What’s the Deal with McCall’s 4425?

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I’m resting, hiding out in the country for an extended weekend.  It’s nice.  I was watching an Ebay auction for Advance 7701, recently featured on Handmade Jane’s blog. (She’s still using her copy, and I totally respect that.  Check her’s out, you’ll see why I’m smitten.) I don’t often get “pattern lust” but I’m itching to get my hands on this pattern.  I want to make it in a medium weight teal merino knit- I can almost taste the delicious folds of fabric lying just so around my shoulders.  I got pattern lust baaaad.

When I found it on Ebay I thought “Huzzah! It’s meant to be!” Then forgot to check the bids before the auction closed.  Dammit.  “But Steph,” I said to myself, “you could draft it.  Maybe.  Probably.”

“No Steph, no.  Can you imagine how many muslins you’d go through getting the folds and proportions just so?  At least seven, perhaps eight. Simple patterns are the hardest.

“Yes, Steph, yes, you’re right of course.  Surely the internets has another copy of this pattern…”

I spent more hours than I care to admit combing through every possible vintage pattern dealer on the internet to find Advance 7701.  I’d happily settle for Advance 8190:

In fact, I might like this one more.  But alas, they’re nowhere to be found.

I beefed up my dresses inspiration file as I spent hours fruitlessly scouring the internet for non-existent wrap blouse patterns, and ran into this anomaly:

Yes, it’s nice.  I wouldn’t look twice except I found copies of it for sale for $130.  No kidding.  Once I picked my jaw up off the ground, I googled the pattern number to find out why.  Did Edith Head herself draft it?

The Selfish Seamstress featured her copy in a delightfully smug post, but at the time she wrote that post, the pattern was already ridiculously overpriced and in high-demand.  I read all the comments.  I’m still confused- why???  It’s a pretty simple strapless bodice with a sarong skirt, she posted a picture of the pattern pieces.  I’m sure it’s very pretty made up.  But seriously, why $130? 

I don’t say this often, but I could BUY a dress like that and alter it for less than what it would cost to make.

I came up with a theory- please correct me if I’m wrong or offer alternative explanations.

My theory: The drawing is pretty.  The models look slim and voluptuous, the dress is both elegant and understated.  But, well, that dress won’t look like that on anyone without some serious girdle or boning action.  It’s an engineering impossibility.

It’s tempting to tell myself I’d look like that and my body and lifestyle would be magically transformed if only I could get my hands on McCall’s 4425.  When I first started sewing from vintage patterns, I expected to look like the models on the envelope when I completed a project.  Never happened.  I learned to look at a drawing objectively and picture how it would look on my figure, which led to fewer disappointing surprises.  Sometimes I still get it wrong, but I think my expectations now are a little more reasonable.

For example, I know a merino wrap blouse with cut on sleeves and a wrap-tied waist would never leave my body come chilly weather.  It would be snuggly, warm, and provide the gentle waist definition my figure craves.  And no girdle.

So what’s the deal with McCalls 4425?  Is it aspirational pattern-buying?  Was it indeed drafted by one of the greats and I’m missing it?  Have you ever been disappointed by the difference between a dress on your body and the dress on the envelope?  Would you buy a pattern if the figure on the front was shaped more like you, or is that a turn off?  Do you have any bewitching mid-50’s Advance wrap blouse patterns for sale?


  1. Wow! $130 for a McCalls pattern – that really does take the cake. Personally I have no clue why it is priced so high. I have seen Women’s Weekly cookbooks that my mother paid $6.95 for going for almost $100 on eBay though as reprints have been so rare in the past.

    On the topic of willingness to buy a pattern if the drawing featured on the envelope looked more like my own – yes! I still struggle with visuallising what I will look like in a particular garment and at times what the fabric would look like. I have tried to get around this with photoshop but my skills with this software package are so limited that I gave away trying – far too many hours spent making very little progress.

    Last year I made this dress (http://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1173-products-11081.php?page_id=852) to wear to my nieces baptism. I decided that the woven (pink patterned patchwork) fabric I had would soften enough in the wash for it to flow enough for my taste. I could not have been more wrong. I made the dress (on a deadline to fly to Cairns), tried it on and discovered that the dress looked more like a pink marshmallow melting over dairy cow boobs than anything else. In fact, it mad me think of my Nanna’s nighties as well. Needless to say, I didn’t wear the dress to the baptism. It has now been cut off into a top that I wear to school – I’m still not in love with it, but in the kitchen I have room to move and no concerns about showing parts of my body which I don’t wish to share with the student population. This summer, my plan is to make it in the cerise knit fabric that I bought on sale – hopefully with much greater success. I just need to decide if I will using matching or contrast black stitching on the darts which are folded to the exterior. However, once again, I’m off to Cairns, so I shall have to put aside my desire to make this dress until I get back in the new year. At least the house will be clean – it’s skip day tomorrow and reading your blog was my break from attempting to sort my sewing supplies. I swear fabric breeds!

