McCall’s 5637: that 70’s shirt

the pattern:
McCall’s 5637 MISSES’ SET OF TOPS, copyright 1977 The McCall Pattern Company.
I love this illustration style. It is terrifying! I don’t know if these girls want to be my friend or eat my soul!
Or pretend to be my friend in order to force me into a tanning bed. And then eat my soul.
I got this pattern at a thrift shop, and have tried to make it a bunch of times but never had enough yardage. View A, the one I love best, has pockets that extend from the back to underlap the front, which makes it a very awkward pattern piece and none of my scraps of fabric have ever been enough.
Until now!
Why do I love View A the best? That neckline. I keep hoping that someday a bateau neckline will turn me into Audrey Hepburn. 
Also the topstitching line from the pockets makes me think of the hip piece on certain time-periods of corset. So that’s neat.

do you think Omar still has those four free passes?

the fabric:
The red stripe knit is from the Michael Levine Loft in downtown LA, which is that crazy loft full of bins of random pieces of fabric that you can rummage through, and then you pay for your fabric by the pound!
It is super fun, the treasure hunting element, and also the people watching. On the most recent trip I saw two girls meticulously composing instagram selfies in front of the wall of purple fabric, and overheard two dudes at a cutting table espousing the merits of CalTech versus FIDM.
The real prize I got on my last trip was a huge piece of really nice lightweight black fusible knit interfacing. You know, the sort of thing that is too boring to buy on purpose but is really great to have on hand when you need it.
This stripe knit is some kind of blend, the red part is definitely synthetic, I know because I melted a test scrap of it with my iron. It’s a weird fabric. The white stripes are much looser than the red stripes, you can see how they look all weird and wrinkly. 


So that one above is View A.
You might be thinking, “but wait, that does not look anything like the drawing, where’d the yoke go?”
Ok, so, see those patches at the shoulders? Like epaulets? That is what is left of the yoke.
I had cut the yoke out of a really stiff cotton with a grey and black digital camoflage. I knew the fabrics wouldn’t work well together, but I really liked the colors and was like, “lets find out just how bad it’ll be,” and then it was really bad. Like, the yoke was stiff as a board and stood out flat and the knit was too weak to fight it. So I scooped out the neck and finished it with a band of self.
I like the epaulets, but I’m not wild about the shirt. After all this time of mooning over it, too, what a bummer! It’s not bad, it’s just a big old striped shirt, not the kind of thing I’d ever buy if I saw it on the rack somewhere.
Oh well.

6 hours, including all the yoke nonsense.
I don’t really enjoy sewing knits! And, am not super familiar with it and maybe am not very good at it, which reminds me of something my husband says:
The best way to get better at something is to NEVER DO IT.


So anyway, then I tried View A again, in a woven.

the fabric:
Lightweight woven cashmere! It was scraps from a movie, set in the 20’s. But not FABULOUS twenties, more like dreary twenties.
But I was fascinated with the fabric so after the movie came out and it was time to get rid of the scraps, I kept some. For this project I seamed the scraps together, pinked the edges, pressed open the seams, and topstitched them open to make one big piece of yardage that I could cut the pattern out of. I let the topstitched seams fall wherever.
This shirt though.
Let’s run through some pros and cons.

Pro: it’s comfy
Con: it’s shapeless

Pro: the fabric is super soft and luxurious and fancy
Con: the fabric is the exact color of an old dishrag

Pro: my husband loves it. He calls it my Space Shirt.
Con: (there is no con here, this is all pro)

He’s right, this shirt has that drab, unisex look that I could see happening in some outer space type situation.


Above is a closer view of the weave.
The pattern calls for unbonded stretchable knits, but the reality is, this is just another one of those 60’s/70’s knit patterns that really doesn’t need to be knit. I mean, the neck is wide, the fit is generous, there’s no reason this has to be a knit, it’s like they just got all excited about the idea of knit for home sewing but weren’t real clear on the mechanics yet. “Lets make it knit! But not take advantage of the stretch capabilities of knit AT ALL!”

6.25 hours, including all the fabric prep.


So after all that nonsense, View E was starting to look interesting, so I made that too.
Without the silly pocket.
The zipper is real! And so is the struggle.


The zipper on this version makes it really obvious that the whole thing is too big.
The zipper extends into the armsceye and buckles whenever I use my arms. So, all the time.
I might go back and take in through the armsceye and side seams and shorten the zipper, or I might just live with it.
Depends on how annoyed I get.

6 hours

Sew It or Throw It:
I’m going to throw it!
The shirts I made are ok, I will wear them, the necklines are interesting, but the thing is— I don’t like interesting necklines!
I want my t-shirts to be Extremely Basic.
I mean, I bought six extremely boring black tank-tops like five years ago, and that is what I wear almost every single day. They are perfect in their un-interesting-ness.

You’re free, Very Tanned Cover Art Ladies!
Go eat someone else’s soul now!

Oh hey, important update! 

This is my first one down for the Vintage Pledge. You can go here to read more about the pledge and check out everyone’s vintage sewing goals.

My goal is to make one garment from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s this year. Hopefully the rest will be more awesome!


8 thoughts on “McCall’s 5637: that 70’s shirt

  1. This pattern gave you the run around, didn’t it? Interesting observations on the introduction of “knits” to the world of home sewing.

    I like the muddy one best, but not so much on you (colourwise). The envelop girls look scary with their curly perms – I imagine them coming in to give me a waxing, in their pastel uniform of pocket tops and joggers.


  2. I love the ‘muddy’ one as well, I love how the print works with and against the design. The contrast bwt them is tempered by the muted colors; it’s structured but not blocky. It’s deco.

    Your weary expression sells it.


    1. Ha! Yes, that weariness is the truth.
      The fabric on that one is so great, so soft in color and texture but the geometrical weave brings a severity that keeps it out of sweatshirt territory, thank goodness. It is deco! I like that. Maybe that’s where the space element is coming from, the future via 1930something.
      So far it’s looking like this one and the short-sleeved with epaulets are becoming favorites, while the one with the zipper is moving ever closer to the “to donate” bag. Who can predict?


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