I really like the Tessa sheath dress. It’s my favorite style of dress to make for many reasons:
- The design is simple to sew
- I feel more comfortable in simpler styles
- I love a skirt with no volume on a dress
- They take up little amounts of fabric!
- Less seams means special fabrics can shine
I enjoy making sheath dresses in woven fabrics and knit fabrics, equally. I started my adventure with the Tessa Sheath dress from Love Notions in 2019, and so far, I’ve made 5!. It’s a classic style I knew I would make many times. Use my code Lifting10 for an extra 10% off.
*The Tessa Sheath dress has been re-released & re-drafted to include the full size range XS-5X and is ONLY $5 (60% OFF) today Friday the 10th of December. It will be 25% off ($9) Saturday and Sunday the 11th & 12th respectively. Get yours HERE with my affiliate link if you would like to support my work, at no extra cost to you. Use the coupon code KARINA10 for an extra 10% off, on top of all the discounts! Thank you!
Features of the Tessa Sheath dress
The Tessa Sheath dress has many options, like all of Love Notions patterns.
- Different necklines: Scoop & Bateau
- Sleeve lengths: sleeveless, short and elbow, 3/4 and long.
- Neckline finish: binding or facing options
- A few extra details: optional front and back yokes special for using contrast fabrics make this pattern fun too.
- I especially appreciate the center back seam that assists with shaping, being this a dart-less design.
- I think it’s really cool that there are lines on the pattern for you to cut a separate bodice that has been designed to match all the skirts in the Sybil Illusion skirt collection. I knew I would surely visit this option!
Best fabrics for the Tessa Sheath dress
You need a structured knit fabric that will hold it’s shape and have at least 20% horizontal stretch. The optional yoke pieces can be sewn with woven fabric. Woven fabric will not work for the main pieces of the dress, not even if you size up.
In the graphic above you can see the recommended fabrics. My choices have been: Knit jacquard, Double knit, Rayon Sapndex, Liverpool knit & and Athletic knit.
I would not recommend light drapy knits like modal, rayon spandex, ITY and DBP…. although I have made one with Rayon spandex, I lined it and that compensates for the fabric being too lightweight.
Sizing of the Tessa Sheath dress
With the new update, a full bust option has been added. If you already own the pattern, all you need to do is download it again from your account, at no extra cost.
Size 5X goes up to 57.5″ bust and 59.5″ hip circumference. Choose your base size based on your HIGH BUST CIRCUMFERENCE.
If the difference between your high bust and full bust is 1-3 ” (A-C sewing bust cup size), the standard bust option will work well.
If your difference between the high bust and full bust is 4″-6″, the full bust option will provide a better fit and 2″ extra ease at bust, waist and hips.
The bicep is also included in the size chart and this is helpful if you regularly need to do full bicep adjustments.
The design is fitted with negative ease at bust and minimal at the waist and hips. A medium to heavyweight fabric will cope with the fitted style. This is my favorite type of dress to wear.
Since my first version, I have used size Large and currently size XL. I had a suspicion I needed to lower the bust line that was marked on the pattern. I did some flat pattern measurements to confirm.
By adding 1″ above the bust height (marked on the pattern), I achieve two things:
- My bust apex will be correctly placed on the fullest part of the pattern
- I also lengthen the bodice by 1″, which I need because I am taller and needed that extra added, anyway.
I also did a 5/8″ sway back adjustment I need to custom fit my shape. This is a common adjustment for me. I cut my hem cut between the knee and midi length for the hem to be above my knees.
Let’s see them all!
Very wearable muslin Tessa Sheath dress
This is my muslin and it’s a straight size Large, no modifications. The dress on the front fits strangely, because the fullest part of the side seam is higher than where it needs to be for my lower apex height. Otherwise, I can wear it with a layer on top and no one will even know! I also have some excess fabric pooling at the small of my back and will need a small 5/8″ sway back adjustment for subsequent versions.
I love this dress and I wear it. It’s a red Ponte prince of wales type print in red and black. This dress served its purpose to determine how it can fit me better next time. Time well spent on my part 🙂
Polka-dot Bodice + Sybil Illusion skirt hack
After adding 1″ above the bust-line, in essence, lowering it while also adding length to the bodice… because I also needed that, I set out to make a mash up of the Tessa Sheath bodice with the Dropped yoke with swing skirt from the Sybil Illusion skirt collection. Because I will have a seam at the waist, it was easier to correct the sway back issue.
I have lengthened all the skirts in the Sybil Illusion collection by 1.5″ to account for the 3″ height difference I have with the drafted height of the pattern. (Drafted for 5ft5″, I am 5ft8″)
I chose a navy blue with polka dots structured embroidered fabric and will line the dress using the clean sleeveless machine lining technique you can see how to do in video HERE.
I used the dropped yoke skirt patterns pieces and attached them to the bodice, leaving out the swing piece. I cut another piece in the same length and overlapped them on the side, attaching this to the dropped yoke. Cute wooden buttons complete the color combination that I love. Navy and light brown. Dot matching proved impossible!
Color-blocked & fully lined Tessa Sheath Dress
I decided to use the full pattern this time, not without some fun! I have loved color blocking for a long time and have had so many ideas in my mind. After looking and “pinning” several looks, I decided to become inspired by a dress from Calvin Klein.
