April 13, 2015

Crazy lady: Vlisco McCall’s 6696 shirtdress

I’m a magpie for big and colourful prints, so naturally I’ve been stalking the Vlisco website for quite some time. Vlisco are a historic producer of Dutch wax print fabric, which is particularly popular in Africa (it’s sometimes known as “African wax print” as a result). When I lived in Malawi, well before my sewing days, I loved it and was duly amused by novelty prints like Princess Diana faces and household implements – sadly past Jenny didn’t have the presence of mind to buy it all. What a mistake.

I was a little hesitant to buy some Vlisco because of the 6 yard minimum (which I heard has just been reduced), but then I saw Sonja’s Vlisco Grainline Alder Shirtdress and Dixie’s gorgeous sheath dress and IT HAD TO BE MINE. In fact, exactly the same pattern, just a different colourway. Those ladies, they have good taste.

Having jumped on one bandwagon, I immediately jumped on another (it’s tricky dual bandwaggoning, ladies): McCall’s M6696. A.K.A. “Mary’s shirtdress“.

Let me present: my Vlisco shirtdress

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

It’s a pretty classic pattern, with a separate button placket, waistband with belt loops and a traditionally constructed collar. It comes in bust sizes, which, while only going up to a D (the American average is a DD…), is still a sight better than the traditional B cup I have to contend with. For this version, I used the full skirt which is pleated at the top. Weirdly, though the fabric is a bit stiff it doesn’t like holding pleats, so the whole thing just expands out like a psychedelic mushroom.

In an effort to get a decent fit, I used the 20D size and FBAed by an inch, then used the size 24 waistband, and for the skirt graded from the 24 down to a 22. To make the 20 bodice fit the 24 waistband, I didn’t sew up the waist darts, and I did a little less gathering at the back.  The resulting fit is…. alright. There’s a bit of tightness across my high bust, as I was potentially a little optimistic with the 20. The skirt is ginormous so no problem there, and the waistband is nicely skimming, meaning I can actually breathe and sit down in it. Yay for sitting and breathing! Feminism in action.

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

The puffy back is a slightly peculiar design feature of the pattern, and I’m not entirely sure what I think of it. The plus side is that it makes my waist appear to nip in a lot more than it does!

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

I wasn’t sure if I was sold on the fit-and-flare silhouette, but it’s growing on me! Plus I love digging my hands into the pockets and puffing it up like a puffer fish. Clearly I made no attempt at pattern matching, but the pattern itself is so insane I figure I’ll probably hypnotise any passers-by before they notice.

Have you tried using wax print fabric? It’s a lot stiffer than I’m used to, though it does soften a little with washing. What else do you recommend making with it? I want more ideas so I that I can justify buying more crazy patterns!

And I shall leave you on a spin:

McCall's M6696 in Vlisco fabric | Cashmerette

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66 thoughts on “Crazy lady: Vlisco McCall’s 6696 shirtdress

  1. Elinor says:

    Stunning (and definitely hypnotising)! I love wax prints, there are so many amazing motifs and the colours are wonderful. A lot of my first projects were in wax print as they’re cheap and plentiful near me, and so easy to handle. I’ve made a By Hand London Anna dress and a Tilly and the Buttons Megan dress where the fabric choice has really worked with the silhouette.

    1. Thank you Elinor! They are indeed cheap and plentiful available in lots of places, not to mention all sorts of colourfully wonderful

  2. Nathalie says:

    It’s beautiful, I love shirtdresses and the colours of that fabric are gorgeous. I actually bought fabric when I was in Tanzania last year. And have made a blouse with the fabric. And indeed the fabric is so stiff… really nice to sew with but I do hope the fabric will soften a bit in the washing machine.

    1. Thanks, Nathalie! I think that Vlisco is a little softer than traditional wax prints (though others, feel free to correct me) but I’m sure yours will soften over time.

  3. Andie L. says:

    I love your shirt dress. I’m a big fan of that print! I love the colours and neat shapes in wax prints. 🙂

    1. Thanks Andie! There are such fun fabrics from Vlisco.

  4. dokucug says:

    Gorgeous, Jenny! I love this shape and these colors on you!

  5. Alicia says:

    Ha ha, I bought some of that same vlisco print too after seeing DIYDixie’s outfit, http://dixiediy.com/2014/09/simplicity-1371-cynthia-rowley-meets-vlisco.html but I haven’t had the guts to use it yet!
    Your dress is gorgeous! I think you made perfect use of the fabric. 🙂 I am very obsessed with vlisco… I like it best on A-line skirted dresses where it has a bit of structure. It worked well with the By Hand London Anna dress for me too. I have made a full few circle skirted dresses with it, but it is more floaty stiff than swingy.
    I think it would also make excellent blazer/jacket material… could make a beautiful/whacky Deer& Doe Pavot, http://boutique.deer-and-doe.fr/pavot-jacket.html to go over a simple black dress. Or over another crazy print sheath dress!

