McCalls 7381 Review: Tie-waist dress


Review Info

"A relaxed-fit summer dress with variations for a mock-tie waist. Something a little different from the usual summer dress. A great relaxed pattern but not overly well finished behind the scenes."


Our rating:

Buy it for £8.75

My review of McCalls 7381. When the weather gets warm I always find myself struggling each morning to find comfortable summer clothing. Well, the warm weather hit in the UK around May, so I dutifully went out and bought piles of floaty, comfortable fabric and summer dress patterns.

Of course the sunshine then dried up and we haven’t had many summery days since. But in an attempt to get ahead of myself I am determined to sew up a whole wardrobe of sun dresses for when the next heatwave hits!

McCalls 7381 with multiple variations

I was really drawn to this pattern because it looked a little different from the usual things I sew. I’m often trying to challenge myself and that usually means sewing jackets and complicated pockets et cetera. But I thought it would be quite nice indeed to sew a dress, something I’m familiar with, that just had a few little details to keep it interesting.

I first blogged about M7381 here when I was reviewing McCalls new range of patterns which came in plus size. I have lots of soft viscose-type fabrics in my stash and it’s often hard to find dresses that are less fitted. This seemed like a relaxed and comfy alternative to those.

Main features of M7381

The photographed variation of M7381 shows the short sleeves and the waist tie. The dress is heavily pleated which means that the fit is relaxed. It has three pleats at each shoulder seam, and an un-shaped back that is nipped in with elastic for comfort. The waist seam is also curved upwards, giving an empire line appearance at the front.

The waist ties are decorative and don’t really affect the fit at all, but they give the dress a nice 50s feel. The bodice closes with poppers which are attached on the inside overlap and should be hidden from the outside fabric.

Making McCalls 7381

Instead of doing a toile I decided to choose a cheap viscose fabric and just go ahead with it. The fabric was £4 p/m and there was enough wiggle room in this pattern’s fit and ease that I didn’t foresee any major issues. And I’m happy to say for the most part it worked out! There are some small areas I could improve but overall it fits fine.


This is one of the first projects in quite a while that I have actually had to read the instructions for, as it involved the waist ties which were a little different to dresses I’ve sewn before. It was quite nice to actually follow an instruction sheet for once! There was interesting challenges such as the pleats, and lots and lots of tacking together. Thank god my sewing machine has a tacking feature!

The bodice, which was self-lined, did seem to take quite a long time. I felt like this was going to be a very long project as I was sewing it, but then suddenly the bodice was complete and it went together so quickly after that. it felt like 80% of the sewing was the bodice and the rest went together in just a few evening sessions.

The fit is pretty good. It’s a little wide for my narrow shoulders so if I made this again I would probably increase the pleats to narrow the shoulder at the front, and add a dart at the back. The sleeve cap sits a little low on my shoulder bone so it needs to be brought in about an inch.

The one flaw of this pattern in my opinion is the finishing. It doesn’t give you much option to finish the inside nicely, even though it is lined. It instructs you to sew the waist seam and the armscyes in such a way that you will have raw edges there which I don’t think is good. I have a serger so it’s easy to tidy edges but if you don’t, I’d consider stitching the sleeve into the outer only and then hand-stitch the lining at the armscye. I’d also leave the bodice open at the waist from the lining so you can again hand-stitch the lining with the raw edge tucked away.

I didn’t like that the elastic is just dumped in the back waist seam allowance. You’re instructed to create the casing by sewing another line within the seam allowance. It just seems a bit messy.


Personally, this just isn’t the dress for me. I’m not sure why. I think it is because I am large on my bust and there is a lot of fullness in pleats and such around this area which is not flattering. It’s an incredibly comfortable dress but I think in a plus size it’s just a little too much fabric everywhere. Plus sizes, I think, suit a more structured fit.

I also think this is a dress for people with fantastic legs, which I don’t have. The pattern itself comes quite short (well above the knee) and (I hope she doesn’t mind me saying) DixieDIY’s version looks fab because she has great legs. I usually wear dresses with leggings, and it really doesn’t look good if I do.

Still, I managed to get this finished and hemmed just in time for the heatwave! And it was very comfortable.

McCalls 7381



Francesca Haselden

Francesca is the owner of EatSleepKnitUK, she also works for Toyota Home Sewing and is a web developer 9-5!

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