The Autumnal Cleo Dress

It had been a few months since I made my last Cleo dress, and considering how much wear I’ve been getting out of that and my first needlecord version, I figured it was high time I made myself another! Yes, finally I have a TNT pattern for a dress. Yay!

In a Nutshell:

A cute little dress that will be perfect for wearing over tights this autumn and winter. And let’s face it, this is England so I’ll probably be wearing tights well into the spring too!


It’s the ubiquitous Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons. My previous versions have both featured the dungaree clips and longer length, so I decided to mix things up and cut the mini version with the pinafore top. I’m really glad I did go for the mini as I realised (thankfully before sewing!) that I’d cut the pockets upside down, and the nap made them look a completely different colour to the rest of the dress. Luckily I had enough fabric left to cut the pockets again. Phew! Note to self: remember to pay very strict attention to the nap direction when cutting corduroy. This is not the first time you’ve messed it up!


This is a needlecord I’ve had in my stash for a few years now. I remember buying a metre of it, thinking I would make a skirt out of it, then never found the right pattern. What I can’t precisely remember is WHERE I bought it from, but I think it might have been my local fabric shop, Steve Bane Fabrics in Frome. I’m guessing it was probably around £5-£6 a metre. It’s a really thin, pretty lightweight cord and probably isn’t the best quality. However, I love the dark floral design, which I think looks more like the Milky Way than flowers. What do you reckon? Here’s a close up shot, complete with fluff #keepingitreal:


Changes I made:

  • The same grading of size 3 at the waist to 4 at the hip as in my other versions, and then sewing the side seams with a 1cm seam allowance to make sure I could still get into it!
  • Like last time, I eliminated the centre front and back seams by cutting on the fold instead. Less topstitching FTW!
  • I also cut the facings a bit differently, making them lower in the middle rather than simply following the edge of the fabric. I’ve been meaning to try this out for a while as I do occasionally get the facings wanting to flip out a little, and I figured this would stop that happening. I also thought it would be a particularly good idea with this fabric as it’s so flimsy for a cord.


I’ve got the Cleo down to a fine art now, and all I did differently this time was to use the needlecord for the facings too, as I figured it was so fine it wouldn’t cause any issues. Actually, I think using quilting cotton or the like would probably have helped add some stability! This cord fabric was so thin and poor quality it stretched out when topstitching the top of the pockets. I pondered unpicking and interfacing them before trying again, but decided not to bother and fortunately it really doesn’t show on the finished dress.

Incidentally, I was really pleased to find a topstitching thread in my stash that matched the peachy flowers perfectly. I think someone once gave it to me and I doubted I would ever use it (peach isn’t usually one of my colours) so I’m really glad now I held onto it.

Time taken: 3 hours 13 minutes.

(time taken is the time to sew, which will include pinning, stitching, pressing, etc, but doesn’t include time spent planning, tracing patterns, cutting out fabric, setting up the sewing machine, puzzling out instructions, trying things on, etc. So in other words, it’s not actually the total time I’ve spent making something, but it’s a rough guide at any rate. Just don’t come complaining if it takes you longer to make something!)

Overall verdict:

Despite the fabric not being the best quality, I do absolutely love this dress! That’s partly down to the pattern looking like the night sky in Cornwall (or even out here in Somerset on a particularly clear night!) and partly down to the ease with which it slots in with the rest of my wardrobe. I know it will get plenty of wear. Indeed, I finished it one Saturday afternoon at the in-laws (where this lovely garden photoshoot took place!) and a couple of hours later was wearing it out to a restaurant. And although I was a bit more casually dressed than the other women, I certainly didn’t feel underdressed in this. A pinafore/dungaree dress can be styled in so many different ways depending on what you wear underneath it, it’s as versatile as separates.

The mini length is shorter than virtually everything else in my wardrobe and I’m pretty sure I’ll only be wearing this over thick tights, but hey, that’s fine too. It goes perfectly with black tights which is a relief, as finding decent tights in more interesting colours is always a struggle.

Changes for next time:

I still want to try making a Cleo with button plackets at the side seams, to make getting it over my hips a little easier. I’d also like to experiment with hardware, perhaps using some large eyelets and ties as the closures at the top. I figure there’s room for plenty more Cleos in my life.


Pattern: £4.50

Based on initial cost of £12.50 plus £1 p&p for the paper pattern, now made three times.

Fabric: £5.50?

That’s my best guess. Too long ago to remember.

Notions: £0

Buttons, interfacing and thread from stash.

Total cost: £10.00

Can’t argue with that price! The pinny version definitely works out cheaper than buying those dungaree buckles, so I imagine there will be more of them in my future. Good thing I like sewing buttonholes, eh?!

Photoshoot outtake:

I’m a robot!

Have you made the Cleo dress? And is it a TNT for you, or do you have another TNT dress pattern in your wardrobe?

Disclaimer: some of the products linked above use affiliate links, meaning if you follow the link and make a purchase I will receive a small referral fee (at no added cost to you). Any extra income to help fund my sewing habit is greatly appreciated, but rest assured I only recommend products I love and think you might find useful too 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Autumnal Cleo Dress”

What do you reckon? I'd love to hear from you!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.