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Introducing Matilda: The ultimate shirt dress!

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

I am so thrilled to introduce you to my newest pattern, the Matilda dress! I love this design so much, and I am really excited to show you all the details and the ideas behind it! I’m not exaggerating when i say that all the details in this dress were thoughtfully designed to allow the maximum opportunities for you to vary the design and add your own touches. There are so many ways that you can alter the look of this dress by leaving off or changing some of the details. Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

I just don’t think it’s possible to show all the things we’ve included in this dress on a model shot alone, so I’m going to walk you through all the parts of this dress, and basically give you a little tour of Matilda from the inside and out!

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

As is always the case, this design came about because of a personal wardrobe hole. I was really wanting a different kind of shirt dress, something feminine and stylish but with a distinctly utilitarian and tailored feel. The kind of dress you would throw on when you really don’t what to wear, and feel perfectly put together and stylish immediately. That’s what Matilda has been for me. This dress works pretty effortlessly for any situation depending on fabric choice. I’m not going to lie to you, we made one of the samples out of a vintage sheet and everyone who saw it thought it was so pretty that it must be the final sample. That’s the power of tailoring. Also probably time to admit that the made-from-a-sheet Matilda has made it’s way into my own wardrobe hehe.

This pattern is named after Matilda Bay, which is my favourite stretch of the Swan River in Perth. It’s my favourite place to go for a family picnic and let the kids play at the shoreline. When the weather warms up in Perth (it’s currently winter here) I can’t wait to actually wear a Matilda dress to Matilda Bay hehehe. I am corny, it’s fine.

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns BlogIntroducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

Practical details are always incredibly important to me, and I have been dreaming about these pockets for so long! The are deep and roomy and can hold basically anything without it falling out. The edge is finished with a fully enclosing tab, which is a detail i love as it leaves you the option of sewing the tab in a contrasting or complimentary fabric, or even playing with print direction like we did.

It’s important to me that you are able to get as much value from my patterns as possible by changing them up and making them your own, so these pockets are topstitched on top of the skirt, making it easy for you to simply leave them off for a completely different look.

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

The front placket is also sewn as a separate piece, fully enclosing all raw edges, again to allow the opportunity to cut it on the bias and show of interesting prints, or even making it out of a different fabric from the rest of the dress. This is the same with the sleeve bands. Some of our pattern testers sewed these from contrast fabrics, and it looked amazing! It’s also easy to leave off the sleeve bands, and again one of our pattern testers did that, and i’ll show you in a few days when i post our tester roundup.

Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design DiaryIntroducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

The collar is delicate and features a curved edge, which i feel softens the dress. For our burnt orange sample we sewed the collar and stand from the main fabric, but for our gingham sample with played with using a different fabric for the inner collar stand, and i really really love how that turned out. It offers just a peek when worn open and is a great way to use up small pieces of special fabric that you can’t use in a full project.

The collar and stand aren’t just a decorative feature though! They are perfectly functional and can be buttoned up all the way and worn comfortably if that is your chosen styling.

Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

The pleated breast pockets are one of my favourite features and again they offer a chance to play with pattern placement and contrast facings. On our gingham sample we cut these on the bias and I’m beyond thrilled with how they look! As with the skirt pockets, the breast pockets can easily be left off for a completely different look.

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns BlogIntroducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

The shaping in the bodice comes from princess seams, which can been topstitched to highlight them as in our rust orange sample, or left plain as with our gingham sample.

I really love princess seams. I believe they give the most flattering look of any bodice shaping method.

Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

Another lovely feature on this dress are the front and back yokes. They are fully enclosed on the inside (don’t worry i’ll show you how!) and provide a beautiful structure and visual detail on the shoulders. They also allow another opportunity to use a special fabric on the inside of the dress. Above is the gingham sample inside out, doesn’t it look pretty with those contrast facings?

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

The fit on this dress is intended to be comfortable and not too close. This is a dress that you can eat food in and sit down in, and allows room to breath on hot stuffy days. If you are however wanting it to fit really closely you can achieve this by sizing down.

Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design DiaryIntroducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

The waistband is internally faced to not only enclose all those raw edges, but also provide a lot of stability to the dress. For our gingham dress we again used a contrasting fabric for the internal facing and it gives me so much joy to look at the pretty insides of this dress!

Introducing the Matilda dress sewing pattern, a modern utility shirt dress | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

And that is my little tour of the Matilda dress! There are a lot of really beautiful classic tailoring details in this dress, and I have created a really thorough set of sewalong tutorials to guide you through the whole process. I promise you can achieve all of these techniques – they are perfectly within your reach and i will hold your hand the whole way and show you the easiest way to get a clean professional finish that you’ll be proud of.

// MATILDA SEWALONG TUTORIALS //

I literally can’t wait to see what you do with this pattern! I hope you love it as much as I do! Don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNmatilda and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!

If you have bought the pattern already, you can get it in store here, and if you have any questions at all, please let me know in the comments! If you would like to see some of the gorgeous Matilda dresses our pattern testers made check out this post!

Order Matilda!Introducing Matilda, the ultimate shirt dress sewing pattern // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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Let's Get Sewing
5 years ago

Another gorgeous pattern, your pattern drafting skills are genius Megan.

Rae
Rae
5 years ago

This is so beautiful!! LOVE it, Megan!

Barbara Showell
Barbara Showell
5 years ago

I am instantly in love with this dress and think it would be very flattering on me. I’m stopped by the sizing though, as your xl is the size I would have needed as a slender, fit 5’11” 20 yr old soldier and I’m now a sedentary 57 year old night shift nurse. I’m working on learning how to increase pattern sizes way up but I’m not there yet and we’re talking more than 10″ here. But the design is motivational.

Beate
Beate
5 years ago

This is THE perfect gingham dress I have been looking for! I already made your Darling Ranges and Dove, both were a breeze to sew. I can’t wait for the sew-a- long, , I’m in love with your work!

Dara Harper
Dara Harper
5 years ago

Very Pretty! Thanks for sharing this! Happy. Sewing!

Elizabeth Bradshaw
5 years ago

This is a stunning dress, wonder if I did the waistband in vertical stripes whether it would make my waist look small enough to wear it! Love your little comments about Matilda Bay, we have a large “family reunion” there every year, with our large extended family.

Michele
Michele
5 years ago

H Megan, I love the new pattern but before I purchase it is it possible to have more info on the finished size. I’m 5 ft 3′ (161cm) and have a 34 bust. Could you tell us the shoulder breadth or collar stand length or the size the model is wearing and her height. It would help me and other petit people know if it is possible to make it fit.
I Hope it’s not too much to ask
Thanks Michele

nola
nola
2 years ago

I would love this with medium length sleeves!

Karen Kudlac
Karen Kudlac
3 months ago

I ordered the printed version but I want to purchase the fabric now but I have no idea how much to buy. Can someone help