dressing myself

Y’all. I pre-ordered the Tiramisu. As in, before it was released. As in, September 25, 2012, the day the pre-sale began. (I just double-checked my Etsy account to make sure.) So why – WHY – is this my first make from the pattern?

my first tira

I spent the better part of the time it took to construct this dress asking myself that exact question. I’m going to get all psycho – logical up in here, so take heed. Usually, when I’m avoiding something, the culprit is fear. So, that was an easy answer, but the hard part was fear of WHAT? Figuring that out took a process of elimination.

Big milestone here: this is my first self-made dress! I have collected so many dress patterns — from any new release, they are the shiny objects that excite me. I don’t know exactly what the ratio is of dresses to other patterns in my stash, but it is quite high considering this is the first one with which I’ve actually gotten past the muslin stage. You see, sewing cake instead of frosting has never been a problem for me. Getting to wear my makes on a daily basis is the draw — I really don’t even strongly consider making something that won’t get much wear. And since there are hardly any dresses in my closet at all, only like three ready-to-wear ones, I guess that translated in my mind as dresses=rarewear. I suppose my RTW options have been so limited from a style and fit perspective that they never became a mainstay in my wardrobe. So all of that’s interesting (arguably), but was I *afraid* to make a dress? No, actually I wasn’t.

she's got pockets...and knows how to use them

If you’ve been with me for any amount of time, you likely already know how much I adore knits. I didn’t learn to sew using them, but as soon as I started, I never looked back. The prints, variety of weights and textures, easy-to-wear-ness, I love all of it. So I had lots of stashed choices for my first Tiramisu. As much as I am infatuated with the striped/chevron version of the most famous sample — as well as all the other striped versions I’ve seen — I knew I didn’t want to mess with that for my first go, until I was sure the pattern would work out as I wanted. The fabric I chose, this cotton-modal blend from Girl Charlee (purchased last summer, not currently available on the site), was a dream to work with. It’s light- to medium-weight with plenty of stretch, decent recovery, and nice drape, but it behaves as obediently as a stable double knit. I had no problems getting it laid out on-grain and keeping it there. Even if I had chosen a trickier one, it’s been a long time since I’ve been afraid of knits — that definitely wasn’t it.

ze twirl factor

I know there are a few people who read this blog but don’t sew. So I’ll give a quick rundown regarding what distinguishes Cake Patterns, from which this Tiramisu dress design hails. Normally, sewing patterns are available in a range of sizes, just like the clothes you can purchase from a store. You choose which size to make based on one measurement — bust, waist, or hips, depending on what you’re making. The problem is, if you’re not “average” in one or more of the other areas, which applies to almost everyone I know, a pattern can require quite a bit of altering in order to get a good fit. With Cake Patterns, you choose each piece of the pattern based on the applicable measurement(s) — for instance, the Tiramisu bodice is chosen considering both high bust and full bust, the skirt pieces are based on waist, etc. Additionally, the range of sizes covered is great — 30″ to 50″ high bust, 25″ to 50″ waist.

best foot forward

This may sound like preparing the pattern creates a tiny bit more work, and for some, that may be true. But I cannot even begin to tell you how much less work it was for me. Even when a pattern is offered in my theoretical size range, I am never able to just cut-and-sew — choosing based on my full bust makes it way too big in the neckline and shoulders, and I’m still going to have to grade out at the hips anyway. So, when I read about the approach Steph (owner/designer) was taking with Cake, I was floored, excited, impressed…

And — there it is — scared. I didn’t realize it all these months that I was sitting on the pattern, but the aha moment struck me while making this dress. All these gorgeous, wearable, well-fitting Tiramisus had been popping up everywhere — how cool! how inspiring! As long as my pattern remained untried, the amazing potential, the validation, of something that might fit me “out of the envelope” was still there.

do you see what i see

You know when you try to figure out something, brainstorm lots of potential solutions, and then strike the right answer — you just feel it? I knew the moment I slipped my nearly-finished Tiramisu over my head for the first time, looked in the mirror, and exhaled, that I had been right about what my fear was. See, it wasn’t the fabric I was afraid of ruining, and I knew that the techniques were likely ones that I could do in my sleep. But I realized that subconsciously I was afraid that mine was going to be the body for whom this wouldn’t work. As someone who has struggled mightily to be comfortable in her physical form, this was scary. (Almost as terrifying as it has been to write and publish this post.)

