Product Review: Mata Traders’ Garden Party Dress

For my birthday in February, my parents got me a gift certificate to Mata Traders, a fair trade shop whose products I had long coveted but never purchased. I waited for their spring line to come out and spent many hours deliberating what to get. A skirt? Jewelry? But in the end, the dress section won out, as it often does with me, and I selected the Garden Party pleated dress in polka dot.

Mata Traders Dress 1

Dress: Mata Traders
Leggings: Goodwill
Shoes: Oka b.

The dress was made by a democratically-structured women’s cooperative in India. The fabric is 100% cotton block-printed with a blue and pink polka dot pattern using traditional techniques. The full skirt features two pockets big enough to hold a phone or wallet.

Mata Traders Dress Back

One reason I chose this dress because it has sleeves, and my office has a strict “no sleeveless tops” policy. From the pictures on the site I thought it might be a little too short to wear to work anyway, but I wanted to have the option just in case.

Mata Traders Dress Pocket

It did turn out to be as short as I thought, so I think this dress will primarily live on the weekends, though I may get some navy tights and wear them with the dress in the fall. (Capri pants and leggings are also frowned upon at my office, so opaque tights are my trick for getting a lot of my shorter dresses to be less conspicuous at work.)

While I’m a big fan of this dress overall, it did require significant alteration to fit me correctly. I ordered a small, and the waist fits just right, but the upper part of the bodice was clearly designed for a bustier woman than I. I took in the bodice in two different places and the sleeves a little bit as well, and then it fit just right.

If you like the style but bright polka dots aren’t your jam, the dress also comes in a cute gray and red print with tiny giraffes, and a black and white floral print.

Have you ever ordered anything from Mata Traders? What are your workarounds for oppressive office dress codes?


  1. Jamillah

    I saw this version in tiny giraffes and totally wanted it!!! But I don’t do well with dresses with a built in waist so to speak b/c I’m so very high waisted! Sigh…ah well. Looks super sweet on you!

    How do you like the Oka B shoes?! I was thinking of buying a pair! Do they feels similar to Melissa’s?

    • Julia

      I like the shoes a lot! They’re super-flexible. I wouldn’t recommend them for temperatures 85+, just because they’re all plastic and don’t breathe, but other than that they’re pretty super!

  2. Thanks for the review. I still haven’t purchased from Mata Traders, but I did have the chance to skype with the founders a few months back. I love what they do, but I’m not sure about fit or style for most of the garments they produce.

    • Julia

      Yeah, the fit on this dress was very surprising. I do love their fabrics though! I bet their founders had some great insights on running this type of business.

  3. Taleen

    Hello! I purchased this dress and it also fits me great in the waist but is so big in the top. Can you tell me exactly how you altered it? I took mine to an alterations place but it’s still big. I would take it back but I’m living abroad now so I can’t do that easily. This dress is so cute, I really want it to work for me!

    • Julia

      I had a lot of extra fabric on the sides of the bust, so on each side I put in a seam that angles from the chest dart to the bottom of the arm hole. I also took in the seam that runs along the top of the sleeves a little bit, right next to the neck hole. That helped the front of the bodice fit more closely instead of gapping. Let me know if you need a more specific description! I can make a diagram. :)

  4. Rhiannon

    Hi! I recently bought a matatraders’ dress and had some issues with the transfer of dye onto skin. When I tried to set the dye with a salt/vinegar/cold water solution, the dye wouldn’t stop bleeding from the fabric. I was wondering if you had to deal with this issue when washing your dress and if you would be willing to share some tips on how to tackle this challenge. I can’t seem to find any instructions on how to keep the dye and stop transfer on the Matatraders website, beyond washing it by hand in cold water

    • Julia

      Hi Rhiannon, I haven’t actually had any dye transfer issues with this particular dress. I’m sorry you’re having trouble with yours! I machine-wash the dress in cold water with the rest of my darks.

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