I extended the front pattern piece and drew the bust line and waistline. Mind you, I have already perfected these anatomical references on the pattern to match my body’s length (bust and waist heights).
Above you can see on the front:
- Dotted blue horizontal lines mark the bust height and the waist height
- Red lines mark the cut lines I drew free hand the “eyeballing way”
- I wanted the upper piece to fall diagonally from 2/3 down one armscye and to curve to the height of the bust on the other side
- I wanted the second cut to start at the height of the waist line and curve into 2/3 of the width of the bottom hem
- The third cut would start at the 1/2 way point between the waist and the hem and curve to 1/3 of the bottom hem width.
- Blue grain-line marks everywhere!
- The cut lines have little notches to assist in putting all this back together from the different colors
- The colors need to be cut with the RIGHT SIDES OF THE FABRIC FACING UP AND THE PATTERN PIECE FACING UP.
After cutting these lines apart, I will chose colors and add 3/8″ seam allowance to the fabric. This is rayon spandex. Thin and flimsy… but the dress with be fully lined.
For the back you can see:
- It’s simple!
- I will only have one grey shape on the bottom to match the grey shape on the front.
- I folded the center back seam allowance away and cut on the fold.
- I added a waist seam to keep my sway back adjustment that worked so well with the polka dot dress. The fabric is black, it won’t be noticeable and it’s not wrong to have a seam there 🙂
- The black and grey pieces need to be cut with the RIGHT SIDES of the fabric FACING UP and the WRONG SIDE of the PATTERN PIECE FACING UP.
Putting together all the pieces was a lot of fun. I serged them together and then sewed with 3/8″ SA on the sewing machine with a straight stitch. I lined the dress and that gives it the structure and layer it needs.
I really, really enjoyed the process of drawing the lines and looking for proportions on these that would flatter my body. I wanted to avoid slicing my bust and hips in half horizontally. I love the color combination and leaving the black in the midsection and the back. Super fun and you should try it!
Classic Sleeveless Tessa Sheath dress
I made my newest version, using the updated pattern. In fact, I was a pattern tester. I chose a gorgeous print athletic knit, made it sleeveles with the scoop neckline option. I have an optional back yoke here, just to get the dress from my amount of fabric. The Tessa Sheath dress is perfect for a print. There are few seams to disrupt it-
I finished the neckline & armhole them with the binding option. I hand-hemmed for a cleaner look. A pair of silver heels completes the look.
Short sleeve version: a gift
I made my sister-in-law a dress too! Hers is size small with the standard bust option. I have short sleeves here at her request and the scoop neckline, this time finished with the facing option. I have hand sewn the hems and the facing on the inside.
This is a navy Liverpool knit. This will be a staple for her and she loved it.
Helpful videos on my channel
You can find videos on my sewing channel for all my Tessa Sheath dress makes. There you will see reviews and fun sewing. Have a look!
More plans & ideas
Because I have a custom fit and love the style, I will make more in the future. The biggest plus is that this style requires little fabric, and this is important to me. Sewing a Tessa Sheath dress is a breeze and super relaxing. I’d love to make a lined one with red lace and also a stretch velvet version in the future.
*The Tessa Sheath dress has been re-released & re-drafted to include the full size range XS-5X and is ONLY $5 (60% OFF) today Friday the 10th of December. It will be 25% off ($9) Saturday and Sunday the 11th & 12th, respectively. Get yours HERE with my affiliate link if you would like to support my work, at no extra cost to you. Use the coupon code KARINA10 for an extra 10% off, on top of all the discounts! Thank you!
DISCLAIMER: I was provided the pattern without cost, as an ambassador for Love Notions. I Purchased my own fabric for all of these versions. I produce sewing content independently from pattern brands on my YouTube channel and blog. My reviews are honest and especially around sewing techniques and fit.
I have affiliate links in this post to the pattern company and the pattern. If you click on these links, at no cost to you, I receive a small commission that helps finance my sewing, blog and Youtube channel.
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Categories: Pattern hacks, Pattern Reviews
Karina, this is fabulous! I just made my first Tessa sheath dress and love it! I can’t wait to try something like this!!! You inspire me so much!! Thank you!!
This is too fun and the possibilities endless 🙂
WoW WoW WoW what you do with that simple Sheath Dress is Amazing. All views are wonderful and inspiring but that color block dress took my breath away <3
Thank you! this is my favorite type of sewing project 🙂
Hello Karina, I was watching some of your older videos. I fell in love with a dress that I think you could use this Tessa dress and do a similar hack that you did in the 4/23/17 video ( version #3 ) with the fluttery small flounces at the bottom of your dress. I think it is so beautiful. Please consider doing this hack and showing us how to create the flutter flounce at the bottom of a sheath dress! I would love it! And I’m sure LN would too.
Hi Betty. I have shown how to draft a simple half circle flounce on to anything and its on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9pP3aYeqlw
This can be applied to the bottom of any dress and all you need is the circumference of the bottom where you want to attach the flounce to. Alternatively, you can use the Tessa bodice and add the Sybil Illusion skirt (Dropped yoke flounce) an have the same look without the maths 🙂