Cleo dungaree dress from Tilly & the Buttons

Boy was this a fun make!  My first time working with denim and I can see why people get hooked on making jeans. Denim is such a fun fabric to work with. My Singer 401A really loved working with it and didn’t chew it up or lodge any complaints.  I used black denim from Joann and regular-weight teal thread for topstitching.



This is my first pattern make by Tilly and the Buttons. I’m new to the sewing community but I can already tell that she’s kind of a big deal.  The dress is called the Cleo pinafore and dungaree dress.  I made a size 14 (US) and added three inches in length (I’m 5’8″). It hits me just below the knee.

On the inside: teapots!  My mom gave me this teapot fabric on my last visit and I used it for the inner facings (a detail I saw on other Cleos on Instagram).



I had planned to make one of the newest Tilly patterns, the Bobbi skirt and pinafore. When browsing Instagram checking out the Bobbi, I ran across the Cleo and ended up liking it a bit more. It looked more suited to a beginner at least.


All the hip pockets ended up being a little low for my taste. I should have tested the placement before I sewed them all on. You can see above that the pocket is more on the back of my leg than on my butt.


The cross back is super cute!

This project had a propitious start when I laid it out and it took less than a yard of fabric!


I had so much fabric that I decided to do all the optional pockets. It was a lot of pockets. Each pocket had to be pressed and topstitched. I went the extra mile and pounded all the corners with a hammer so they would sit very flat.


Once the pockets were done, I tested my serger on the denim. I’m still getting used to how my new Brother 1034D operates. I put two denim needles in the serger and ran a test.


It checks out!

The instructions for Cleo were really fantastic. They used photos instead of drawings, which, at this point in my sewing journey, I prefer.  The instructions were definitely written with the beginner in mind — even an absolute beginner.

The one part I stumbled on during construction was attaching the straps. The instructions said to edge-stitch the straps.  Either I had cut the straps too wide or I was supposed to leave the 5/8″ seam allowance and not stitch them right on the edge because when I went to attach them, they were too wide.  I scissored them to fit but this was a mistake. I had made little fray bundles on either end of the straps that had nowhere to hide.


I ended up hand sewing a bunch of loops around these imperfections and it looked OK.

Installing the hardware was a breeze. I didn’t measure anything and just eyeballed where I thought the buttons should be. Then I poked holes in the denim with an awl.  I took the advice of the Love to Sew podcast and hammered the buttons on on the back of my iron skillet.


I couldn’t wait to wear this to work. Every shirt and sweater I own can be worn underneath it.  Here’s a shot my friend Suzanne took of me, pairing the dress with purple tights and a sweater.


Not sure if I will make this again… It was a fun make and a great pattern, but for me I think one dungaree dress might be all I need. Next I’m going to do a denim skirt with the leftovers! -rp

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