Recutting Dresses for Size and Style, 2 Ways

It’s hot out, and I’ve finally, firmly fallen in love with a popular pattern for knit dresses, McCall’s 6886 (this pattern was reissued in March of 2020 under the new pattern number 8058). It’s garnered a “best pattern” award on Pattern Review for five years running, and it’s easy to see why. It’s cute, fast, and easy to sew!

I’ve been sewing up all of the knit fabric I can find in my stash, but I’ve also found myself eyeballing some of the older dresses in my closet. I have two that are still in good shape, but just don’t match my current shape the way I would like. I decided to recut both dresses using the pattern pieces from McCall’s 6886 as my guide.

I had already traced the pattern onto tracing paper as whole pattern pieces. I recommend this anyway, but especially for altering, since it’s easier to see if you have accidentally moved the pattern piece.

Dress #1 is a tank-style dress in black bamboo that I made a few years ago. It is just too big for me, now. The armholes were a little low and loose, so I knew I could get away with losing a little fabric along the entire side seam. If your dress is the same, just grab your trusty scissors and slice away the entire side seam. Then, you can lay out the dress back, flat, place your pattern piece on top, and slice away any fabric that’s sticking out.

Repeat for the front, and you’ll be ready to stitch that side seam. I sewed mine on my serger.

If your armhole binding kind of thick or just doesn’t play well with your serger, you could end up with a weird spot like this:

This is not a big deal. Simply stitch the part of the seam you couldn’t manage on the serger with your sewing machine, then tack down the seam allowance in that area.

The second dress I altered is a tent-style dress. I like the fabric, but as a silhouette I’m just not into it right now.

It’s inside-out because I seriously thought I could just pin out the excess, at first.

The fit is good through the neck, back, and armholes. In fact, since I cut off the sleeves to make it sleeveless, the armholes are a tiny bit snug. I did not want to risk losing any fabric in that area. That meant I didn’t want to open up the side seams.

Since the center back had a seam, I laid it out flat and lined up the center seam with the center back line on the pattern. I then outlined the pattern piece in chalk, pinned, basted the seam, and checked the fit before I serged the side seams.

A note here: If you have done this before, you’ll see I made a mistake. If you don’t want any accidental pleats or puckers where your new and old seams meet, you want a smoother transition, not the sharp angle I’ve placed at the top of the seam here. When finished, I did get a small pleat there, but I’ve decided I don’t mind it.

I’m very pleased with my two “new” dresses! Making over clothing is a nice skill because it saves money and resources, of course, but it also saves a lot of time. I’m pretty quick, but even I can’t usually pull of two dresses in an hour.

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