Was this an unfounded, illogical thing to be afraid of? Of course, but #1: I didn’t even realize it, and #2: Feelings aren’t logical. The fit of this dress isn’t perfect; there are a few things I want to tweak next time. However, it is much, much better fitting than any of my previous v1 makes, with which I spent hours pattern altering prior to even cutting out. Having said that, even if I had needed to make substantial changes, that would have been okay. I do that all the time, and I’m getting pretty good at it! I’m beyond glad that I figured out what was holding me back — now that I’ve discovered it, thought about it, written this post about it, it really no longer exists.

happy baby got back

I probably should be quite glad that I didn’t begin sewing with Cake Patterns. I’ve learned a ton and a half about fitting and pattern alterations over the last couple of years, because I’ve had to. If I had made this as my first sewing project, then tried, say, a Big 4 one next, I likely would have said “screw this” (or something equally eloquent) and started calculating how I could stay satisfied with just Tiramisus for the rest of my life.


I love this dress, and everything that it represents to me. It wouldn’t feel right, in this post, to include a proper “pattern review.” It’s like I would be missing the forest for the trees, or something. I will do one the next time I make the pattern, because you can consider me officially bitten by the Tira bug. :-)

Comments 64

  • Adorable dress. Looks great & looks comfortable what more could you ask for. I have that half made for my daughter, I need to finish it.

  • I am so proud of you even though I don’t know you. And that you have so thoroughly dealt with the fear that you are already planning a second Tiramisu!!!!
    Your dress looks really great on your curvalicious figure. I too have read all the WOW reviews about this dress but have not bought it for myself despite having pursued a quest for the illusive “perfect knit dress” for a while now. I think I too have been scared that I will discover that of all people it will be me that it will be a failure upon. Thank you so much for those joyful photos too. I think you have empowered me to take on the TIramisu for myself.
    Thank you for your brave and honest post.

    • Nessa, thank you so much! I hope you do try it. I know we’re all shaped differently, but the way Steph does the sizing makes so much sense, it really does give everyone a jump start towards a great fit. I really appreciate your note — it did take some courage to post this but all of the great feedback has been wonderful!

  • You look so pretty in your Tiramisu, and happy! Good for you for conquering your fears, and making a beautiful dress.

  • Your dress is beautiful and thanks for the info on how cake patterns work. I didn’t know that. I will have to look into them.

  • This is why I draft! I’m so pleased you’re happy with your Tira, and it looks great on you. Is this unaltered? Really? This fit was out of the envelope? I’m so excited. :)

    The thing that got me hooked on fit was working with plus-size women in my classes years ago, guiding them through the same exact alterations for neck and shoulders *every single time*. And seeing what a struggle it was, and listening to how hard it is to shop for clothes. Dear me, it doesn’t have to be so hard, I thought…

    REALLY cute fabric, btw. And I love your photos, esp the awkward-classic-ubiquitous no gape neckline shot. hehe. Awesome.

    • Thanks Steph! Yes ma’am, no alterations whatsoever! I was tempted to adjust here and there based on habit, but I MADE myself not do it — I really wanted to understand the fit based solely on my measurements / your direction. Those last pics — HA! I didn’t know my husband had shot me checking to make sure it wasn’t gaping, but when I saw that one I had to include it too. :)

  • It looks amazing! You just made me want to buy the Tiramisu pattern… I have the Pavlova and I do need to use that and some other patterns first, but I think Tiramisu just went to my “to buy” list. And there’s no reason why you couldn’t wear dresses every day :) I actually think skirts/dresses are more comfortable if you have to sit all day like I do in my job.

