McCalls 7974: DIY button front, v neck dress with gathers and tie sleeves

McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill

Hi Everyone,

Let me introduce my new favourite dress: McCalls 7974. This pattern is an almost identical match to the famous Cult Gaia Willow dress, so this pattern is the perfect way for home sewists to achieve the designer look but at a fraction of the cost. And yes, the pattern comes with the option to sew the puffed sleeves like the designer dress too. I chose to raise the neckline on my version for a more wearable day-to-day look, but that just makes me love this dress all the more, knowing I will feel comfortable wearing at any time.

McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill

Can we talk about the amazing fabric? This fabric (gifted) is called Animal Elements in the sage green colourway from Patterns and Plains. Whilst the fabric was gifted to me, all my opinions are my own. This is a medium – heavy weight viscose twill with the most amazing drape. It was easy to sew and press. I love both the colour and the print. And if green isn’t your thing, there are other colour options to chose from. You can also purchase the pattern from Patterns and Plains here.

McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill

In terms of pattern alterations I did do a 1 inch full bust adjustment (FBA). Here is a photograph to show you how I did that, and also how I altered the pattern to raise the neckline. On this version I raised the neckline by 3 inches, but in future I may reduce that to just 2 inches. I am also sharing a photograph of the altered front facing piece I created to allow for the raised neckline. I probably won’t make any sense until you come to make the pattern yourself 🙂

McCalls 7974 dress – front bodice FBA and raising neckline up
McCalls 7974 dress – front bodice facing alteration to raise neckline

In case your wondering, and because I know you like to know these things, the front midriff seamline is about a quarter of the way over the lower part of my bust. I didn’t think the lines of this dress would suit me (having a large bust) but I love the effect. I didn’t have enough fabric to do the designer inspired sleeves, so I went for the puff sleeves with the tie detail. BTW, the inside of that opening is finished using bias tape. It was quite tricky to sew that opening. Next time I would probably make self fabric bias as you can see a hint of my bias tape peeking out.

McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill
McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill
McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill

Pattern Review

Pattern Description:

Buttoned front dress has sleeve and length variations, fitted bodice with front midriff, back yoke and gathered skirt with side seam pockets.

I made a midi length version of view A.

Pattern Sizing:

6 – 22. I don’t think this dress is designed to be very fitted at the waist, so pick your size according to finished measurements and your actual body measurements to get the fit you want. I cut a size 18 through the bust, shoulders and arms, and graded out at the waist/ hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Yes, but I have raised the neckline by 3 inches.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

They are ok.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I LOVE the finished dress. Probably my favourite dress that I have sewn certainly this year so far. Nothing to dislike, although I found it quite tricky to sew the opening on the sleeve view I made with the bias tape finish. Next time I would probably make self fabric bias tape.

Fabric Used:

A medium – heavy viscose twill.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

  • I cut the skirt length at view A and added 5.5 inches of length to get a midi length
  • 1 inch FBA
  • Raised front by 3 inches – next time I might only make this 2 inches – and added extra button closures
  • Added 1 inch extra width through the midriff front
  • 5/8ths inch forward shoulder adjustment
  • To allow for the extra width introduced through the FBA and midriff, I only took 0.25 inch seam allowance to sew the skirt front/ side front seams
  • Took a 1 inch wedge out of the back bodice, tapering to nothing 4 inches from side seams
  • Omitted the pockets

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I might sew this again. It is a fabulous pattern. I do recommend.


For ladies with larger (or even smaller!) busts: don’t write this design off because the plunging neckline doesn’t appeal to you. A simple modification and I LOVE this dress.

McCalls 7974 dress in animal print viscose twill

Until soon!

Posted by

By day I work in the exciting world of pharmaceutical regulatory affairs, registering medicines (!), but by night I turn in to a sewing diva, making all manner of clothes in my beautiful sewing space (which you can tour using the link at the top of this blog). I love how sewing and sewing clothes that fit my curvy body continually challenges me. I enjoy working with all different types of fabric, and whilst I don't like to put restrictions on myself and say I won't buy RTW, the truth is that I probably rarely do buy it, preferring the fit of my own me-made clothes. I love to use natural fibres where ever possible and colourful coats are an obsession of mine! Sewing is both my addiction and my therapy. You can contact me at

35 thoughts on “McCalls 7974: DIY button front, v neck dress with gathers and tie sleeves

  1. This is probably my favorite thing you’ve ever made! It couldn’t be lovelier on you! I love the dress, the fabric, and it is gorgeous on you! Will be trying this soon! Thank you!

    1. Ha thanks Victoria. I confess, everything new is my new favourite, but this is a lovely pattern. I am surprised that it just worked so well for me, when I wasn’t fully expecting it too.

  2. This is sitting on my cutting table now and you have inspired me to work on it this weekend. Thanks for the great info.

  3. really pretty dress and thanks for sharing the fitting details. I have a Vogue pattern from about 10 years ago that is just about the same – there are no new patterns 🙂 styles just go round and round.

  4. I never would have imagined this dress could be so cute from the pattern envelope but your version has me sold! It looks wonderful on you – comfortable and chic! Thanks for the detailed review.

  5. wow I have always passed up this style of bodice because I didn’t think it would look good on my full bust, but you look amazing! I must try it! A very flattering dress.

  6. Looks great on you – and I have this pattern in stash but have been debating the plunging neckline. You have come up with a super fix on that. The style and material look really lovely.

  7. I really adore your version it suits you a lot!! 😍 saw another blogger who also made a lovely this dress some time ago and it inspired me to make my own, I have almost finished making my version of this same dress in a cotton, gingham print and I have to agree with you, the neckline is way too low if you are full busted. I tried to raise the neckline in the same way that you have shown, but it wasn’t enough coverage for me, 😅😂, so I’ve drafted a modesty panel, so that I don’t have to wear a camisole underneath.

  8. Thank you for writing this post, I’m working on this pattern and I’ve had to make quite a few modifications to the bodice. Pretty darn close to your changes and after making two muslins, I’m happy to report that it fits. So off to cut my nice fabric. Thanks again!

  9. Beautiful dress on you! Was also concerned of how it would accommodate a large bust but now I will be buying the patterns. One question, what was the alteration you did on the back? No sure I understand what you are describing. A sway back? Thanks for posting!

  10. Thank you so much for your review and photo of the FBA. I was worried that this pattern would best best on less-curvy ladies, but you are rocking you dress!

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