Selvedge 95 / #McCalls150

Selvedge Issue 95 – Heritage, Summer 2020
Selvedge Issue 95 – Heritage (July/August 2020) Image: Selvedge.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m among the contributors to the upcoming Heritage issue of Selvedge Magazine. My piece is called “Maison McCall,” and it’s about McCall’s interwar couturier patterns.

Sarah Sheehan, "Maison McCall" with McCall 8524 dinner dress in Selvedge magazine 95 (July/August 2020)
“Maison McCall” in Selvedge 95 – Heritage (July/August 2020)

Did you know McCall’s shares its founding year with the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Both are celebrating their 150th anniversaries in 2020.

McCall Building, ca. 1905. Image: Museum of the City of New York.
Selvedge has both print and digital editions. Due to the coronavirus, this issue won’t be on newsstands, but it is available for pre-order. Selvedge 95 is out June 15th from

Hope you enjoy the article!

Patterns in Vogue: The Great Plain

Christy Turlington wears handmade dress Vogue 8293 (with Jil Sander coat), Vogue, August 1993. Photo: Ellen von Unwerth. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: Vogue Archive.

Do you remember Grace Coddington’s Amish editorial? From late summer, 1993, “The Great Plain” looks forward to Schitt’s Creek and today’s back-to-the-land trend. It also features two Vogue Sport dress patterns.

Christy Turlington in Vogue 8293 dress (Jil Sander coat), Vogue, August 1993. Photo: Ellen von Unwerth. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: Vogue Archive.

The Vogue team travelled to rural Pennsylvania for the shoot. In the opening spread and barnyard square-dancing sequence, Christy Turlington wears simple dresses, made up in cotton broadcloth from Sutter Textiles.

Christy Turlington in Vogue 8315, Vogue, August 1993. Photo: Ellen von Unwerth. Editor: Grace Coddington. Image: Vogue Archive.

The patterns are Vogue 8293 and Vogue 8315, as edited by Vogue.

Very Easy Vogue Sport 8293 and Vogue Sport 8315 - Lengthen sleeves; do tucks in place of shirring; add buttons up the back
Technical drawing for patterns seen in “The Great Plain,” 1993.
Dan Levy as David Rose, at a Mennonite farm in Helmut Lang in Schitt's Creek - "Finding David" (season 2, episode 1)
David Rose (Dan Levy) returning to nature in CBC’s Schitt’s Creek, Season 2. Image: Vogue / PopTV.

Free Designer Pattern: Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Georgie dress by Mary Quant (ca. 1962) Image: V&A.

As part of its recent Mary Quant exhibit, the V&A shared a pattern for an early Quant design. The Georgie dress dates to the Bazaar days, before Quant’s deal with Butterick.

Photo: Richard Davis. Image: Harper’s Bazaar.
King's Road plaque: Dame Mary Quant, Fashion Designer, opened her boutique Bazaar on this site in 1955
King’s Road Bazaar plaque. Image: Fashion Network.

The V&A’s Georgie dress— purchased new in Truro, Cornwall — is striped cotton lined with cotton batiste.

'Georgie' dress, Mary Quant, 1962, England. Museum no. T.74-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Given by Sarah E. Robinson
Georgie dress by Mary Quant, ca. 1962. Gift of Sarah E. Robinson. Image: V&A.

As Quant’s archive shows, the dress was also available in taffeta-lined chiffon as the Rosie, in black, pink, or jade.

1960s design for 'Georgie' and 'Rosie' dress by Mary Quant
Design for ‘Georgie’ and ‘Rosie’ dress by Mary Quant (ca. 1961-65) Image: V&A.

The Georgie pattern was developed from Quant’s original by London’s Alice & Co Patterns, a mother and daughter team with a connection to the museum: the younger generation, Lilia Prier Tisdall, works there as a costume display specialist.

Mary Quant’s Georgie dress in Ray Stitch fabric. Sewing pattern designed by Alice and Co Patterns. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The dress has a surplice bodice, three-quarter sleeves, pleated skirt, and sash belt. For the original’s lively, reverse stripe effect, cut the skirt on a different grain than the sleeves and bodice.

Technical drawing for Mary Quant’s Georgie dress. Image: V&A.

The pattern gives detailed instructions, including for the pleated trim.

Making the Georgie dress. Image: V&A.

Download the Georgie dress pattern. (Instructions here.) The pattern has 7 pieces, arranged in 3 formats: A0, A4, and US Letter. Test square included to check scale.

Size: Two size ranges, UK 6–16 and 18–22

Yardage: 4m (4.5 yds) of 45″ fabric, 1m (1 1/8 yds) lining

Recommended fabrics: Soft cotton, cotton blends, or glazed cotton.

Seam allowance: 1cm (3/8″)

Notions: 56 cm (22″) flat zipper, interfacing for belt.

Notes: Skirt, frill, and belt pieces are to be drafted.

Click here for more instalments in my Free Designer Patterns series.

Georgie dress by Mary Quant, ca. 1962. Gift of Sarah E. Robinson. Image: V&A.