    • Thanks Anna! And I agree — I totally want to wear dresses every day now. :) But only if they’re as comfy as this one! Beats the pants off of pants any day…

  • Thank you, thank you. This is a great post and I love you for writing it- you look great, too!

  • Truly, truly beautiful in every way!

  • Susan, I absolutely adore this dress on you. That fabric is lovely.
    I totally get the ‘what if it’s for everyone except me’ thing. Now that you mention it, that is sounding very familiar ….. ;-) Perhaps it’s time I gave myself a kick up the butt, and stopped stalling on some of my own wishlist projects. Thanks for the lightbulb moment!!

    • Thank you Wendy — I’m so glad to hear you say that! I admit that I had my moments of “what if no one gets this” while I was writing it, and it makes me happy that it seems to be resonating. Looking forward to seeing your wishlist makes. :)

  • You look absolutely adorable! I see your happiness shining right through. Thank you so very much for this post. The dress is beautiful… just like you. My Tira pattern is sitting on my sewing table with the knit of choice. I guess I’d better get to cutting. :)

  • You look amazing. It is so flattering on you. I ordered from the new batch and can’t wait to get it! Oh, and the Hummingbird!

  • Great dress. Dreamy fabric.

  • This is the kind of post that makes me proud to be a blogger, and a seamstress. Thank you for your very real post!

  • I love your dress! And I love this post! Mikaela from Polka Dot Overload pinned a picture from it, and being a plus sized sewist, I immediately clicked through! Go you for figuring out the fear behind it! Love the thoughtfulness of you post! Thanks for sharing!! -Amy Jo

  • Beautiful dress! It looks fabulous on you. Yay for a great version 1! I really need to get this pattern!

    • Thanks Angela! I don’t know about you, but I feel like getting such a wearable v1 is a major bonus… Like playing with “house money!” ;)

  • Wow! First off, I love your dress – I think this fabric is just perfect for it. Secondly, I’m so impressed with your ability to alter patterns to get the fit you want – you know I’m struggling with that.

    And finally – fascinating to read your thoughts on the process, and that you were even able to figure them out!

    • Thank you Gail! Fitting is such a lifelong learning process I think…Sometimes I feel like I have to start over learning it with every pattern. :)

  • Wow! What an amazing post. I do know how you feel but hadn’t been able to articulate it so well. I know I’ll kick myself once I’ve made this and it’s wonderful…just need to pluck up some courage. You’ve inspired me!

  • I love the dress! It looks great on you! I especially love the length and the pockets! AND the fabric! Great job!

  • GREAT dress! love the fabric, the fit is amazing on you. i’ve come to understand that it doesn’t matter what size category we come in, fit is always an issue. before i started sewing for myself, i had exactly one dress in my closet. i always loved dresses, but fitting in the hips meant it was saggy baggy on top, fitting on top meant i couldn’t zip it over my hips, nor could i breathe because it would be too small in the waist. RTW just throws our self-image all out of proportion. of course, with the tiramisu dress, i was the size category that the dress didn’t work for without serious pattern hacking. i’m constantly forced to make alterations also, and while the process often leaves me wondering how i could possibly need that much fixing… the result usually has me smiling. thanks for this post!

    • Yes, I agree, fitting issues are certainly not exclusive to any specific size range! I am in a local sewing group and we were just talking about that tonight…I know people half my size who have just as many fitting challenges as I do, or more. My different-from-average measurements are primarily in width/girth, but I know height/length can be just as difficult to correct. It’s like learning a new language, except everyone speaks a slightly different dialect! Thanks Lisa. :)

  • OMG I love it! The pattern and colours are amazing, and you totally rock the dress. :) I’ve been waffling about making more “dressy t-shirts” or dresses for work, and I think you just tipped me over into making another Tira (I have fabric for 3 sitting around my apartment…).

