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Love That Look: Tessa Sheath Dress – with fisheye darts!

Hi – it’s Mac of Harper+Lu, guest blogging about the Tessa Sheath Dress.  I have a confession for all of you. Until recently, I hadn’t owned a classic black sheath dress!  I have always loved the simplicity and versatility of a black sheath dress. But, until I tried out the Tessa pattern, it just seemed out of my reach given how hard it is for me to fit into off-the-rack clothes.

I love the look of elegant dresses with simple clean lines, that can easily transform from day to night depending on how they are accessorized.  So, when I came across this photo of a Half Sleeve Seamed Sheath Dress by Cynthia Steffe on Pinterest – retailing for $278 – I knew I could get most of the way there with my trusty Tessa pattern.

Half Sleeve Seamed Sheath Dress by Cynthia Steffe Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu

Finding clothes that fit my shape has been an ongoing struggle for me.

Dresses that fit my bust, don’t fit my shoulders. I get horrible pooling at in my lower back, and the hemlines tend to either be too short or too long.  Tami made customizations a breeze by including the bust line, waist line,  and hip line markings in the pattern.  You can easily hold the pattern piece up to yourself to get a sense of where your dimensions line up with the pattern piece and adjust accordingly!

 Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu

The pattern comes with a shaped center back seam, which already provides some backside room. However, given the gorgeous print that I was using for the pattern that I scored at Mood Fabrics, I decided I would avoid the hassle of lining up the two pieces by cutting on the fold. Can someone say BAD MOVE??? (see camera phone picture below while attempting to pin out the excess fabric)

Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu

Pronounced swayback issues from cutting on the fold, instead of with a center seam. Don’t be me – follow Tami’s excellent directions and cut two back pieces!

Making this decision meant that not only did I lose the shaping intended by the pattern, but I also made my swayback issues more pronounced.

I scored this textured poly spandex material from Mood Fabrics, during a work trip to NYC. However, I didn’t realize just how limited it would stretch, and that it could almost be treated like a woven.  The first time I made this dress, I used a Michelle Miller scuba knit from Jo-Ann’s, and the pooling was minimal. (I still added darts, but the fabric was far more flexible and had better drape.)  I also was smarter (and not overly confident since it was my muslin) and actually cut two back dress pieces, per the instructions.

However, I was determined to get a good fit. I used the same trick as before, and turned the dress inside out, pinching out the excess using fisheye darts. I’ve included a picture of the finished product, below.

Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu

I’ve got to tell you, if you have pooling caused by a full butt or a swayback, this trick could make a garment salvageable. Give it a try!

Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu Love That Look - Tessa by Mac of Harper+Lu

All-in, I “saved” an outrageous amount of cash (YAY – more fabric and patterns for me!) by making my own dress using the Tessa pattern!  Custom clothing rocks!

What tricks have you tried to get JUST the right fit for your figure?  Leave a comment and let us know!


Author Mac

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Pat English says:

    That is absolutely gorgeous! And a great explanation on how this works, too.

    • Macharva says:

      Thanks so much, Pat! I’m not sure that it’s the OFFICIAL way to handle this type of adjustment – but it worked for me, so I’m hoping it works for others too!

  • Clare says:

    I must admit, doing it your way is much better for a fabric with a nice pattern. Thanks for the instructions.

  • Tiahna says:

    I’m glad you said your fabric was basically a woven, cause I’m using a stretch denim to make a Tessa! I’m putting in a chunky exposed zipper and definitely will need to the fish eye darts!

  • I know you took the hard route to get there, but I think I like the end results with the darts. It might be worth considering taking the extra steps to elliminate the CB seam when you want to save your print and much as possible.

  • I tried a different type of sway back adjustment on the Love<3 Notions Tidal and it was not very pretty. I am definitely going to be giving the fish eye dart adjustment a try! Thanks for the awesome read and great advice!

  • Hi!! Love these photos, I am going to use them on my blog and tag to you!! Please let me know if that is not okay with you 🙂 Beautiful job!

  • Ellen Richman says:

    Perhaps a rectangle of shirred lines at middle of back waistline could also adjust the shaping? Do not know if such would match your chosen style.


    Thank you so much for this! I’m trying to alter an Amazon-purchased dress I bought too large. I have swayback AND large bust, so you solved the back half of my problem. I’ve looked at about a dozen websites this morning for a solution, and yours was exactly what I needed. Thanks for the clear explanation and good photos. 🙂

  • musicmaa says:

    I love this idea. I know of other swayback corrections that can be made at the pattern level but are useless after the garment is created. I will definitely be using this one at some time in the future! Thanks for sharing.

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