The Happy Days maxi(mum) summer shirtdress, McCalls 7242

I confess, I may be slightly infatuated with this pattern. I was happy when I made it. I feel happy when I wear it.

McCalls 7242 sewn by Sew Busy Lizzy

Front view. The buttons finish mid thigh.

Meet McCalls 7242. I immediately fell in love with this pattern. It has a gracious swooshiness (technical term). I pictured it in a vivid blue fabric.

The Inspiration

When I was in Melbourne for Frocktails, Busy Lizzie gave me a page from a magazine of a ‘celebrity’ wearing a striped maxi shirt dress (very much like this one), telling me ‘I can see you in this’. She knows me well! I confess I’ve been a little obsessed since. When I spotted this McCalls pattern it seemed like a good place to start a maxi shirtdress kick. Next up I’m looking for something with a buttonband – I may simply convert an existing ‘stash’ pattern.

Aussie road block: it’s a Laura Ashley design and McCalls only ship Laura Ashley patterns to USA and Canada! I know, I know, virtual mailboxes, other websites such as (which didn’t have it at the time, I’m an impatient person!), eBay… however we have an international network of enablers… I’m most grateful to Suzanne of Beau baby for helping me out! Thank you!

The Pattern – McCalls 7242

This pattern is described as: Loose-fitting dresses have collar, blouson bodice, back pleated into self-lined yoke, elasticised waist, side pockets, and narrow hem. A: Pockets and side slits. B: Ruffle. C: Bias armhole facings. B and D: Elasticised lower edge of sleeves.

I was immediately drawn to the sleeveless maxi dress – View C.


This is a lovely design, elegant in its simplicity.

The skirt is gently flared. I like the lack of volume combined with the length of the skirt. I’m 5 foot 4 and I feel slender and tall(ish) in this style.

Back view: McCalls 7242

Back view: McCalls 7242. A rather wet hem… see photo below! The perils of beachside living.

The neckline is simple V-neck with a mandarin/band collar. As far as collars go – this is nowhere near as fiddly as a collar and band to attach.

I like the centre back pleat and how the back is gently gathered at the waist with elastic. I’m not always a fan of elastic at the waist… in fact I never seem to have any in my stash. However it is very comfortable for eating/wearing and I’d always wear a belt with this to break up the expanse of fabric and define my waist.

McCalls 7242 sewn by Sew Busy Lizzy

I cut the back yoke on the bias. The back features a pleat and the waist is gathered in with elastic.

The finish is generally neat. I opted to French seam the side seams of the bodice & skirt. The yoke is self-lined, finished burrito style (I cut the outer yoke on the bias – barely noticeable but I know). The armholes are finished with self bias binding.

The fit across the upper bust reminds me of the Grainline Alder (which I made here, here and here!). The back is fuller than the Alder with a centre back pleat and the fullness being gathered in gently at the waist with elastic. Note: There are no bodice darts for shaping.

The only overlocking is along the inner edge of front facings.

I managed to have a slight ‘idiot’ moment sewing on the facings in a completely stupid fashion late in the afternoon of the first day – I knew I should stop… but I didn’t… the blessing is I didn’t go past ‘the point of no return’ and some unpicking and patience figured up my mistake. Lisa of Notes from a Mad Housewife sent me the instructions via Instagram (mine were beside my machine, locked away in the sewing room for the night… I’m sure I’m not the only person who can’t go to sleep until I figure out a mistake!). Funnily enough she was just finishing up her long-sleeved shorter version of the same dress – perhaps more inspirational for those of you heading into fall!

McCalls 7242 sewn by Sew Busy Lizzy

Of course I managed to ‘wreck the dress’ during photos, getting caught by the slightly bigger wave wash than anticipated! You will notice some of these photos have a slightly drenched hemline!


Honestly I can’t find much critical to say about this pattern. It went together easily and I like its silhouette, ‘vibe’ (that’s a thing right?) and design elements.

The elastic finishes shy of the centre on each side. I find it does want to pull the centre front apart a little at the waistline. I think my elastic needs to be looser – I confess I didn’t measure the elastic using the pattern guide (I never do). I may use a button or snap to hold it neatly closed (see this post by the Vintage Ink Fairy)… although I will probably always wear a belt with this to define my waist and break up the expanse of fabric.