    • I have so many versions I’m dreaming about, haha! I’m not sure how many I could have before crying “uncle” — so many variations are possible and it’s so versatile! Thanks Kris! :)

  • I’ve just discovered your blog via Steph and I love your Tira! I can also relate to the adjustments thing and have ordered Tira in the hop that it will fit me with little faffing. I love the last photo of you checking for gape, we’ve all done it! Thank you for such a thoughtful and honest post.

    • Thanks Vicki Kate. :) I think you’ll love it — the thing is, even if adjustments are necessary, at this point Steph has tons of tutorials out there for them. Can’t wait to see yours!

  • I think your delighted (and delightful) expression in the photos speaks for itself… I have yet to get my hands on a Tira (long and boring story), but I’m looking forward to making lots of them, for me and for people around me! :D Yours adds to that anticipation, and unlike your anticipation, this one’s good!
    I love the twirl photos.

    • Thank you so much Hana! I’m sure lots of my friends and family would love them, but I’m not good at selfless sewing and they’ll have to wait until I get tired of making them for myself… ;)

  • Super-great dress! I’m with Lisa G–fitting is an issue no matter how you’re shaped, but you have clearly done a great job with your fitting.

    And since I’m here, I have to say: I love your hair, it’s very flattering! Looks cool and confident.

    • Agreed… Almost everyone needs alterations somewhere. And thank you! I’ve had long hair for quite a while but totally chopped it last fall, and I haven’t regretted it for a second! :) This post has a pic of my braid that was cut off!

  • Love your Tira. I recently found StephC and Cake Patterns. Since I’m curvy too, it is nice to see some versions like yours that show off the curves in a great way. I haven’t sewn knits before so I may need some advice when I get started with my Tira!

  • I’m guess I’m a bit late to the party here- you’re a real celebrity now! Can I say that I (virtually) knew you when? I love the fabric on this tiramisu! I am insanely jealous that yours fit right out the pattern, mine gave me such nightmares- though that was probably because I attempted it was too early on in my sewing journey. I will be asking for your secrets for my next version. I think you will be quickly converted to the ways of wearing knit dresses- it is clearly my favorite thing and I get VERY cranky when safety regulations at work require that I wear pants. I can understand why you haven’t had the chance to experience the wonders of knit dresses before though, they simply are just not widely available, and even less so for ladies like us! The thing that actually pushed me to start sewing was that I couldn’t find any knit dresses in store that either fit my body or my style. I hope you love this dress!

    • Thanks Megan! Let’s definitely chat when you get ready to do your next one, especially in light of your knit-dresses-love and the fact that it’s the best pattern for one, evah! :) We can make it work great for you. And you’re totally right — I do love it. I have worn it three times in the last week, and I really need more so this one isn’t worn out by Memorial Day…

  • I know EXACTLY how you feel. I love sewing. Always have. But the main issue I have when wanting to sew clothes is getting them to fit. I have gotten so disheartened with firstly, measuring myself to find that my bust is eg size 20, wait is a size 24 and my hips are a size 18. And then, I sew it all up, and NOTHING FITS. Probably one of the main reasons I started quilting. Never have any fitting problems with flat quilts. Also, I love sewing for my children, who are only 2 and 1, and so far, do not represent any fitting issues.

    I too have had my Tiramisu pattern since pre-release, and have been waiting for both the right time, and for the fear for dissipate before I begin cutting in. You give me hope. If I can look half as good, and joyous in my dress as you do in yours, I will have achieved a lot!

    • Oh Cathy! I just… I know. I have a stubborn, determined streak a mile wide or I would have given up sewing garments for myself a long time ago. I went through a time (for *many months*) a couple of years ago when I couldn’t make anything fit even remotely; it would have been comical if it hadn’t been so damned frustrating! I bought books, read online tutorials, tapped into the knowledge of some friends, etc etc but it still took a ridiculously long time to start making progress. I so hope you have a great experience with your Tira!