    The vlisco java printed cotton is even slicker and slightly stretchy (and it costs slightly less) so it can be a great option too.

    1. Thanks for the pattern suggestions – all great! I may check out the java printed cotton too..

  6. Elizabeth says:

    What a cool print! It works so well in this shirtdress, and it has gorgeous movement. I love the flats too…non neutral shoes are the best!

    1. Thanks! I have a whole rainbow of those suede ballet shoes – they’re the best!

  7. Shayna says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve got a ton of wax print fabric from my parents recent trips to Malawi. Did you line yours? With what? I’m still trying to figure out how to use mine.

    1. Oh I’m so jealous they went to Malawi recently! It’s such a beautiful country. I didn’t line it, no, and it’s totally fine – after prewashing it was reasonably soft, and it sounds like it’s going to get softer over time.

      1. Shayna says:

        So I managed to make up the first of my wax print, a Southport mini as a tester for my maxi version. It came out even better than I’d hoped. I cut it really short on the yardage (I think I used 1 2/3yd total and had to use a contrast fabric for the pockets) and I think I’ll sub out the yarn I’ve been using as drawstring but all in all I’m really happy. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. sewmanju says:

    Ha I have had the exact same thought obviously, and bought some vislico yardage in the Jan sales, thinking I would make another 6696. Love the colours and print on yours. Mine is a lighter purple…and more…tropical haha. I think 6696 is a def winner for you!

    1. Thanks Manju! Can’t wait to see your Vlisco 6696

  9. patsijean says:

    Here is a tip, which I have followed, on some denim, by Peggy Sagers. She uses this to soften denim, linen, etc. She washes the fabric using only a can or bottle of original Coca Cola to soften fabrics. If the first wash and dry doesn’t soften enough, she repeats the Coca Cola wash. Oddly, it works. Here is the link to that particular webcast and the link to all her other webcasts. So much information. Her explanation about Coca Cola starts at 18:25 into the webcast.



    1. Wow that’s totally counterintuitive, but very interesting! I might have to give it a go…

      1. erniek3 says:

        White vinegar does the job as well. Same reasons, but it comes in larger containers for less money. And I’m more of a coffee drinker, can’t quite find a better use for that than slurping it down. Wax prints vary widely as to content; a couple I have take a press very nicely. Another will not behave, but they are all cotton.

  10. josie95167 says:

    Love that bold print! It works really well for this dress. I think the puffy back is to give you room to move – if you’ve been used to jersey, going back to wovens feels odd! It looks right, to me.

    1. It is remarkably comfortable for a woven, which is awesome.

  11. Miss Celie says:

    I *think* I have this fabric in a different colorway and planned to make a shirt dress from it too! Way cool. The colors are fantastic on you.

    1. Awesome, you should use it at once!

  12. Michelle says:

    I have this pattern waiting in the wings for the moment I finish all my assembly line sewing projects. I’m curious to know, does the yoked back provide more wearing ease than a standard shirt dress? If so, I bet it’s more comfortable than most vintage shirt dress patterns.

    1. Yes, I think it does, though I don’t have much to compare it with. It’s definitely more billowy than strictly needed, and I think it would be easy to take out some of the excess. But almost certainly better than vintage patterns!

  13. V Reed says:

    Oh how disgustingly gorgeous! 😀 You should definitely buy more and make a swirly, twirly and oh so girly skirt out of it!

  14. LK says:

    LOL! Feminism in action!

  15. That is AMAZE BALLS! !!! Beautiful the fabric is basically the colour palate of my wardrobe. I want to steal it!

    1. Thanks! I love the colours too – who can go wrong with purple and turquoise?

  16. Katie says:

    Bangin’! I made a button-down dress with wax print and it softens up even more beautifully with every wash.

    1. Merci! Glad to hear about the softening – it’s not uncomfortable as it is, but I’m sure it would be even better if it was a little drapier.

  17. olaf78olaf78 says:

    You look great, this dress is fantastic! I lived in Zambia as a child and I am always so mad at myself for not having the foresight to buy all of the print fabric.

