McCalls 2401 Sheath Dress – Breakfast at Tiffanys, Anyone?

Who doesn’t love a great little sheath dress?  So classy, so wearable, so Audrey Hepburn!
Since my Washington, DC daughter needs relatively conservative work clothing, and she has the perfect shape for it, she has graciously consented to be my guinea pig model as we search for the perfect TNT – that holy grail pattern that you can always count on to ‘work’ – the “tried and true” for sheath style dresses.

After much perusing – and trying to locate patterns offering small enough sizes – we settled on McCalls 2401, a versatile little pattern that includes everything from a sleeveless dress with a boat style neckline to a v-neck with long sleeves.  Just 5 pattern pieces, a zipper, easy back slit…lookin’ good!

This was originally intended to be my first sewing attempt, and it was…however, actual completion proved a bit more complicated than anticipated due to a few fit issues.  In fact, the navy mystery woven stretch fabric used on the New Look 6103 pencil skirt was leftover from fabric purchased for this dress.  We first did a muslin, which ended up marked all over the place for “take-ins”.   Waist and back length were perfect, but overall it was just too big for my size 0/2 daughter!  The darts and seams all needed adjustment.  Several times.  Sizing ready to wear versus pattern sizing is really a project!

Sewing Thump on the Head #4

  • ALWAYS go by the Body Measurements in the general sizing section of the pattern.  Check.  Except when that doesn’t work, and the pattern is STILL too big.
    AHA. There’s a little section at the bottom of most pattern backs called “Finished Garment Measurements”.  This seems to be the best indicator of actual fit, so compare these measurements against those of a similar style dress that fits you well.  Simple, right?  Except when it’s not…

There’s also something called “pattern ease” that has something to do with the amount of wearing ‘ease’ or ‘movement’ pattern makers build into a garment.  I haven’t successfully located that information yet on an actual pattern from the “Big 4”, but have seen it talked on sewing forums and mentioned in pattern descriptions from companies like Style Arc.  Of course the amount of “ease” varies depending on the company, the pattern, and the performance of the recommended fabric – knits vs a non-stretch woven, for instance.  I’ve also heard the term “negative ease” bandied about.  Have mercy!  I feel an online class might be called for here!  I decide to push on…

 McCalls 2401 bills itself as an unlined, “semi-fitted sheath dress”.  Since I’m aiming for a nice, professional look that mimics RTW, I decide to throw in a lining.  (Think big!)  My daughter will be here for the weekend, so with great anticipation, the sheath dress – with lining – gets partially stitched up…and the lining’s too tight.  WHAT?  How can the lining be too tight?  It’s the same size as the dress AND I used what JoAnns calls its “luxury lining” fabric – a sort of silky looking anti static stuff that I used (successfully) to line the pencil skirt.  Did. Not. Work. for the sheath dress.  Sigh.  This calls for the seam ripper!  A quick trip to the store, yields a thin, polyester knit lining – to go with the stretchy woven, right?  Onward and upward.  Sheath dress, take two!

Then the miracle happens.  Since I want a RTW look for this dress, I google “lining a sleeveless dress” and miracle of miracles…an incredible video  from the talented Colleen G Lea appears in the search results showing how to do exactly that!  If you haven’t seen her amazing hat trick with lining, run, don’t walk to the link above and watch it before you sew your next lined sleeveless dress!  Thanks to Colleen, McCalls 2401 was conquered:

Front: I’ve lightened this just a bit so you can see details:

Back view:  Back closing is a little closer to lining up this time!

 Inside the dress. The lining & outer fabric join at the shoulder seams:

…and here it is on my lovely model:

ndphoto 32

Close up of bodice…

ndphoto 4

So there you have it…one sheath dress ala Audrey Hepburn.  All it’s lacking is a nice string of pearls, some gloves, and a stylish clutch!  We still have a bit of nipping and tucking to do fit-wise, but once that’s figured out, I think we might have our first TNT!  In fact, we liked this pattern so much I decided to try it in a …KNIT!  That fiasco project is coming up next post!

Stay tuned…

PS…If you’d like to see another view of this pattern, take a look at Alice in the UK’s version on her blog Moonbeam

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11 Responses to McCalls 2401 Sheath Dress – Breakfast at Tiffanys, Anyone?

  1. Beautifully put together! Hope she likes it and would love a pic once she is ready to model!

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much! That’s the downside of long distance sewing…I’m waiting for my model to take a picture in it. It had to be shipped to her after all the adjustments had been made! Will post as soon as I get pictures – I can’t wait to see them myself :)

    • admin says:

      Pictures posted…and we’ve tried the pattern in a knit, which was a complete fiasco! Hopefully someone will learn from my errors and avoid similar disasters..!

  2. prttynpnk says:

    Tag, baby- you are it….I’ve nominated you for an award or two…..

    • admin says:

      Gosh…awards? Not for sewing, surely! You will change your mind when you see my upcoming post in which I tackle a knit dress…it’s terrifying. Hopefully it will help someone avoid the fiasco I created…!

  3. Judith says:

    This dress is brilliant – simple yet extremely stylish! She will be wanting you to whip up a few more for her…

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much, Judith! We did “whip up” a version in knit that turned out to be a complete disaster. Read about it in my current post – it’s a very sad, sad tale, but hopefully my fiasco will help someone else avoid something similar!

  4. Jo says:

    I’m currently making this dress, when do you put the zip in, before you add the lining ?

    • admin says:

      It’s a great pattern, isn’t it? I put the zipper in first, then hand stitched the lining to either side of the zipper. Not sure if there would be a better way to do that, although I’ve seen RTW dresses that appear to have the lining machine stitched to the zipper. Maybe one of the amazing sewists out there knows of a way to do that!

      Good luck with your dress! Please feel free to post pics of your finished project – I’d love to see it! My daughter and I both LOVE this pattern.

      PS…Don’t miss that video that shows how to put the lining in…it’s sheer genius!

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Comments, tips & ideas always welcome!