This is maybe the most unsurprising post ever. What? I made a knit dress in a bold print from one of the most popular knit patterns ever, and I love it? I truly apologize for being so predictable. I suppose the only slightly unexpected thing about this dress is that it took me so long to get around to it.
The pattern is, of course, McCall’s 5974, the Palmer/Pletsch pattern that they actually call “the perfect knit dress”. Ordinarily I would take umbrage at that sort of labeling, but you know what? It is pretty perfect. It’s the classic crossover bodice with just the right amount of pleating, a skirt with lovely front pleats that give it the perfect amount of swishy fullness, and a tapered tie/belt/thing that defines the waist nicely. The only thing that’s not perfect about this pattern is how much fabric it requires! This sucker, with its long waist ties, cannot be squeezed out of 2 or even 2 and a half yards. Ask me how I know that. The reason it’s taken me so long to actually make it up is that the 4 or 5 previous times I thought I’d found the perfect fabric and laid it all out to cut I’d come up short. Finally, when I saw a bolt of this awesome print rayon knit at the crazy Solvang store, I thought of this pattern and cut off 3 yards and some change. Just to be safe. And so the perfect knit dress finally happened!
I made only one adjustment: on Amanda’s sage advice (sidebar: I love her graduated dot version! I thought I would have to be content with admiring it, since it’s such a unique fabric, but I just happened across a very similar fabric down here in LA and I nabbed it! I feel a copycat dress coming on…) I narrowed the wide end of the ties so they don’t come up as high on the side seam. I cut a 10-top-12-bottom as usual and I just took it in a little in the upper arm/armpit/upper bust area. I do wish that I had done my usual wrap top SBA by pinching out an inch or so along the neckline, since it does gape a bit when I slouch. Well, next time! I finished the neckline my usual way, by zigzagging clear elastic to the wrong side along the edge, then folding it under and twin needle topstitching. It’s by far my favorite v-neck finishing technique because it’s very easy and much more foolproof for me than a self fabric binding (and I sure hate cutting long skinny strips of fiddly stretchy rayon knit).
The back is not broken up by a midriff, and has a center back seam, both of which I thought I would be annoyed by but I’m not. If I ever make it without the tie belt, though, I would probably want to add a back midriff for balance and eliminate the seam, since the midriff would serve the same swayback-shaping purpose.
One last thing of note about this pattern – it may be the perfect knit dress pattern, but it’s far from the perfect knit instructions. As it has been extensively noted on PR (wow, I’m pretty sure I’m the last person on earth to make this dress), these instructions are like out of 1988. I mean, I am not slipstitching the midriff lining down over the skirt seam, thank you very much. And in what universe would this dress need a zipper? Honestly, I really only glanced at the instructions anyway, since I’d heard they were not great and I’ve assembled about a million of these type of dresses anyway. One thing I did notice was that the layout diagram told me to attach the two pieces of piece 8, the tie, together before cutting, but my tie pattern was all in one piece. I must have gotten a newer printing of the pattern tissue and an old instruction sheet. I was suspicious because I felt like the tie was a little short, but it’s like that on the pattern photo so I think I cut it the full length. (Not that you can see it in this busy print, but trust me that it’s on the short side.) I may make it a smidge longer next time.