I know, I know. How many Cleo dresses have you seen now? This Tilly and the Buttons pattern has been a hit in the Sewing world since it’s release (I even heard it caused a European shortage of dungaree clips!)

I’ve watched on from the sidelines as Instagram filled with everyone’s amazing creations and held off from making my own until now- which is pretty good in my books. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was my style (something which I’m not sure I can define any more as it constantly seems to be evolving!) and in an effort to be more sustainable with my clothes, I’m really trying not to jump into trends at the moment. Plus, I wasn’t sure if it would be hijab friendly. That was until I saw Rosie’s midi length version (aka DIY Couture) and this yellow polo-neck jumper I bought. I knew they would be a match made in heaven so off I went.

Pattern Review: 

Difficulty: Beginner

Sizes: 1-8 (6-20 UK)

Type: Available in print and PDF format (I used a PDF because I’m too impatient to wait for the post!)

Price: £12.50 (print) and £9.50 (PDF)

Fabric: 100% cotton black needlecord from Remnant House. I bought 2m for my longer version (I always like to have a little spare in case I make a mistake). It’s a lovely soft needlecord with a bit of stretch and a medium weight. I got my Prym dungaree clips from John Lewis.

Sizing and fit: I have rather odd proportions-wide shoulders, small bust and waist, super short back length and wide hips. Thankfully there’s very little fitting that needs to be done in this pattern! All I did was grade the pattern between sizes- i.e. used a smooth curve to join the sizes in the middle (which Tilly has done some instructions for). In fact, after trying it on I ended up taking it in at the top even more, grading down two sizes (I told you I had wide hips).

Yellow line: grading curve between sizes

Construction and instructions: The PDF was super simple to print out and assemble. The instructions were really nice and clear with lots of photos (which are great as some patterns have really confusing diagrams). There’s lots of tips within the instructions which cover the different variations. It’s actually a really simple construction with only a few pattern pieces. It’s a perfect pattern for the beginner.

Adaptations/hijabi-hacks: I lengthened the pattern to make it a midi-ish length (I quite like having it just above my ankles and that way I can wear it with my bunched leggings). I added around 10cm by cutting along the mini version’s hem-line and extending the pattern down. This was really simple as by that point the skirt seam is just a straight line. I also put the split down the back instead of the front and brought it down by 5cm. Again, sewing the split was really easy to do as there are nice instructions for doing this on the front.

Tips ‘n’ tricks: I don’t have any tips/tricks to mention that aren’t already in the instructions! I used a triple stitch on my machine to replicate top stitching thread (just make sure you have enough thread for this) and if you lower the split/put it on the back, really reinforce that split with a zigzag stitch. In my over zealous jumping with joy I managed to split it (whoops) but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a bit more stitching. And don’t forget to grade your facings if you do make any changes to the side seams.

Overall: I really love this pattern-from the construction side, it’s easy to make and the instructions are nice and clear.

A little note: a great thing about Tilly’s patterns is that she uses different sized models so you can see what they look like on people who aren’t ‘stock’ size. Having spoken to a few people about the SewInColour issue, I get that moving away from ‘standard’ models is not easy- it takes a change in ethos and a concerted effort to do it-time and money. So Kudos to Tilly and her team for doing this- it’s one of the things I look forward to when she release a new pattern.

Back to the dress! I know some people have some misgivings about grown women in dungaree dresses (real quote: “are you going to wear that outdoors?”), but I love the Cleo! When it comes to my casual clothes I want minimal fuss and maximum versatility. This really does tick those boxes. I can dress this up or down and really love the look with a pair of heels. Plus it’s so adaptable- just browse #SewingCleo and you’ll see all the amazing variations everyone has made; from fabrics/pockets/embroidery-it’s easy to tailor to your style.

I’ve even had a few “I love your dress, where did you buy it from?” comments which really is the seal of approval for me-made clothes, don’t you think?