    1. Oh I’ve always wanted to go to Zambia! One day… Isn’t it funny how you look back on missed fabric opportunities with a sigh? I’ve done it so many times, but I’m looking forward to making up for lost time 🙂

  18. Smashing combo. I’d make a skirt out of the leftovers, maybe your fave straight skirt?

    1. Ooh that’s a good idea! I think I might snap up more, too 🙂

  19. Janet says:

    Absolutely love the pattern/fabric combination. You look fabulous.

    1. Thanks very much Janet!

  20. Looks super! I love those prints, but haven’t quite figured out how to work it in to a middle-aged wardrobe. You got me thinking, though!

    1. Thank you! And I’m sure you could rock some Vlisco 🙂 Dixie did an interesting thing by colour blocking it with black which worked really well

  21. bimbleandpimble says:

    Gah- that print is too perfect! This may not be your normal style but I am digging it hard- bonus points for the shoe match!

    1. Thanks! Good to get out of the old comfort zone sometimes 😀

  22. Oh Boy! That link through to Vlisco should have been prefaced with a warning…’will fall down colourful rabbit hole and never want to resurface’. And it’s more than the gorgeous colour…the prints and the brilliant pattern mixing! Fantastic! Now, am I the only one that’s never heard of Vlisco? hmmmm….Maybe don’t answer that. I’d love to purchase some…but afraid to learn what shipping to Canada would be….

    Okay, having waxed {haha} poetic on all things Vlisco, let’s remember the schtar of the post! Your lovely, lovely make! Your dress is absolutely beautiful! As are you! This silhouette, in this print, and this colourway suits you to a T! I don’t find the back bodice puffy at all! I quite love the pleats! Love your twirl too!

    1. First Miss Matatabi, now Vlisco: I’m an enabler! From what I recall, the shipping isn’t too bad and they sometimes do promotions….

  23. Tanya Maile says:

    Everything about this dress suits you so well! I just love the print and those colors on you!

    I just made a BGD Betsy skirt with a green vlisco print. That type of structured skirt works really well for this fabric.

    1. Thanks Tanya! I have the Betsy pattern in my stash but haven’t got around to sewing it up yet: sounds like the time has come!

  24. gingermakes says:

    OMFG. This is amazing!!!!! Also, I love that you just casually dropped in that you used to live in Malawi. I’m going to pump you for details about that experience!

  25. Nessa says:

    It’s really nice on you! Thanks for the info about which sizes you used.

  26. Ruth says:

    It’s gorgeous, and the colours are fantastic! I think McCall’s should probably have Mary on commission for spreading the love of this pattern!

  27. Tiffany says:

    That fabric is awesome! You look gorgeous!

  28. Zoe says:

    The prints so crazy (in a good way) that I thought you had pattern matched and I was thinking wow she’s dedicated haha! I haven’t tried wax print fabric, I don’t really wear stiffer fabrics/silhouettes so I think it would just stick in my stash and not get used.

  29. Heather says:

    This is gorgeous! I think a shirtdress and vlisco is a match made in heaven! The colours look great on you!

  30. Threadie says:

    This dress is lovely on you ! Love the print you used !

  31. Margo says:

    Beauty! I just made this dress (not blogged yet due the dang snow still outside!!) and I’m not yet sure about mine but yours….LOVE!

  32. I love that sleeve with the aqua shape… you did super well without any matching!

    The wax fabric has been just gorgeous to see in the sewing world, I’m yet to sew with it.. would love to try! If it’s stiffer, I would like a fitted bodice to keep my girls up in a nice way… but maybe a box/pleat skirt or something with it….

  33. Denita says:

    Gorgeous & perfect for you! The bold colors really make a statement!

  34. vicky myers says:

    Not heard of wax fabric before. Its a great looking dress and looks like it fits well:)

  35. I think it looks better than you didn’t pattern match – if you had it might be a bit overwhelming! As it is this is gorgeous – the fit and the colours look great on you. I found the back of this pattern WAY too puffy than was necessary so look a couple of inches off, I think… and it’s still really comfortable

  36. Shelley K says:

    Please give me a brief tute on “wax print” material. I have no idea what it refers to in the fabric world. I do like prints, but the added word “wax” does not make any sense to me with my limited knowledge. I love the print you have used. It looks like a stiffer material than regular 100% cotton or a cotton /poly blend – almost like a broad cloth. It does not look like a laminate material which is the first material I thought of when I read the word wax, nor does it look like oil cloth. Might be I am from a different age! Thanks for your help & hope I gave someone a good laugh!

  37. Tiffany says:

    Love Vlisco patterns but the price and my wallet don’t always see eye to eye. I generally buy my wax fabric in Harlem ($5-$6 a yard). Love it for peplums, shift dresses and maxi skirts. You did an awesome job on this dress!

Let me know what you think!