    • Oh dear! I like you in more fitted styles, that vogue wouldn’t be suited to you at all. Maybe for exactly the type of activities you described…

      We never had our draft-a-thon. Maybe after the New Year? Beh, I should just email you. :)

    • Well, you’d think so if they’re demanding that kind of price for a COPY… Otherwise, what would be the point? Although maybe one person thought “I know, I’ll take this pretty and ordinary pattern and stick a big fat price tag on it and see what happens!” Then other people copied because they thought there must be some back story??

      No idea.

  2. I have seen M4425 for 250.00 and I love the pattern but not the price. I am sure anyone who really wants the dress can figure out how to make using other patterns. The dress is a simple spaguetti strap and the skirt is a sarong type with a big bow.

  3. I read the post by the Selfish when it was published and I was shocked to see the prices people pay for seemingly simple patterns. I don´t know what´s up with McCalls 4425, but I do understand your Advance blouse obsession. I´ve had a similar one for a while (a simple kimono sleeve shirt, 50´s style) and finally found one on Swedish ebay. Yay! Good luck hunting!

  4. $300? Seriously? I’d just take Gertie’s class: It’s on sale for $30 over the holidays! I’d have much more confidence in her ability to make you look fabulous.

    • Umm, Gertie’s class is a tutorial, not a pattern-the pattern she uses is a Burdastyle freebie. As seamstresses who were sewing successfully years before the Gertmeister even knew what a dart was, that’s another $30 saving if you get my drift…

  5. I really don’t get prices like this for a vintage pattern (although I’m not surprised Elaine could put the price of something through the roof, you mention it was high before.)

    I remember stumbling ages aggo on this pattern: http://tanitisis.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/my-first-vintage-crush/ and falling head over heels, but the asking price was $125. Dude.

    Learning to look past the envelope is one of the surest signs of streamstressly “maturity”, I think ;). It’s something I have to keep reminding myself, though I’m much better than I used to be…

    As for the wrap blouse/sweaters, I’m thinking the way to go would be draping. Much less of a headache. I’m betting the neck-folds on 8190 are created by it being a straight edge folded around the neck and down the front.

    • You’re so eminently sensible about this type of thing. I guess I should put on my big girl panties and try to drape it… But I like making patterns because I can always make another one.

      It makes me smile reading such an older post of yours. Now I want to ransack your archives. But that $125 pattern was very very interesting from a design perspective, and it’s a rarer larger size…. I’d give them $50, no more. :)

      Elaine totally could put the price up, in fact that’s what I expected to discover, but no. No reason for the pricing… Hmmm.

      • I am not sure how this works but I drape/fit a crack at a pattern on the intended victim (given I sew more for other people than myself, but for victim read dummy) and adjust it, then cut a pattern from it. You could do that too! :):):):) Then you’d have both. I love the win win. And FWIW I think that wrap around cardi would ROCK on you.

  6. ” Would you buy a pattern if the figure on the front was shaped more like you, or is that a turn off? ” No problem-it would be refreshing to see a mature body wearing the clothes I hoped to produce. I sometimes look at the indie pattern companies that feature older customer pics, and find that it is easier to focus on the design when I am not faced with **extreme** style and sophistication.

    • I’ve been playing with making fashion sketches lately, and making them a little more… Realistic… They’re not as appealing as extreme, disproportionate models, I believe it has something to do with human brain wiring.

      Maybe if I’m feeling brave I’ll post some sketches! My drawing skills are pretty sad, but I’m trying to get better…

  7. i think a wrap blouse (real wrappet) is not so good in some knit…… because the knit will get longer and longer and wider and wider the more you tighten up. and it needs to be tight at the waist to show of the waist. in my own experience wrapblouses with draping are difficult for a little more “wood in front of the hut”. but if you find a pattern that works i will do a wrap blouse to for next summer :-)

    • Yes, that’s true… I’ll probably tape all the edges to keep that from happening…

      “Wood in the front of the hut?” If that means what I think it does (boobies), I LOVE it! hehehehe.

  8. Vintage patterns seem to be proving their worth in collectibility! I wonder if there are collectors out there who don’t sew but are into the collector’s market of them. You never know… I remember when Bernina 830s went from averages of $300 on ebay to about $1000 overnight–it just took one person who was willing to auction and pay that high and every seller all over the internets set a higher reserve after that. (I was having vintage Bernina lust at the time and a friend gifted me her old one!)

    I so know getting a certain pattern lust and combing through every vintage rabbit trail I can find to get my hands on it. I totally think you should draft or drape it–by the time it reaches wool knit it will be so soft and disguising… the beauty of knits ;)

    • Wow. Just wow. About the Berninas…

      I have had the experience of putting patterns up for sale on ebay and watching the price for a rather ordinary pattern shoot through the roof in the last few minutes.. $70 for a generic late 60’s mail-order pattern? No idea….

      You’re right, knits are forgiving… But I’m so LAZY, and sometimes I want someone else to tell me how to make it.. ;)

  9. I honestly don’t see the appeal, and I feel like I could draft it in an afternoon anyway if I was suddenly overcome with the need. If I can alter existing patterns to mimic designer RTW, why not to mimic vintage patterns? The economics of the thing its fairly ridiculous.