The front opening doesn’t have a button placket. It is finished with long, long, long front facings. The maxi length of the skirt combined with the buttons stopping above the knee means that the facing wants to flap out a little as I walk. I might try some invisible hem stitches to catch it to the inside of the dress skirt.

McCalls 7242, you can just see the front facings here. That sort of thing bugs me - minor but I notice it

McCalls 7242, you can just see the front facings poking out here. That sort of thing bugs me – minor but I notice it


I love it – perhaps one of my favourite creations of 2015.

Thank you

To the girls who came from Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Parkes and Frederickton to sew in Port Macquarie last weekend. I was exhausted after two days of non-stop sewing (and talking!). Included in this lovely bunch was Kat of House of Lane (crikey she can sew fast!), Maria of How Good Is That?, Michelle of My Sparkling Machine, Colette of Colette’s Sewing and Stuff, Loanne from the Gold Coast, Lee-anne from Parkes, Bianca from Brisbane, Kylie from Frederickton and Jenny from Lincraft.

We had breakfast and dinner together (I’m not sure you can count picking up takeaway and stuffing it down our throats mid-sewing as ‘lunch’) and spent two days talking and sewing non-stop. It was lots of fun and something I haven’t done before. Sewing can be such a solitary process, it was interesting to sew with company… it was also interesting to see how focussed we all are! I loved that people bought their families and partners along with them – and we all had dinner together. It was noisy and fun. We were joined at dinner by June, who happened to spot us on Instagram and was holidaying in Port with her daughter.

I managed to start and finish this dress over those two days (thank you for rescuing me from a ‘derp’ moment Maria LOL). I even managed to scare away a hoard of rampaging squirrels and stayed focused until I reached the finish line. Thank you to Bianca who provided the final bit of white thread as I ran out about 20cm from the end of the hem! Argh! Typical.

There were quite a few who couldn’t make it – life happens! I think there may be another in 2016… maybe with a workshop or two, we might need a bigger room… hopefully the weather is as perfectly fabulous as it was last week.

Sorry not many photos of the actual weekend’s activities… I get distracted and just enjoy the moment sometimes… camera/iPhone free. Nothing to apologise for!

Pattern: McCalls 7242, size 6-8
Fabric: Woven rayon from Spotlight, Port Macquarie. I used approximately 3 metres (plenty of leftovers). I purchased it on special for $9.95 a metre.

A girl and her dog

A girl and her dog. I do love a maxi that can be a little saucy when required.

It was a warm spring weekend – we spotted a pod of whales breaching and flipping their tails about. Like spotting koalas ‘in the wild’, it’s hard to tire of the magic moments that nature provides free of charge.

Whales frolicking in the summer heat

Whales frolicking off the beach in the afternoon heat

This post first appeared on

52 thoughts on “The Happy Days maxi(mum) summer shirtdress, McCalls 7242

  1. I know we all had our own sewing to do but the great part was sharing stories and ideas. Loved your dress in the making and it looks fab finished. ”all those buttons…’
    Thank you for putting on a fab weekend away with a hint of sewing involved.

    • Thanks Maria 🙂 I was worried there might not be enough sewing for some… but I wanted people to have time to enjoy ‘the great outdoors’ and thankfully the weather was a winner!!

  2. Oh yes this is lovely on you and I think compared to the last Sewaholic dress, this one is you! This is what the Nicola wants to be for you. I still think a few cm off the hem and a narrower shirt would be so much better on the Nicola.
    I was thinking of you all on the weekend. I really wanted to come down but alas as a single parent there was no option – my son would have thought it was a punishment to stay with me and sew 🙂 Hopefully next year. It was good of you to organise it… funnily, last year exact weekend we were in Port Macquarie for the day and it was beautiful.

    • Would be lovely to have you here… maybe next year!
      I agree, this is the vibe I wanted from Nicola but just missed. I think the lack of gathers from the shoulders & back yoke – plus the slimmer skirt is what makes this such a winner. It’s simple without being dull. I suspect there may be another next summer!
      I’m in Brisbane and will come along to the social sewing early in November, perhaps I will see you there xo

    • I can’t resist a vivid blue… I’m always surprised there aren’t more blue fabrics in the world… but ten billion pink/red florals. Blue is just the loveliest colour.

