Tilly And The Buttons Cleo Dress


This is the latest pattern from Tilly and the Buttons, the Cleo dungaree dress. Isn’t it cute as a button? And talking of buttons…


What I love about this pattern is that you don’t need to go out and invest in a shed load of hardware, if you don’t want to. Buttons in your stash, and you’re good to go. No buckles, no jean buttons, no rivets, no mallets, no zips. Just start sewing. Though I did use my buttonhole kit, for neat slicing.


The Cleo is a brilliant opportunity to use up unusual fabrics in your stash. Mine is sewn from an upholstery fabric, bought ages ago from Ditto Fabrics. One of those impulse purchases that I then had no idea how to use – until now.

This pattern needs fabric with a bit of structure, which means you could potentially use all sorts of fabric – upholstery, quilting cotton, canvas, brocade – as well as the usual denims and cords. Er, hello and hello! I’m tempted to go luxe with a high end brocade and I’m also tempted to go pleather. (I know. Humour me.)


The sizing is spot on, but what I also love about this pattern is that it can accommodate my wonky shoulders. One sits lower than the other, and I can tweak the shoulder straps so that I don’t have one constantly slipping off my shoulder. Win! And for the dress’s ability to twin with a cosy cardie, double win.

I also like that the waist drafting hits high enough that I’m not exposing my tummy every time I sit down. Some dungarees gape.

The pattern is ultra simple. So simple that I had a small bag of salt next to my sewing machine. Would this really work? But it comes together beautifully and yes, it really works!

A note on the top stitching. I chose to leave out the front and back centre seams, because I really couldn’t be doing with print matching. If I got it wrong by even a tiny amount, I knew I’d spend my life staring at mis-matched polka spots. Simple. I cut out those pieces on the fold, being careful to remove centre seam allowances. OMG. What was already a quick make became a super speedy make.

I didn’t have any matching top stitching thread, so my top stitching elsewhere is not a feature. Which, depending on levels of accuracy, may be a good thing!

Tilly’s patterns hit the sweet spot when they provide a short, sharp hit of creativity with a minimum of head scratching. This is up there with the Coco dress for that. And judging by the Cleo dresses I’m already seeing in my Instagram feed, I’m not alone in my urgent desire to sew a dungaree dress for every day of the week.


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33 Responses to Tilly And The Buttons Cleo Dress

  1. Kathryn Evans says:

    Love it, just bought it!

  2. I wasn’t convinced when the pattern first came out, but after seeing your version (and that mention of brocade!) I want one!!!

  3. Allison says:

    I love it!! So cute and it looks great on you. I like the brocade idea-hmmmm

  4. Lori says:

    Hi Karen,
    Lovely dress. Everything you make is amazing. I had a quick question for you. Was wondering about your opinion on fit. How do you think this would look on someone with a bit of a busty up top that is in her forties and so is getting that whole waist line slump us middle aging beauties all seem to be prone too. Never liked this from Tilly’s website because of how the fit looks on the models but yours certainly looks amazing so now I do want one!

    • I’m 46, a bit busty on top and with that peri-menopausal waistline of which you speak! Works for me!! Good luck.

      • Lori says:

        Hahaha… Glad you said that… I wrote my comment and as I was falling asleep I thought… I hope Karen didn’t think I meant she was what I was describing… I did it – burgundy cord and added two large pockets on the front – and it works for me too. It’s not a WOW like my last dress but it’s so cute and fun and I love wearing it… But the button holes……………. My button holer (?) has this strong dislike for me.

  5. PsychicKathleen says:

    I love your rendition of this pattern! It is cute as a button 🙂 When I started sewing for leisure (1971) a jumper just like this was my first project. I made it in a wide whale purple corduroy (mini of course) and wore it with black leotards and a black turtle neck. I loved that thing! I wore it to shreds and everyone in high school loved it so much they were asking me where I bought it. A real WIN. When I saw this pattern released I was tempted but to be honest I’m having trouble at 62 seeing myself in it :))

  6. Emily says:

    So cute!

    Good idea to cut it on fold! Might have to steal that from you and do that for my next one!

    • Lori says:

      I cut mine on the fold like Karen said but I put the edge on the fold and then sewed the seam allowance and then did the flat felling – easiest flat felled seam ever haha.

  7. Sarah says:

    Very cute, love the spotty fabric too. I’m really really loving your boots though, where did you get them please?

  8. megan says:

    I like it and I think it will be really versatile. Am I missing something with this phrase, ‘I had a small bag of salt next to my sewing machine’?

    • Kathy Lynch says:

      Was wondering the same thing!

      Dress looks lovely Karen!

    • It must be a UK saying! If you’re advising someone to reserve judgement you might tell them to carry a small bag of salt with them. For example, if someone was going on Tinder to find true love I might say, “Yeah. You might want to carry a small bag of salt with you.” Now, I want to know where this saying comes from!

      • jackallcraft says:

        I do find language interesting. It took me a moment to understand your meaning about the salt. I would say ‘take it with a pinch of salt’; I’ve never heard it phrased as ‘carry a small bag of salt’. Do you think it’s a regional variation?

  9. So cute, it looks great on you

  10. Katie M says:

    Bag of salt by the sewing machine??

    • Marina McPherson says:

      Salt was thought to have magical powers ; I think Karen was meaning will the magic be there to make sewing this pattern very easy. That’s my understanding ! M

  11. love love love it! gorgeous on you!

  12. Kelsey says:

    I’m seeing so many nice Cleos all over the internet, and I think yours is so lovely! 🙂

  13. bracken says:

    Love this! I have loads of upholstery fabric too so I am going to make one of these. Thanks for sharing. The button hole slicing kit looks good. Do you mind me asking where you bought that from?

  14. bracken says:

    Sorry realised after that you put a link in! I will have to buy one of these. Very useful by the looks of it.

  15. Cecelia says:

    I love your version made easier by cutting on the fold. So my question is–if it’s possible to cut on the fold, why does the pattern have you cut separate pieces and then sew them together? I’m a superlazy sewist and love simple, classic pieces. This looks like a win. Excellent fabric choice, looks gorgeous on you. Thanks for the fabric suggestions and tips; I think you just sold a bunch of patterns for Tilly 🙂

    • Re centre front: topstitching is a feature of this design, so I’m sure Tilly was embracing the style lines of classic dungaree style topstitching. If I had a fabric that helped platform a bit of topstitching, I’d probably cut as separate pieces and do that. Thanks for your kind words!

  16. I love this! I’ve been looking for a pinafore pattern for some time now after wearing a hshop bought one to death this autumn/winter! I’ve pinned this pattern for a rainy weekend!

  17. Jannie at Comesew.com says:

    You look cute 🙂

  18. Alessa says:

    That may be my favourite version that I have seen yet. Love the polka-dots!

  19. I finished mine yesterday but my cord was a bit lightweight but I am going to give it another go. You just can’t go wrong with polka dots. Jo x

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