Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

You called me on it: a great pattern question

I talk about this pattern like, all the time.

McCall's M5849--I have the title, and almost the shape of the pattern, memorized.  The pieces I have are soft and beginning to tear here and there, having been taped and untaped and folded on all sides at one point.  I've made a LOT of dresses out of it!  I love it so much.  In fact, when you do a Google image search for it, a big chunk of what comes up first is from my blog.

The problem?  It's out of print.  I got a question from a reader the other day, asking if I had any suggestions for a similar pattern to buy instead.

Thanks for calling me on my hang-ups!  I know it's not very helpful to say what a great pattern this is when no one can buy it anymore.  So thanks, Allisson, for your email!

A very similar pattern that still is in print is Simplicity 4070.

The pattern for the strapless bodice is essentially the same thing as my McCall's standby.  If you use this Simplicity version and give it a simple gathered skirt, you get the same result.  This one has a slightly more pronounced sweetheart neckline but I'm betting that's the biggest difference, and that can be easily changed when you cut.

I love this pattern so much because it's so versatile.  I've altered it all kinds of ways and it's just a great sloper and basic jumping off point when you have a design in mind.

Here I am in some of my fave versions!

With a midriff panel and ruffle fabric skirt, at my bachelorette party... (tutorial coming!)

At my bridal shower... (loooove this dress, hope to wear it again sometime!)

In yellow seersucker with a pleated skirt...

With a shirred over layer...

Seriously one of my favorite dresses ever.  I wore this like once a week last summer.  No good pics of me in it, though... But here it is.  I often belted it.

A hot pink silk version at my cousin's wedding...

As a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding, with a pleated overlay on the bodice:

I even made my wedding dress from it.  No, seriously.  The pattern for this lovely thing was that simple--plus some shaped straps and a circle skirt.
By Studio 623 Photography
I've had a lot of fun in dresses from that pattern!  I highly recommend you check out Simplicity 4070 for a similar blank slate or cute dress on its own!

Have you been creative with a basic pattern in many ways?  I'm sure a lot of us have favorite/standby patterns!  (Plus, it's way easier to make a dress when you don't have to cut out all the pieces from a brand new pattern, bleh...)

I'd love to hear your pattern stories!

See all my uses of McCall's M5849 here!


  1. I love seeing all your beautiful versions of this single pattern. It motivates me to look through my pattern stash and find a basic pattern I can modify like this (or purchase Simplicity 4070). All of these dresses are gorgeous and inspiring!

  2. Love that red bridesmaid version! My standby pattern is the summer blouse pattern from Heather Ross's book weekend sewing. I practically live in tunics, and I really lost track of how many I made with that pattern. I agree, it's so easy to make something when you have the pattern ready to go.

  3. Thank you for the pattern recommendation! A strapless sweetheart dress with a full skirt is one of my favorite silhouettes. And all your versions are lovely! I don't have any standby patterns, but I'm hoping to find one soon!

  4. that hot pink dress is STUNNING!

  5. These are all AMAZING! I can't believe you made them all - and from the same pattern. I am so impressed.

  6. Another pattern similar to the McCall's Hillary Duff is McCall's 6349. I've made it and love it. Check it out:) By the way, love all you're cute dresses

  7. Anonymous9/08/2011

    I agree, the hot pink dress is AMAZING. You look like a model in that dress. I need to get me a sewing machine so I can learn how to make stuff.

  8. I don't have a standby pattern just yet, but your recommendation might have to become one of mine. I love that sweetheart neckline. So flattering.

    To keep your pattern from shredding from overuse, there was an article on the burda site about creating a toile, or basically making pattern pieces out of cheap non stretch fabric that you can use over and over without worrying about it tearing or getting wet and being ruined. You can even use a sharpy or thread to transfer the writing and markings on the pattern to your toile. Just a suggestion. =)

  9. Sorry to double post, but Gertie's Blog for Better sewing (http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/) just did a post on making a toile or muslin from a vintage pattern.

  10. so awesome! i hardly ever pick up the same pattern again and now i will! all those dresses look so different!!!!! you are such a creative talent!


  11. wow you certainly had your money worth out of that pattern, I love the hot pink version, it just shows how versatile one pattern can be how different the dress can look in different fabrics.

    The pattern you suggested as an alternative is one I actually received free with a sewing magazine but i've not tried it out yet.

  12. I rarely use patterns because I have such a different bust size...34 DDDD! I have such a difficult time, so I just made myself a bodice block using my measurements. I am still figuring out how to tweak that for each design...With all the calculations, the waist and neckline still need to come in tighter on my body. I always end up sewing, then fixing a little. I wanted to ask how you manage to fit your neckline so close to the body just from using a pattern. I had some difficulty with my first strapless dress, although it may be a lost cause with such a large bust. Perhaps you could address this in a future post? Thank you!

    my strapless dress

  13. Thanks!! It is so fun to have a standby pattern, glad I could inspire some of you!

    @Silver Rose, I don't have the same problem of a larger-than-average bust :( but I did show how we took a horizontal dart between the cups on my wedding dress to fix the gapping potential: http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2011/04/wedding-dress-updates-and-progress-part.html

  14. All of these dresses are fantastic, but of course you're wedding dress is by far the most amazing!

  15. Suzannah - re: preserving your much loved McCall's M5849 pattern pieces - maybe trace off a copy (minus the seam allowances) onto light weight cardboard, make a hole in one corner and you can hand them up - like they do in the RTW industry for manfacturing and design purposes. You could then use that to trace around it very quickly onto pattern (or other inexpensive paper) each time you wanted to make design/style changes. Or maybe trace it (including the SA's this time) onto medium/heavy weight, non-woven sew-in interfacing - that way you would get a tear-resistant, yet flexible version of you pattern that will last you years! :)

  16. You sure have gotten your use out of that one pattern. Your dresses look great! Why not trace off the old pattern onto medium or heavy-weight interfacing. Or go online and buy it from an out-of-print seller.

  17. @Silver Rose, I feel your pain with the odd size. I'm a 30F or 30G, depending on the brand. It's nearly impossible for me to find ready-to-wear clothing that fits unless it's a knit. When I sew, I use my high bust measurement (right under your armpits) to choose a pattern, then do a full bust adjustment. I bought an excellent book on fitting to learn how to adjust patterns to fit my body (Fit for Real People), but Gertie has a little collection of tutorials on her blog that will help too: http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/2010/12/helpful-links-for-bust-alterations.html



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