McCalls 6696 Shirtwaist Dress

George & Sally’s Blue Moon Diner

Roadside diners became quite popular during the 1940s and 1950s as hangouts for teenagers looking for a place to grab a burger and a milk shake. Groups of teens would sit in a blue vinyl booth which lined one side or on one of eighteen barstools along a long Formica counter while the uniformed waitress’ took their orders. Others would stop in for a piece of pecan pie or frozen custard.

The waitresses behind the counter would be dressed in typical diner attire consisting of a shirtdress and apron sporting a notepad in one hand and a pen ready in the other ready to take your order. Usually the dresses were in the colors of the diner, such as a green with white trim or the popular red and white checked or polka dot. 

The look of the 1950s diner uniform was a close fitting shirtdress buttoning down the front with contrasting collar and trims, short sleeves and pockets. The shirtdress is very typical of the era portraying the hour-glass figure. With the cinched in waistlines, and accentuated hips and busts, the style was a decidedly mature one. 

Recently I was approached to make such dresses for a local diner uniform. The picture I was presented was the typical close fitting shirtdress with a waist band, collar, short sleeves and contrasting trims.

The pattern of choice was McCalls pattern 6696, a shirtwaist dress with a 50s flair, Perfect for a Diner Uniform look. Quickly making up a sample I discovered a discrepancy in the size of the collar and the collar band. The full size pieces clearly did not match nor did the collar band fit the neckline of the dress. Measuring the seam line confirmed the error.

This is the right hand side of the Collar and Band.
In the above photo the right pin is the Collar center front. 
The left pin marks the Band center front.
Clearly the Collar and Band do not match.

After contacting McCalls by email and explaining the problem along with taking pictures of the pattern pieces, I could see it was going to require a phone call. Unfortunately the only way to contact the company was by email as no phone number was listed on their website. One last email requesting the number resulted in a McCalls consumers’ service person calling me.

After explaining the problem to the consumers’ service person, she told me that she personally pinned the tissue pattern and everything matched. She also told me to read the instructions and it clearly stated how the pattern pieces went together.

 This is the left hand side of the pattern pieces of the Band and Collar. 
The center fronts are right on! No problem matching up the markings.

Politely I again explained the problem and asked if we could please establish a right and left for the two pattern pieces, Collar #18 & Collar Band #19, which we were able to do. Pinning the left side we agreed that it matched at Center Front, Shoulder and Center Back. Moving onto the right side the consumers’ service person grew very quiet and said I will be right back.

‘Right back’ resulted in five minutes on hold only to be cut off. Quickly calling the number back resulted in no one answering. I could do nothing but wait for a return call. 

After 25 minutes the same consumers’ service person called back and explained that she spoke with the pattern graders showing them the problem. After what I am sure was a quick meeting with the manager and the graders they discovered that OOPS! They had an error in the pattern.

Their plan was to grade the pieces and then send me the corrected pieces. Meanwhile I could use the correct side of the pattern cutting the pieces on the fold. Originally I had stated in more than one email to please fold the pieces in half and they would see that they do not match.

When cutting collars and bands, I do not like cutting on the fold, I would much rather use a full pattern piece. Luckily I can do just that.

It is nice to know that we can contact pattern companies when there is a problem and someone will most likely be able to help. I can’t help but wonder about those who have made the dress and remain clueless. 

Stop back for a finished look at the diner uniforms.

How to make the correction yourself:
Fold the Collar Band #19 in half at Center Back, and note that one half is longer than the other. Use the LONGER half of the Collar Band #19 and cut the Collar Band #19 on the fold at Center Back. You will need to cut two on the fold.
Hope this helps and good luck!