I Heart Disco: Bob Mackie for McCall’s

1980 Bob Mackie strapless swimsuit and pareo pattern - McCalls 7138
McCall’s 7138 by Bob Mackie (1980) Image: Etsy.

Bob Mackie (b. 1939) is known mainly for his work as a costume designer for performers like Carol Burnett, Diana Ross, and, of course, Cher.

Cher in Bob Mackie one-shouldered beaded dress and feathered headdress, c. 1973
Cher in a costume by Bob Mackie, c. 1973. Image: Vanity Fair.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, McCall’s licensed a handful of Bob Mackie designs for stretch knits. The summer heat always makes me think of disco, so here’s a selection of disco-era Bob Mackie patterns:

McCall’s 6838 is a long-sleeved wrap dress in two lengths:

McCall's 6838 1970s Bob Mackie disco wrap dress pattern
McCall’s 6838 by Bob Mackie (1979) Image: Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Long or short wrap-dress (without side seams), softly pleated into front waistline has shoulder gathers and long sleeves. Shaped sash is tacked to right side seam.

The second pattern in the series, McCall’s 6839, is a dress that’s high-necked in the front but has a deep cowl in the back:

McCall's 6839 1970s Bob Mackie disco evening dress pattern
McCall’s 6839 by Bob Mackie (1979) Image: eBay.

The envelope description reads: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Low-backed dress in two lengths with shaped seaming has long sleeves, flared skirt, back zipper; softly draped bias collar snaps in back. Rhinestone trim is optional.

The third in the series, McCall’s 6840, is a halter dress with pleated cowl bodice inset and a shaped front hemline:

McCall's 6840 1970s Bob Mackie disco evening dress pattern
McCall’s 6840 by Bob Mackie (1979)

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ dress – for stretch knits only. Back zippered halter dress in two lengths has flared skirt, shaped hemline with front slit; upper edge binding extends into ties. Loose, pleated cowl is included in side fronts only.

McCall’s 7134 includes a true disco jumpsuit—shaped at the waist with pleats and gathers, and with tapered legs designed to crush at the ankles. For extra fluidity, the pants and skirt have no side seams and are cut on the bias:

McCall's 7134 1980s Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern
McCall’s 7134 by Bob Mackie (1980)

The envelope description reads: Misses dress and jumpsuit – for stretch knits only. Back zippered, fitted dress in two lengths and jumpsuit have slightly extended shoulders, low V-neckline, soft front waistline pleats and slight gathers in back. Dress has front slit with shaped hemline and pleated belt included in center back seam. Jumpsuit has purchased belt; length allows for crushing at ankles. Note: skirt and pants, cut on bias, have no side seams.

Interestingly, the McCall’s patterns pre-date Bob Mackie’s ready-to-wear line, which was launched in 1982. It’s difficult to find details on the designer’s work outside show business; Unmistakably Mackie, the catalogue from the Museum at FIT’s 1999 Mackie retrospective, focuses mainly on his costume work. The Bob Mackie patterns could be glitzed up or down depending on the sewer’s preference. I wonder whether they were designed exclusively for McCall’s?

8 thoughts on “I Heart Disco: Bob Mackie for McCall’s

  1. I’ve always thought of Bob Mackie as a crazy man (a combo of that iconic Cher outfit and his work for Mattel) but those patterns are so wearable! Nothing Vegas performer or pageant girl about them.

  2. I made the third pattern back in 1980. I chose a shimmery red fabric, and it was drop-dead gorgeous. Wore it to my senior prom, and got a lot of compliments. I wish I still had the pattern.

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