Vintage Nurse’s Uniforms

Detail, McCall Special R & S Red Cross operating gown and helmet in McCall’s, July 1917.

As a salute to our health care workers, this post is dedicated to vintage patterns for nurse’s uniforms.


Claire Avery WW1 illustration: Woman's Place is in a Uniform, Vogue, July 1918
Red Cross nurse with Red Cross worker, Vogue, July 1918. Illustration: Claire Avery. Image: Vogue Archive.

During the First World War, McCall’s sold commercial patterns for war work, including nurse’s uniforms, as well as official Red Cross patterns.

World War 1 nurse uniform pattern McCall 7845 with apron and cap pattern McCall 7847 in McCall's magazine, July 1917.
“The Nurse Fitted with Her Uniform and Apron”: nurse uniform pattern McCall 7845 with apron and cap pattern McCall 7847 in McCall’s, July 1917.

Few of these antique patterns seem to have survived, but the Commercial Pattern Archive has the unisex Red Cross operating gown:

McCall Special R (1917) Red Cross Surgeon's and Nurse's Operating Gown in Two Lengths
McCall Special R (1917) Red Cross Surgeon’s and Nurse’s Operating Gown in Two Lengths. Image: Emery, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry.

This illustration shows a nurse dressed for surgery in the gown, McCall Special R, and helmet Special S. (For more, see Patterns for the Great War.)

McCall Special R and S - Red Cross gown & helmet (1917)
McCall Special R and S (1917) Operating gown and helmet.

Nurses wore similar protective wear during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19. This archival photo shows a local Hamilton estate, Ballinahinch, that was donated for conversion to a hospital during the pandemic.

Ballinahinch Relief Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, ca. 1918. Image: Local History & Archives, Hamilton Public Library.


Twenties-era patterns for nurse’s uniforms always seem to include the cap. This design dates to circa 1921, just before McCall’s patented the printed pattern.

McCall 2207 (ca. 1921) Nurses’ uniform (with cap). Image: eBay.

This drop-waisted uniform was still available two years later, but with a much higher hemline.

McCall 3524
McCall 3524 (ca. 1924) Nurses’ uniform and cap. Image: eBay.
1920s Nándor Honti paper doll illustrating McCall's patterns - nurse uniform and cap 3524, infant dress and petticoat 4252, bonnet 3105, embroidery 1339 - in McCall's magazine
“Baby McCall Goes for a Ride.” Paper doll by illustrator Nándor Honti in McCall’s, March 1926. Image: Pinterest.

The Vintage Pattern Lending Library sells reproductions of this late 1920s design. Swap in a contrast Peter Pan collar and cuffs and it doubles as a maid’s uniform.

McCall 5805 (1929) Nurse’s & service uniform. Image: VPLL on Etsy.

Andrea Cesari has several nurse patterns in her collection. The description for this one reads, “A uniform whose trim lines always look smart. The absence of fussy detail assures perfect laundering.”

Simplicity 7006 (ca. 1929)
Simplicity 7006 (ca. 1929) Nurses’ Uniform. Image: Unsung Sewing Patterns.


This early ’30s uniform is similarly sensible. (View on Etsy.)

McCall 7052 (1932) Nurses’ & service uniform. Image: eBay.

From Vogue, a late ’30s uniform that also includes a pintucked shirtdress:

Vogue 8106 (1938) Nurse’s uniform or dress. Image: The Blue Gardenia.


During the Second World War, dressmakers could again sew Red Cross nurse’s uniforms, as well as commercial designs. This back-buttoned nurse’s uniform from Simplicity includes the apron, but not the cap.

Simplicity 3882 (1941)
Simplicity 3882 (1941) Nurse’s uniform or dress with apron.

As in the previous World War, Red Cross patterns were available from many companies. McCall’s and Simplicity both sold patterns for the Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Corps. Here, the envelope stipulates: “Must be made in poplin; veil may be made in chiffon, georgette, voile, or lawn.” This uniform was not intended for hospital workers.

McCall 4641 (1942)
McCall 4641 (1942) American Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Corps washable uniform. Image: eBay.

The next year, the veil and white contrasts were gone. (Compare Cesari’s equivalent, Simplicity 4626.)

McCall 2501 (1943) American Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Corps washable uniform. Image: eBay.

This McCall’s retail catalogue shows the Special Service Corps uniform with two other Red Cross patterns, with a note that they were only available by special order.

Red Cross patterns McCall 2500, 2501 - December 1944. "The three Red Cross Patterns shown on this page are not carried in stock but can be ordered for you."
Red Cross patterns in McCall’s catalogue, December 1944. Image: Unexpected Necessities.

After the war, patterns for nurse’s uniforms return to their peacetime selves, fashionable yet practical — in this case with a three-piece shoulder pad. Do you have any uniform patterns in your collection?

Update: Instructions for no-sew masks (The Guardian) | Mask-making for the fashion industry (Business of Fashion Professional)

McCall 7517 (1948)
McCall 7517 (1948) Nurses’ Uniform or Ladies’ & Misses’ Dress.