  • Thanks HEAPS for this post. I also preordered Tira AND mine is still sitting in the packet. I look at it and sigh thinking how now it looks but it won’t work on me – nothing ever works on me. I also think that even if I fiddle with it enough to actually make it fit, it will still look terrible as that is just how it goes. I own one dress. It is a fluke and a freak in that it actually fits me and looks ok. the only problem is that it is black polyester and I live in tropical QLD where one doesn’t wear such fabrics.
    I can’t find a single item of clothing in the plus size stores that fits me. I make all my pants from a drafted pattern which fits me perfectly and looks nothing like the ones in stores. If I were to buy a blouse from the stores it would be too big in the neck, back, shoulders and waist and would fit me at the hip only. If I buy to fit my bust it won’t go over my arms and won’t fit my hips. I either have to make it myself or buy and alter (a lot).
    I have found your post encouraging. What have I got to lose? It might fit me out of the packet? Alteration is normal for me. And if it looks terrible, that is nothing new to me either. Just do it Dee.
    ps I blogged last week about a top I had just altered to fit me if you are interested in having a look.

    • Dee, I totally feel your pain, thanks for your candor. It’s exasperating, right?? I am so impressed that you’ve successfully self-drafted your own pants pattern… that is in the “marinating” stage in my mind right now and I have to admit to more than a little fear on that front as well! One step at a time… :) Off to check out your blog!

  • I love your dress, I almost finish my first one and I had your same fear but I’m quite happy instead. I had to redo the underbust seam but was my mistake, I chose the wrong size. I love knits too and I’m planning to make another Tiramisù very soon, I can see myself living in this dress all summer. I really like your fabric choice and all the pictures , you’re a beautiful girl and inspired me so much that I want to have some pictures taken and look gorgeous as you do.

    • Solange, thank you so much for your sweet words! I am glad you have the Tira pattern sorted so that you can infuse your wardrobe with them. I certainly intend to as well! This dress really is the perfect summer attire. :)

  • I hope you don’t mind, but I linked to this post from my blog just now. You inspired me to buy and make this pattern, even though I had seen it a bunch of times before, and I just wanted to give you credit.

  • […] also been hesitant to make a start on either Pavlova or Tiramisu.  I think Susan said it far better than I ever […]

  • Hello! Your dress is lovely – looks great on you, and you’ve inspired me to get the pattern now! I’ve been looking at various Tiramisu frocks all over the net, but I always think they’ll look rubbish on my weird shape (36, 38, 40! Never mind the flippin’ apple – I’m a triangle!!!). Thanks to people like you, I’m finally starting to realise that sewing is about making something that fits and flatters, not conforming to ‘standard’ sizes or Barbie doll proportions. I love your dress, the fabric’s just perfect too. Thank you so much for this!

    • What a wonderful sentiment, thank you Lorna! I agree completely, far more important to get fit right than worry about some arbitrary “standard.” I wish you the best of luck with your Tira(s), and I’d love to see it when it’s done! :)

  • I love this dress and the fabric you used is fantastic. It’s also beautifully made and fits great. I have one question though. Is Tiramisu the name of the pattern? And did you get it from Etsy? I haven’t sewn any clothes for myself in forever so this is all new. Right now I’m daring to make my first knit dress using an EASY Burda pattern. But I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I am and that I’m looking all over the web for tips on just about everything. I just discovered your blog tonight and will be following it from now on. Peggy

  • I’m going to finally be sewing up the Tiramisu once the fabric arrives. And I was just thinking “sure, it looks great on slender women, but will it be okay on me?” Your pictures prove that it’s a definite YES! Thank you so much for overcoming your fear and making the lovely dress that looks so wonderful on you!

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