Pattern Reviews

Matilda dress (Megan Nielsen). A shirt-dress sewn partially in reverse.

I’d been eyeing the Matilda dress from Megan Nielsen patterns for months before purchasing the pattern and a whole year passed before I got around to sewing it. The reason? no special reason. I loved the design, but I am especially moody in my sewing and the inspiration to make it hadn’t come.

The dress is packed with design elements that will be best seen in a solid fabric. The website has a gingham and a solid linen version in the photos. I think the details can be lost in the print and are showcased so well in the photo above.

The line art is always very helpful when seeing the real details is required before purchase. I am always studying this image well before deciding if I like the style and if I like the sewing construction. What I see above, I am drawn to! this is a project with many many pattern pieces and there are occasions when I want to sew a garment that is not so simple.

The features

  • Princess seams from the shoulders
  • Dropped shoulder sleeve with bands
  • Front and back yokes that are self lined
  • Bilateral pleated bust pockets with a flap (I always opt out of bust pockets)
  • Shaped self-lined waistband unite the bodice to the skirt
  • A line skirt with large patch pockets
  • A separate button placket
  • Collar stand and collar

There are 18 pattern pieces. Most are cut twice, plus the interfaced pieces make this a project that consumes a hefty amount of fabric and requires considerable time to cut, interface and mark notches.

The fabric

The Matilda dress is designed with light/medium weight woven fabrics in mind, such as: linen, shirting cottons, chambray, rayon* and silk*. I would be cautious with choosing rayon and silk. These fabrics are harder to manipulate and will stretch out of shape easily. The design has so many pattern pieces and precision is required to unite them all correctly. Saying that, my opinion is that if you are not an advanced seamstress, I would recommend linen, shirting cotton and chambray. My choice: linen in a washed denim colour and due to the fact that I didn’t have enough for all the pieces, I used cotton to line the internal front and back yokes and the internal waistbands.

Sizing

While most of the newer patterns from the Megan Nielsen brand are available in sizes 0-20 and 14-30 in the curve range, the older patterns, like the Matilda dress is only available in sizes XS-XL.

Looking at the chart, my body measurements fit exactly size XL and for reference, I am 5ft 8″ with an athletic build hourglass .

It’s very unfortunate that body measurements larger than a 42 – 34 – 44 will not fit into the non-inclusive sizing for this dress. The drafted positive ease at the bust is 2 5/8″ and at the waist 1 5/8″ making this style fitted.

Collar stand and Collar with rounded shapes

The construction

The sewing steps are very well explained in the instructions with well made diagrams and thoughtful wording. The seam allowance is 5/8″ throughout all the construction of the dress.

I have filmed a video review on my sewing YouTube channel all about this pattern where you can see it on and several construction steps in the practical Up close and sew personal segment of my videos. See below how to sew the pocket tabs, sleeves bands and button plackets.

General construction thoughts

  • The notches are well placed and match perfectly, assisting the process of putting all the pieces together. There are single notches for front pieces and double notches for back pieces.
  • The pattern pieces are trued beautifully. A great example is the band on the edge of the patch pockets.
  • Because the seam allowance is 5/8″ everywhere and there are steps where a raw edge needs to be folded and pressed, I have added a bonus step of doing a guide stitch (straight long stitch length 4.5) to assist with precision when folding, pressing and sewing. This is not mentioned in the instructions.
  • Three areas of construction (pocket bands, button placket and sleeve bands) are instructed to be sewn to the main pieces right sides together, flipped to the wrong side and top stitched. The loose, folded under edge will be on the inside. This is the traditional way of sewing these areas in most patterns. In reality, this method makes precision difficult. Most seamstresses will use only pins and sew from the inside, making the right side of the garment have unimpressive stitching. If the user chooses to sew from the right side, the inside edge of the piece (pocket band, button placket or sleeve band) might not get caught precisely. In my case: I attempted one of the pocket bands as instructed and hand basted the seam. I still didn’t catch the entirety of the band on the inside while sewing with the right side of the pocket facing up! seam ripping time…. and with a delicate fabric such as linen, it took AGES. My solution: Sew all the pieces with a reverse method. Place the pieces (pocket bands, button placket, sleeve bands) wrong side to the right side of the main pattern pieces, sew and flip over to the right side of the garment. This leaves the folded under loose edge of the piece on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE DRESS, making top stitching accurate and easier, because you can see what you are doing. The wording for all of this sounds totally wrong and confusing right? it’s best to actually see it done in the video on my channel embedded above.
  • The collar stand/collar construction would be so much easier if a smaller seam allowance was drafted. The pattern calls for 5/8″ seam allowance throughout and that is fine for the main straighter seams, but for curved seams and where precision is required, construction is so much easier and exact with a 3/8″ or even better, a 1/4″ seam allowance. There are many patterns that will have different seam allowances for different areas of the construction of the garment in the sake of precision. It’s not unheard of. In this case, it’s a universal critique I will make for patterns drafted with 5/8″ seam allowances.
  • The princess seams are curved seams and instructions call for snipping into them to facilitate the pieces conforming to the curve. I would rather trim the seam allowance to 3/8″ and finish the edges (serge, zig zag…) and press without clipping at all. The smaller seam allowance will cope with the curve very well. Having exposed seams weakened by snips leaves raw areas that will fray over time and will not cope with wear and laundering. If this were a lined garment, then I would still trim the seam allowance and snip very minimally.
  • The armscye is drafted to be a dropped shoulder and there is a considerable curve in the shape. The sleeve bands are rectangles cut normally on the grain-line and after sewn, even though they fit the circumference perfectly, they will not conform well to the curve of the armscye. It’s a geometric issue. I would rather hem the dropped sleeves with self bias binding opting out of the bands and the pattern actually suggests this option in a customization list.
The rectangular sleeve bands stand away from the curved armscye
I am happy to skip the bust pockets to avoid bulk on the bust area
The curved waistband is correctly placed at my waist height
My skirt is 1″ shorten than the original length
Side view
I like the volume of the A line skirt. Not too much, not to little.
I made 18 buttonholes instead of 13

Final thoughts

The pattern is well drafted and fits amazingly. The size chart is true to the numbers shown there and if your body measurements are taken accurately, the dress will fit well, if the limited sizing works for you. The design features are beautiful and very flattering. I enjoyed the self lined yokes and waistbands and the instructions for these areas are super helpful. Not every pattern considers lining these areas and the finish inside is truly superior.

The construction thoughts I expressed above come from my many years of garment construction experience. I have picked up over the years what seam allowances facilitate sewing and precision and can’t help but apply this experience to my sewing. In regards to my preference for reverse sewing methods.. they are not mainstream and non-traditional but provide an improved sewing experience, precision and less seam ripping moments.

The dress is beautiful and I love it. I am very tempted to remove the sleeve bands and hem with bias binding instead. I think I will be happier with the look then.

I do love these patch pockets

DISCLAIMER: I Purchased my own fabric and PDF pattern for this project. I don’t have affiliate links in this post to the pattern company and the pattern.

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