  10. I think your theory as to why those patterns are so expensive is absolutely spot on. I still think I will be as thin as and have the waist of those models on the front. oh well…

    • I know. Sometimes I have to mentally shake myself and remember what my body actually looks like. I like my body, rather, but it’s easy to look at something like that and forget.

  11. I actually have that pattern and have made it a few times. It’s actually really, REALLY simple. And nope, didn’t make me look like the cover illustration. In fact, both versions I’ve made I’ve ended up selling.
    I’ve seen lots of patterns fetch crazy prices. I think in essence you’re paying for the cover art. And there is still a big collector’s market for them out there. Folks I meet at antique stores and whatnot are usually genuinely surprised I actually SEW with the patterns ;)
    That blouse is super cute, btw. I can see why you wanted it!

    • I take that back- in some instances it’s for cover art, but some are purely design. Ones with interesting designs, or something that’s not as common to see in patterns nowdays, or something there’s not already a repro or costume pattern for something similarly seem to go higher.

      • Yes, design is one of the main reasons I actually buy a pattern. Don’t get me started on hoarders.. I have strong opinions there, but I know not everyone thinks like me. But it’s maddening to think of all the treasures that are probably locked away in someone’s basement!

  12. I agree, the drawing on M4425 is slim and voluptuous and very appealing.
    And i think the detail with the sarong is pretty sweet. Getting it to go from a bow into a curved seam at the hem is just tricky enough to make me prefer a pattern as opposed to drafting it myself.
    However. No way could I spend that kind of money on a pattern. It seems arbitrary- there are other pretty patterns available.
    And after the housing boom, I am suspicious of anything overpriced. There could be a vintage pattern bubble just waiting to pop.

    Love your red & green headers! Christmasy in a southern hemisphere-sort of way!

    • Heh, I would LOVE to think there’s such a bubble…

      Thanks! It’s so weird, maybe I was too busy previous Christmasses to notice how the trees deck themselves out. And perhaps distracted by the tacky snowflakes and snowmen in shop windows… It’s a slap in the face on a blistering hot day in December…

    • I know, right? Our op-shops don’t seem to have much at all by way of old patterns. 70’s seems about as early as it gets. Someone brought a big box of old delicious patterns to my old workplace, she was threatening to throw them away rather than give them to Salvation Army! What?!! Breaks my heart to think of it, it really does.

  13. No chance I would ever pay that much for a pattern. There has to be some reason– maybe it’s for the history of it? Maybe the dress has some sort of connotation with a famous person– I dunno.

  14. I too once lusted after this pattern. There’s actually a repro online store that sells copies for $35 which I considered buying once.

    The price comes from the rarity of it I guess – there’s not many of them kicking around. And some sellers like to hike up prices for no good reason. There’s a particular seller on Etsy that has patterns upwards of $75. I actually saw one for $175 today! And it wasn’t even in good condition! Just because it’s a big floofy 50’s ball-gown.

    I guess when I get a dress form I will draft something like this. Or finally watch Gertie’s tutes on Craftsy.

    Just a note too – that’s not actually a bow I don’t think. I have a (bought) dress that has a similar feature and it’s actually gathering – almost like a drawstring gather but it’s not adjustable.

    • :) I draft all kinds of things without a dress form. I believe a dressform is useful for draping. Drafting is usually done flat and then muslined… Or not.

      It does look like a little gathered section -I bet it would be stunning in a silk dupion, what a way to show off the sheen in the fabric.

  15. For that price, you could take a drafting class – or at least buy several good drafting textbooks. I like Taran’s idea to drape it. Can you make a paper pattern of it once you’ve done the draping? Or does it depend too much the fabric.

    I think knowing I don’t have anything near the 50’s silhouette is part of the reason I’m drawn more to the 60’s and 70’s. By that reasoning, I should love the 20’s! But not so much.

    • ooooh I like the 20’s… I keep wanting to dabble, but my choice is to look like a big fat blob in the clothes or alter them so they fit my figure, but then they lose that 20’s boyish silhouette…

      Audrey Hepburn was rather slim like you, and she rocked the 50’s… Just sayin…

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    • You’re welcome! If you want to give it a whirl and would like to see the directions let me know (although I’m pretty certain you’d be able to figure this by yourself with no drama). I need to scan them in for a friend of mine who fell in love with this blouse also :)

      I’ve had stupidly amazing luck with getting bundles of patterns for a steal from Etsy and Ebay that were not titled very well – or scoring patterns from estate sales (my latest is a 1945 swimsuit pattern in my size that I’ve seen go for $75 – I paid $0.50!), However, this is actually one of the very few patterns I purchased separately because I loved it so much. Thankfully it was at a very reasonable price. I’m itching to make it, but I haven’t found the right fabric yet.

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  18. So cool that other folks are coming to your rescue! It’s the old story of supply and demand…we all have boxes of old 70’s and 80’s bad fashion patterns…waiting for the day when they will be cutting edge again…or maybe not.
    Still it is fun to see patterns that could be worn backwards like 8190. I’m picturing women with pointy bras carrying that off!

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