts, this dress was also a favorite. When using a crisper fabric, the skirt of this version becomes almost an A-line, creating a fun, modern silhouette that’s more casual than the other views. The closer fit took some getting used to, but it’s still easy to move (and sit!) in and super comfortable to wear. I’ve gotten so many compliments on this dress, in particular, that I may need to add more narrow skirts to my wardrobe.
All three dresses use the same constructions methods, which vary a bit from the pattern instructions. All my seams are serged to finish, though French seams would be lovely on this dress, and the yokes are faced with matching fabric. The armscyes are bias bound with self-fabric and the collars, button bands, and collar stands were all top-stitched to finish. Top-stitching is the secret to sewing shirtdresses, I promise. Not only does it save time, but it provides a super neat, professional finish. Win-win!
If this is your first time sewing a shirtdress, the provided instructions are actually rather wonderful. They’re pretty in-depth for a Big 4 pattern, use sensible construction methods, and will result in a tidy finish. I would heartily recommend this pattern as a crash course in collars and buttons. Since the bodice and skirt are simpler than M6696, it’s not such an involved project, but it will give you a good foundation in shirt-making skills. Plus, the collar fit on this dress is spot-on. I am always making collar patterns smaller to fit my neck properly, but this one worked perfectly straight-from-the-envelope!
In the end, this pattern is a keeper. Even when adding a dart, this pattern should be easier for most women to fit than M6696 and is much quicker to sew. It results in a classic, well-tailored shirtdress with some fun skirt options. Even better, the size range is probably higher than what the pattern envelope states. With slightly smaller seam allowances or light adjustments, someone who usually wears a 24 should easily fit into the size 22 D-Cup pattern. As always, compare the flat pattern measurements to your own, but I suspect it will work out.
Size Range (1-5): 3.5 — Yes, it only goes up to a size 22, but with multiple cup sizes and generous ease, this pattern’s sizing is broader than it first appears.
Instructions (1-5): 5 — Easy to understand, with good diagrams. Does it get better than that?
Construction Process (1-5): 5 — There are lots of construction avenues to take with this one, but the instructed process is straightforward, the dress is a cinch to construct, and your final result will be well-tailored and chic.
Final Fit (1-5): 3.5 — Docking points for common commercial pattern issues, like wide shoulders and deceptive amounts of ease, though that can work in our favor.
Overall Rating (1-5): 4 — It’s a chic, well-drafted pattern that gives its predecessor a run for the money. This would be a great pattern to learn shirt-making skills with!