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“Come a-waltzing Matilda with me”: Megan Nielsen Matilda shirt dress

Years ago when I first came across Megan Nielsen, the Matilda shirt dress instantly caught my eye. I love shirt dresses, and this one stood out with the amount of beautiful details – top-stitched seams, angled pockets, little grown-on sleeves, waistband, breast pockets… And also the name, of course!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know I spent some time in Australia and it will always have a very special place in my heart. Of course, Megan Nielsen is an Australian company and the name of the pattern – Matilda – seems to be a reference to the Australian song Waltzing Matilda, a famous bush ballad whose lyrics were written by Banjo Paterson in 1895, which has become a sort of unofficial Australian anthem. It is not about a Matilda dancing a waltz, as the title might suggest, rather it’s Australian slang for travelling on foot with a swag (pack of your belongings). If you decipher the slang and stop to think about the meaning, you’ll see it’s not a very happy song. It recounts a story of a bush worker who catches a stray sheep for his dinner, only to be accused of theft, chased by policemen, and finally committing suicide. Nonetheless, the connection with the bush seems quite appropriate for the Matilda pattern, as it has a definite utilitarian look.

Alright, back to the pattern itself! Back then when I first saw it, the size range was limited to five sizes (XS-XL), and while I would have fitted into it, I was a bit put off by the sizing in general. Megan Nielsen have since expanded their size range and they now offer two different size bands which together span sizes from 0 to 34. They are also re-releasing their older patterns, so when the updated Matilda came out last year, I snapped it up. I had to wait a little bit longer to find the perfect fabric, but when I saw this raspberry linen, I knew it would make a beautiful Matilda.

I wanted to get the fit right, so I made a toile out of some linen off-cuts from a different project and based on that made a few adjustments by now familiar to me – I pinched out some excess fabric from the front yoke, which meant doing a kind of narrow-shoulder adjustment on the pattern piece. I also did a sway-back adjustment. As the bodice has princess seams, instead of doing a proper FBA, I just reshaped the curves of the seams slightly, adding a little bit where my bust point was and reducing it at the top of my chest. Since I needed to add only a little bit of room, I got away with it and I think the fit is pretty good!

Now, this was not a quick project. Toile aside, the cutting out of the whole dress took forever, as it has 18 different pattern pieces, some of which you’re cutting out also in interfacing. Then there’s all the top-stitching (optional), all the lovely details, and buttons & buttonholes. So it took me quite a few evenings to complete, but I enjoyed every step of the way immensely. Sometimes it’s good to make a quick win, but other times these more involved projects can be equally satisfying. So do not be put off by the number of pieces and steps, it’s all worth it and the instructions are excellent!

This pattern is also perfect if you want to add little constrasting details, such as the undercollar, all the different facings, or the bottom button band… I was considering using some of my Liberty Wiltshire Berry tana lawn scraps for these, because it matches the linen so beatifully. But in the end I decided against it, as I wanted a really clean look. But I did sneak a bit of the fabric under my label which I sewed onto the inner yoke, and it makes me happy just looking at it.

So, as you can probably tell, I am over the moon with this dress. I’ve worn it a few times already and received many compliments on it. Have I convinced you to try it for yourself?

Until next time,

Magda

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