1944 mccall skirt – wearable muslin

January 16, 2014

I’m kicking off my Twelve Pattern Challenge with McCall 5557, a vintage pattern from 1944. I don’t wear skirts everyday, (I’m definitely making pants next!) but I need one for a WWII reenactment coming up at the end of the month in order to fill in a few costume gaps. After my first fitting attempt in muslin fabric, I knew I had a few changes to make to the pattern before I could call it mastered and move along to the next on my list.


The first harsh lesson I learned while working on this muslin is: I’m a really aggressive iron-er. I caused my muslin fabric to stretch so much while pressing the seams that the waist band didn’t even come close to fitting the skirt as it should, even after stay stitching the waist before hand. I tried on the skirt anyways and realized I preferred the stretched out fit better, and wanted to add some more wearing ease into the waist on my next attempt.


This six gore skirt has a total of six seams (one at each side and two in the front and back), each one with a 1/2 inch seam allowance as indicated by the original pattern. I changed the side seam allowance from 1/2 to 7/8ths in order to better accommodate a lapped zipper. After trying on my wearable muslin and deciding I wanted a tad  more wiggle room, I also added one inch to the waist band. Rather than slash and spread each skirt piece to add an extra inch to the finished measurements, I decided to sew the remaining four seams at 3/8ths instead of 1/2 inch. Which, if I did my math right, would give me the total of one inch extra to the total width of the skirt.

I moved on from plain muslin fabric to some cheap navy blue cotton twill that was on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics and put my pattern changes to the test. Once again, my aggressive pulling and pressing with the iron made my fabric stretch and I ended up having to take the four seams back in by 1/4th of an inch! After having a mini freak out and feeling utterly defeated (because my waistband, once again, didn’t match up with my skirt), and then receiving a pep talk from Tasha via text, I made it work!


My skirt fits!! Wahoo! There are still a few small changes I want to make as I put together my final skirt, but the overall fit is awesome. In my defense, I really think the cheap quality of the fabric contributes to its tendency to stretch out a lot under heat and steam. I’m still going to be extra careful on my final skirt though. If it weren’t for the mishap with the stretching I think my math and my pattern changes would have been perfect. I’ll find out soon…

So Let’s Recap:

  • Changes I made:
  • 1.) Changed the two side seams from a 1/2″ to a 7/8″ allowance to make room for a lapped zipper instead of snaps.
  • 2.) Added one inch to the waist band to bring the finished garment measurement from 24 to 25 inches.
  • 3.) Sewed a 3/8th inch seam allowance on the remaining four seams instead of 1/2 as the pattern instructs.
  • 4.) Used bias tape to bind all the raw seams instead of using pinking shears.
  • Changes still to make:
  • 1.) Use a 7 or 8 inch zipper instead of the 9 inch. I think the 9 inch looks WAY too long and I don’t need quite that much room. The pattern calls for a 7 inch zipper (which was a standard for 1940s skirts) but I’m technically a pear shape so I need a bit more room than that, and they did in fact have 9 inch zippers in the 40s, though Tasha very kindly assured me that I’m ridiculous and no one cares how long my zipper is haha!
  • 2.) Use interfacing in the waist band (I always am too lazy to bother forget to do it.)
  • 3.) Raise the hem an extra 1/2 inch
  • 4.) Use a smaller stitch length for stay stitching the waist of the skirt.
  • 5.) Use a button instead of a metal hook to close the waist tab? Hmm… I really like buttons.


Lessons Learned – Well other than learning I have a horrid tendency to pull things out of shape as I press seams open, I also realized I need to brush up on how to use hem tape/blind stitching to finish hems. I started hemming my skirt and then realized I forgot to baste and press under 1/2″ to gather the hem a bit before applying the hem tape. I also need to make sure I’m doing a really good job of blind stitching the hem so it will still hold up on a gentle cycle in the washing machine (I won’t wear it if I cant machine wash it). Finally I realized that taking the extra time to bind all the seams is worth it because it looks really nice!

Another lesson I learned while assessing my wardrobe wants and needs is I always add color to my wardrobe with wild prints. I need more solids in my wardrobe because my wildly printed separates don’t go together, but solids don’t always have to be black, navy, or khaki. After having a serious epiphany, I realized I can sew solids that are also fun colors! DUH! I know.


After considering all your wonderful suggestions from my last post, and realizing I wanted a solid non-boring color, I decided on a hunter green brushed twill for my final version of McCall 5557 (I also picked up some awesome rust colored corduroy but I think that will end up being a pair of pants so I’ll save that discussion for another post!).

The purpose of my Twelve Pattern Challenge is to take basic patterns, perfect the fit to the best of my ability, and then alter those basics to create variations of the same “perfect” pattern in order to create a handmade wardrobe I’ll actually love to wear. After my plain hunter green version I’m already scheming the possibilities for other versions! Like these two examples from Sears and Roebuck, Fall 1943.
skirtsFall1943I need pockets in my life.

I’ll be back soon with my finished skirt and some more, less boring, photos 😉