Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Simple Summer Dresses – M5838 {Review and Modifications}

Last week I finished up a pair of new summer dresses for the girls made from McCalls 5838. I hadn’t really paid attention to this dress when the pattern was released, but I liked it when I noticed it sewn up on a dressform at JoAnns.


I used a quilting cotton, from JoAnns and cotton broadcloth for the lining. I read the reviews on PR in my prep for these dresses and noted several reviewers that omitted the zipper and added a casing for elastic in the bodice back. I liked the idea of this and that’s what I did. I took photos of my modifications, click the link below to see the details!

The first adjustment I made was to omit the front bodice stay. I didn’t feel it was necessary to have a stay and a lining as separate pieces, so the lining piece served both purposes.  Because I was omitting the center back zipper, the bodice back and lining pieces were cut on the fold. I was making two different sizes (the 3 and the 4) as my girls now have such a large gap between them, I cant get away with sizing to the larger of the two anymore :(  So for the size 3, I trimmed down the shoulder straps to 8 inches long and for the size 4 I trimmed them to 9 inches long.

I sewed up the shoulder straps and placed them RST with the bodice back, then sandwiched the back lining, also RST with the bodice back and stitched across the upper back seam. I also understitched the SA to the lining to ensure it would lay flat and not roll the lining to the right side. I always understitch everywhere possible, it make such a huge difference!

Sorry for the darkish/dingy looking photos – these were taken at night, in my basement, so not the greatest lighting situation!


Then I placed the other ends of the shoulder straps RST with the bodice front (after I had added the gathering stitches to the top and bottom of the bodice front) and sandwiched the bodice front lining piece and stitched across the top edge (beginning at the side seam, across the top and back down around to the other side seam).


Then folding out the lining, I placed the bodice front and back, RST at each side seam and stitched through the fashion fabric and lining in one pass. Whenever I am sewing across fashion fabric and linings in one seam, I always place a pin directly in the intersecting seam right at the point of the seam allowance I am using. This make (almost always) perfectly intersecting seams.


And here is the finished bodice from the front and back:


To create the casing for elastic across the bodice back, I stitched 5/8” below the top finished edge of the bodice back starting from one side seam and ending at the other.


Then I inserted a piece of 1/4” elastic, adjusted the length to fit by slipping in on one of the girls and secured it by stitching in the ditch at each of the side seams through the elastic.


Here’s the bodice back after the elastic was inserted:


Next, I took the midriff front and back pieces (back also cut on the fold) and stitched them RST at both side seams (both the fashion fabric and corresponding lining pieces). Then I layered the midriff fashion fabric and lining, RST with the bodice and stitched all the way around.


Here’s the bodice with the midriff pieces attached from the right side and the wrong side:


I attached the skirt exactly the same way as the midriff – layering the fashion fabric and the lining with the bodice/midriff and sewing all the way around. I chose to make the skirt simply the width of my fabric, 44 inches around, which was only a little less than the total of the skirt pattern pieces. This way I only had one seam on the skirt, instead of two and making it a little narrower (less to gather) and saving a bit of fabric. And that was it!


You can clearly see the size difference in the two dresses. I did put size tags in though just to make it easy for the girls or my hubby to know who’s is who’s. :)


Here’s a shot of the insides – completely finished and lined. I love the sight of a fully lined dress! :)


I really like how they turned out! I think the omission of the zip and making it just a pull over dress was great and these dresses sewed up really fast – I already have plans for another set in a really pretty cotton swiss dot fabric.

I think the neckline on the bodice is maybe just a tiny, tiny bit wide, I might adjust it slightly on my next pair, but these dresses are totally wearable as is.



Leave a comment if you have any questions!


  1. lovely dress! Your girl looks adorable in it.

  2. This is such a well written explanation of how you modified the pattern I had to say thanks. I have often wondered about zips in my little girls dresses and the fact that most of them are play dresses rather than for formal occasions.
    I have to agree with you that the neckline looks a bot wide but I am sure that would be easy to fix. Thanks so much for sharing, I truly appreciate your post.

  3. What pretty dresses! I love the omission of the zipper - made it into something that can easily be gotten on by a preschooler. Love the polka dots, too.

  4. Awesome tutorial...and the little model is just adorable. Thanks for sharing your steps to make it, I am not fond of zippers to begin with and you have made it that much easier to do. Thanks again.

  5. These dresses are so beautiful! Your instructions are very clear and concise, I can't wait for your patterns to come out!

  6. That was SO helpful! Thank-you for your review and instructions for alteration. And, the dresses are super cute!

  7. Such lovely dresses! THanks for sharing your modifications on the pattern - it's so helpful when others share what they've learned through trial and error. Your dresses turned out so beautifully, and look stunning on your gorgeous girls:)

  8. So adorable!!! Love the zipperless version- I might be able to handle it without crying. :)

  9. this is absolutely adorable, I love your fabrics and your modifications. Just perfect!

  10. These are beautiful! I could never do this, but wish I could!

  11. Beautiful! I've looked at that pattern several times and kept putting it back. Now for sure I need to grab this! Your daughter looks gorgeous in her new dress.

  12. Found your Blog through Pattern Review. Thank you so much for this post! Just picked this pattern out for my daughter and this was very helpful.

  13. Only through this way, we can discuss how to create a carefree childhood for the kids.
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