      Ps. I often sew out of season, the Northern hemisphere bloggers tempt me!

  3. Adorable! Great pattern – I think I’ll have to grab that at the next sale! Your fabric is gorgeous too…I’m addicted to all shades of blue, and yours looks perfect for a day at the shore. The whale shot is such a nice added bonus!

  4. First up, how is it that you’re only 5 foot 4?! You always look like a giant in your photos!! (In a very flattering legs-going-on-forever kind of way, of course). I’m 5 foot 3 myself and I’ve always found it difficult to pull off maxi dresses or skirts :/

    As for the dress – absolutely stunning! I’ve never sewn a Laura Ashley pattern but it’s always been on my wish list. How does it compare to the McCall’s 6696?

    • Sorry it has taken me awhile to reply! Life has been busy… I do prefer this to 6696 as I was not a fan of the gathering at the yoke with 6696 and how the gathering was mirrored again at the waist. It felt like a hunchback to me. I prefer this pleat in the back with the excess fabric gathered in evenly across the waist… 6696 has a fixed waistband and this one has a elastic waist. 6696 was a more formal collar and this has a collar stand and buttons starting lower down so I guess this is more casual and a little softer in its styling. I think it’s what you prefer. I have made 6696 and I do prefer this Laura Ashley style – however that would most likely be my personal preference – as 6696 has been incredibly popular! This dress has a slimmer shape overall, 6696 feels a bit more formal and dressy.

        • Well there is no such thing as too many patterns! I’m also a huge fan of the Grianline Alder dress. It’s much more casual than either of those two – but I’ve made three Alders and love them all. They are the perfect casual relaxed summer dress.

  5. This dress looks spectacular on you! Love the blue, especially against that gorgeous backdrop. Your sewing retreat sounds heavenly! I keep hoping my husband’s work will take him to Australia so I can tag along… maybe some day!

  6. I love this dress! I’m happy to see it made-up and hear that you liked working with the pattern. I currently have two pieces of rayon set aside to make fall versions of this dress. 😀

  7. Sooooo I love this frock and am majorly bummed that I can’t get this pattern here in Australia without paying postage, which always seems ridiculous.Ugh! Maxi’s rule 4eva!

  8. Ha, I would never have picked this dress if I looked at the pattern cover and line drawing, but it is spectacular on you, and now very tempting!

  9. Ooh what a lovely dress. I’m considering making a maxi dress for next summer, although i’ll have to plan a holiday as we don’t much chance to wear them with the Uk weather!

  10. That is a really pretty dress. I wasn’t all that impressed when I first saw this pattern maybe because of the overwhelming print or the sleeves but I love your version.

  11. So glad you all had a good time! Love the dress, this and the fumeterre skirt you made have reawakened the grunge in me – clothes I used to be so comfortable in!

  12. I am so excited to see this all finished. It is gorgeous!!! Thank you for putting on such a fun weekend. We really enjoyed spending time in Port and we even managed to spot some dolphins before we headed home. I can’t wait to see you sew up a autumn/winter version of this dress. I know it will look awesome with your vast collection of boots.

  13. Hey Liz, thanks so much for organising our sewing weekend- never done it before, felt like I was at high school again 🙂 Loved it- I still haven’t finished my dress. Got planned to this weekend and do what Maria suggested with the swimwear elastic- bought some today at work. Your dress come up so lovely- so want that pattern. TC and c u when u come to buy some more fabric LOL
    Jen 🙂

  14. So lovely and perfect for summer! I have had my eye on this pattern for a fall maxi and now your review is putting me over the edge. Truly gorgeous Lizzy!

  15. Pingback: Jet-lagged Pattern Releases | Sew Busy Lizzy

  16. Is the dress joined at the waist, so you can thread elastic through the seam allowance? To stop the facing from flapping out, could you do a row of top stitching down the front?

  17. A great dress. Thanks for the inspiration. Although restrictions on the sale of this pattern are annoying, I got around them easily. Oh, yeah? I thought, and found copies for sale on Etsy. Mine is now en route from the USA, and I shall run it up next summer.

  18. Pingback: Moonstone in the Sunshine – McCalls 7242 | Sew Busy Lizzy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.