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.
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).
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?