Many lives ago, I used to write for a heavy metal magazine in Brazil. One of my responsibilities was to review concerts. I was not paid for my job, but I got free tickets and a photo pass to every rock/metal concert in Rio. When I moved to Los Angeles, I continued with the gig, but time became an issue, and I could not justify working for free anymore. Once I began working as a teacher, my rock’n’roll life ceased to exist. The last major mid-week concert I attended (Depeche Mode, Hollywood Bowl, October 2017) had to be followed by a day off. I really cannot function on 4, 5 hours of sleep.
Then, Massive Attack announced its Mezzanine 20th Anniversary Tour, so I had to get tickets. Garbage is playing at a venue where tickets close to the stage are not a small fortune, so I had to get tickets. And Lebanon Hangover, my new post-punk obsession, had a second night added to follow up a sold-out date… and I had to get tickets. Three concerts for someone who averages one concert a year is a lot. Not only am I going out; I am going out and staying out way past my bedtime. These are special occasions that require special attention to what I will wear. Let’s say this is my version of going to the opera.
I decided to sew an outfit for each of these concerts. Massive Attack was supposed to play in March, but the tour got postponed to September due to health issues with members of the band. The crushed black velvet dress I had imagined for the concert got reassigned to Lebanon Hanover—which was scheduled to play in April, but visa issues pushed the event forward…to DECEMBER! I was expecting Garbage to reschedule too, but so far, the date is still the same, May 16. The Massive Attack dress that became the Lebanon Hanover dress became the Garbage dress.
With so many changes, I got two months to decide which pattern I wanted to use for my Garbage Gala Night. It was not difficult to settle on the Natalie dress by Muse Patterns. For women with a larger bust (like me), the Natalie will make you feel like Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita. I have two versions of the dress, and I love how it fits. I used a slinkier knit for my first attempts, and the neckline dips low. This velvet version ended up with a lot more cleavage coverage, so you can definitely control the amount of exposure by selecting a fabric with less give or raising the neckline.
The Natalie is a pattern for knit fabrics. The dress features “a triangular inset at the bust, diagonal seam lines on the front bodice, and gathering details are reminiscent of the 1940s.” Its design details make it an incredibly flattering dress. The bodice is very cleverly designed: two pieces that are gathered at the front and attached to the triangle detail. The V-shape of the neckband creates a plunging neckline that may or may not agree with your level of comfort.
The pattern has three lengths: a tunic, a knee-length dress, and a maxi-dress. Waist ties add interest to the waist, but I don’t care for attracting attention to my mid-section, so I have never used them. I went with a size 42 and made no fit adjustments to any pattern piece. I decided on an above-the-knee dress, and I took three inches off the length as I want the dress to have a hitting-the-club vibe. I modified the short sleeves by slashing and spreading so that they ended up with a nice fluttery effect. I used the method described by Tilly Walnes in her book Stretch! I found a similar tutorial from Threads Magazine in case you are wondering.
I bought some black crushed velvet knit at Michael Levine, pre-washed it, but I did not put it in the dryer. I have a long list of garment pieces I do not place in the dryer anymore, and I do not plan to do so with this dress. I had a great experience sewing with knit velvet when I made my Joni, so I felt empowered and ready to face this fabric. I even took risks such as cutting pieces with the fabric folded (a practice to be avoided when working with slippery fabrics, but I like living on the edge). I had to place both cutting mats on the floor so that I had enough surface to cut the back piece. I need to keep up with yoga and stretching, or I need to build a cutting table with a much bigger top.
The Natalie is easy to sew. The instructions are very clear, and the illustrations are helpful. A note of caution: Pay very close attention to all the notches. They are essential to the construction of the bodice. I know from past experiences with the construction of this dress that the notches much match, or you will have a very hard time trying to attach the bodice pieces to the triangle, and the neckband to the bodice. Another note of caution: Make sure that the very top of the bodice pieces gets sewn together; this step is essential if you want the neckband to go in easily and quickly. A final note of caution: When working with the neckband, take your time. It is not a difficult task, but it requires a lot of patience. If you are feeling burnt out, wait to add the neckband.
There are not many reviews or tutorials about this pattern. I found a few reviews for the Natalie on PatternReview.com. These reviews are a great overview, and every so often I can find great advice about sewing a pattern. More in-depth reviews and a lot of great tips and observations were found on Stitches and Seams, Crafting a Rainbow, Adventures of a Young Seamstress, Annotations of Jenny, and Nikki’s Stitches. Their versions of the Natalie dress were beautiful, and it is really inspiring to see the finished product in a variety of body shapes and personal styles.
The Natalie came together quickly and almost without issues. The most difficult part of the whole construction was getting the neckband in. The center lines do not line perfectly, but since the fabric is busy, no one will notice. You would have to be a total creep to keep staring at my chest to check for exact center seam placement. The velvet looks almost liquid when the light hits it. I was afraid that the fabric would be too thick for the dress to be worn on warmer days, but it worked well for a spring evening.
I felt like I dressed the part to honor Garbage. The concert was simply amazing. I have such profound respect and a huge crush on Shirley Manson. Witnessing her on stage is a privilege. Her style is all great things wrapped in one. She is edgy, feminine, powerful, and sexy. I ended up going to bed at 12 AM, and I paid dearly the morning after at work, but it was worth it. I am already planning for the next night out. What goes with Massive Attack?