2023: year of the shirtdress, for real this time

Matilda shirtdress front

“Yes, Erin, we’ve heard this before,” you say, and you’d be right—I don’t want to go back and search, but I’m pretty sure I’ve declared several previous Years of the Shirtdress, and then made … one. If that.

This time, though … that above is my third Matilda shirtdress, and I’m planning on making quite a few more. I actually bought the original non-curve-sized Matilda pattern yonks ago, realized how much work it was going to be to curvenize it (that’s the technical term), and it promptly went to the bottom of the pile. So when the curve version came out I was pretty enthusiastic, and the pile got shuffled somewhat.

Matilda shirtdress back view

I’ve since made it three times; this is the latest iteration. I will post the other two anon, but I wanted to get this posted sooner, because … well, I like it!

It’s not perfect by any means; the collar is a bit wonky on the left-hand edge (I might be able to just re-press it tho):

Matilda shirtdress collar

I like lots of things about this pattern: first off, the pockets are a good size, and patch pockets so very easy. The sleeve bands are fun, too:

Matilda shirtdress sleeve band

I’m looking forward to really playing around with stripes and plaids next, because this pattern goes together really well.

There were some changes made: I had to raise the bust point a bit (but the pattern designer actually has a great tutorial for this). I think the collar stand is too tall, so I shortened it (and I might narrow the collar, too). I’d love to try this with a flat (Peter Pan) collar, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around that change yet. I also did the waistband buttonholes horizontally, instead of vertically, because that just feels better? Idk. Because this fabric is lightweight, I used hem binding instead of the ‘fold twice and sew’ method because I wanted a little extra weight. Next go-round I’m going to only use this (very good) fusible interfacing for the collar stand and front bands, and use organza for the waistband and the collar.

The pattern instructions want you to sew the bands to the front, flip them to the back, and then topstitch, but I am not nearly patient enough for that nonsense, so I did it the opposite way around. (This review has better instructions than that, search the page for ‘reverse method’.) With the reverse method you’re topstitching on the edge that needs to be sewn down, so you can focus on the topstitching bit, and not the “am I catching the loose edge on the side of the dress I can’t see” bit.

This fabric is (I think) Liberty Mark Tana lawn; I mean, it’s definitely the Mark pattern, I just can’t find a record of this colorway. I’m not usually a navy-blue person (I ended up using all my navy thread sewing this, and had to cheat with a little bit of a blue-purple in places). I figured this would be a good test run for whether this fabric works in Tana lawn, because I really like the print and it is SO BUSY that any little bobbles would be hidden, a kind of Where’s Waldo, but for sewing mistakes. It is also still kind of coldish here so I can wear this over a long-sleeved black tee and leggings. (Mixing navy and black is how you can tell the real fashion pros from the wannabees, right?)

On the easy-to-wear scale, where 10 is “pajamas you’ve had for >5 years” and 0 is “actual suit of armor” this is a solid 7. It hangs nicely, there’s good arm mobility with sleeve bands, the pockets are well-placed and ample, and the fit is trim without being constricting.

I won’t kid you—any shirtdress pattern is just going to be a lot of work. This one has a lot of pieces, and buttonholes, and interfacing, and a collar and and and … it’s definitely a “one bite at a time” pattern and not a “cut out Saturday morning, wear it Saturday night” pattern. I tried keeping track of how long it took me to complete each stage, and I’m pretty sure this was a 5-8 hour sew (for comparison, a dress like this is usually a 3-4 hour sew). Plus I generally like to approach buttonholes well-rested, after a light stretching session, and properly caffeinated ….

You might notice a new background to the pics—I’m now nicely settled in to my new sewing space! That’s a new dress form, too (her name is Dot, for obvious reasons). My previous dress form (RIP) was bought in the last century and succumbed to terminal foam-disintegration disease. That white drawer-thingy next to the dress in the first picture? That’s full of bias tape. Full, I tell you. (It’s not a problem, I’m sure I’ll use it all up before I die …)

Stay tuned for more Matildas, perhaps an Isca, and a vintage shirtdress! Really!