27 replies on “Pattern Review: The Cleo Dress

  1. Thank you Rumana, I’ve been looking at this pattern for a while wondering if it will suit my 2 sizes bigger hips, I might bite the bullet and make one. It’s fab, you have made it beautifully and you look lovely 😊

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment Bess! Glad I’ve inspired you to give it a go. I initially graded it one size (3-4) but ended up fitting the waist more (size 2). It looked too gapey at the top before I took it in which I’m sure wouldve been really annoying with all that space, shifting around. Maybe cut to the hip and fit to the waist if you’re not sure about grading it out right?

  2. Hello Rumana,

    Thank you for putting the review up. The Cleo dress does look really great on you. Greetings from Australia, Sarah

  3. Really successful and sophisticated in black. The yellow tee shirt really makes it anything but dark. You can really ring the changes with different colours too. Clever practical dress made by a clever multi-talented woman.

    1. Thanks Pauline- you’re too kind! I felt the Cleo was quite a different shape/style for me, so wanted to keep it safe colourwise. And like you said, I can change it up with just a change of top/hijab!x

  4. Just saw your outstanding sense of design on Great British Sewing Bee, awaiting this to be aired in the US. I was hoping someone would pluck the best of this series and make/sell patterns. For instance, your remake with black plastic (?) w/red inserts, Jamie’s boy’s wool cape, Jade’s pencil dress. There was some incredible things people came up with.
    Anyways, thanks for going on the show and showing us what can be made. Nice work.

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for the lovely message! I had no idea it was still airing around the world. If you like something from a particular episode, there were lots of companies/blogs who sourced similar patterns and posted them online. 🙂

  5. Looks fabulous in black – and making it longer really works. I agree with Pauline – looks great with the mustard top. Glad to have discovered your blog!

    1. Thanks Kate! In hindsight I wonder if I should have lined it, as it does ride up against my leggings. I do love it though! Kinda wish I could justify having more pinafores in my wardrobe!

      1. ha ha! I did think of wearing it to work with a shirt underneath, but I already get enough “are you old enough to be a doctor” so probably shouldn’t tempt fate with a dungaree dress!

      2. There’s an iron-on interface for lining leather. Possibly ironing some into this would give you enough slip to stop the crawl up your leggings.

      3. Oooo. Thanks for that, will definitely look into it!

  6. Sleek elegant outfit. Nice colors too. I noticed you have a talent for color/design, when you were in the Sewing Bee show.

    1. Ahh that’s super sweet of you! My mum tells me I’m really boring with my colours! 😀 I guess I’m quite conventional with a pop of something more unusual…

  7. I’ve just bought this pattern and some dark denim. I’m hoping to make a longer length too so good to see yours turn out so well. Fingers crossed it works out!

    1. Hi Tracy! That sounds like the perfect weekend Cleo! Did you go for the longer length in the end?

  8. Fab! I keep seeing Cleo & have been dismissing it as I know I couldn’t wear a mini dungare dress & get away with it. Your long / mid length version may be bringing me round! You look fab in it, quite sheek & not too quirly if that makes sense.

  9. I’ve been hesitant about this, I loved dungas as a child but wondered if I could get away with it as a “grown-up”. Seeing your make has decided me, the longer length works so well, and I think making it in black is great as it can be an all-purpose wardrobe staple. Thank you for sharing this, you’ve decided me: I’ve just ordered my pattern.

    1. Oh yay! I really love mine in black- think going for a classic colour gives it that ‘grown-up’ edge. Plus you can always make it more fun with the top you wear underneath!

  10. It looks fab on you. I know this is an old post but I found it by googling something like ‘how old is too old to wear a pinifore dress’ because I’ve just ordered the same pattern and I’m 50. I suspect the answer is 50 but I can always give it to my daughter. Loved you on the sewing bee. Glad to have found your blog and instagram. X

    1. Ha ha! What a thing to google! I definitely think with the right fabric choice/cut this is definitely a dress for all ages 🙂 x

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