McCalls 8160: The 50’s called, they want this dress back

A DIY shift dress is on the sewing table, McCalls 8160.  Now don’t be disillusioned by this dress.  It has power.  I’ve been mesmerized by dresses lately, all sorts of dresses.  Truth be told, I prefer a dress to pants almost any day but lately and when I saw McCalls 8160, I thought what a classic!  I’m even reading books on dresses like this one:

Famous frock

Ah yes, Famous Frocks by Dolin Bliss O’Shea is on my super reading list now.  I’m intrigued by the shift dress, so simple and yet so classy.  My mission was to find shift dress patterns and perfect ones to my liking.  The first pattern I trialed was McCalls 8160. It’s in the McCall Pattern series Learn to Sew and is classified as a level 1.    


Honestly, I have no idea what that means but the model on the pattern envelope looked like she was having a great time hanging out in the ‘burbs or somewhere in her cute little shift dress so I said why not me too? 

McCalls 8160

McCalls 8160 Dress Pattern Features:

  • No buttons, zippers or closures
  • 3 main pieces 
  • huge hackable potential

McCalls 8160 Pattern contents:

  • Shirt
  • Pants
  • Dress
  • Shorts

Subsequently, because this pattern has a lot of wardrobe elements, you have a ton of variability in what closet pieces you can sew to accent your existing garments. The sky is the limit to this basic block-type pattern.

McCalls 8160
 I think the company started naming the patterns.  It may take some time for any of us to catch on but it’s a good idea if you are trying to find this pattern online or on social media to plug in the hashtag, especially since the pattern numbers often get recycled. Consequently, the hashtag for this pattern is #AgnesMcCalls.
McCalls 8160

Petite adjustments for McCalls 8190:

McCalls 8160
McCalls 8160 shift dress
McCalls 8160 shift dress

So I made a very minor adjustment at the petite line approx 1″ to the first Agnes and I probably should have made more. Truth serum. It’s big.  It’s almost too big in my opinion, but everyone said it was cute when I wore it out. It is a lot of fabric for my frame so on the next make I’m going to decrease the overall size of the pattern. For reference, I’m 4’11”, 32 DD, and approx 155 lbs. In addition, I made a size medium and it was somewhat oversized. 

McCalls 8160

Importantly, I did not reduce the length. I definitely will next time.  For starters, the midsection is not as fitted as I expected. But here’s the deal, this pattern has no dart!.  Are you listening? To clarify, absolutely no darts. Boy or boy are darts important. This thing needs a make-shift dart or two if you have a larger bust.  As my first act of pattern diplomacy, this might be my first hack.

McCalls 8190 Hacking potential, major potential:

  • Add some pockets
  • +/- on the sleeves
  • extended or shorten the length of the sleeves
  • Add some darts for shaping
  • Redesign the back for something fun
  • Add a peter pan collar
McCalls 8160

Shift dress styling tips:  

  • Winter/Fall: contrasting tights, boots, 
  • Spring/Summer: flats, sandals, Stan Smith Adidas 
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