The One With The Matching Cleo’s – #sewbackthen

Hey there everyone, hope this post finds you all well.

For today’s #sewbackthen post (I haven’t even cut out my next project yet so there might be a few of these in the coming weeks – ha!) I’m looking at a something I made that I never thought I would- the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo. By saying I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it has nothing to do with the pattern, I’d seen lots of great versions on Instagram, it was more that at 5ft 2″ with small features I was worried it’d make me look ‘too cute’, i.e like a 12 year old, or the fact I’m over 30 and surely a bit too old for dungaree dresses?

It’s funny I should mention 12 year old as it is actually one of those that ended up being the catalyst for me making the Cleo; my 12 year old niece Jess to be exact.

Even before she was born I was making her stuff but it was always just taking RTW clothing and embellishing them. I would hand paint or applique cute little designs onto baby grows, T-shirts, I even did a hoodie for her. All that being said, I’d never really made her a garment from scratch and now we’re about the same size I figured it was the perfect time as I could basically just make her what I would make for myself (minus certain curves!).

Anyway, I’d noticed she’d been wearing a dungaree dress a lot (Snapchat stalking obvs) so decided to give the Cleo a go. As she lives in another country and I wanted it to be a surprise I thought I’d make a toile, measure that and then compare it to the measurements of her RTW version, this is exactly what I did (with the help of my lovely sister who sneakily took said measurements).

I’d managed to snag some super cheap polka dot fabric from a closing sale (like $5 cheap!) and decided it was perfect for my ‘expect not ever wear it’ Cleo toile. It seams to be some kind of medium weight linen/cotton blend as it doesn’t wrinkle much but it is definitely natural fibers.

The pattern was really simple with the usual great photographed instructions I’ve come to expect from Tilly.  If you’re a real beginner this would most certainly be a good pattern to start with. I made a straight size 4 which was fine in general but I did end up pulling it in a little more at the waist to try and give it a bit more shape. I couldn’t do it as much as I’d have liked, otherwise I’d never have got it over my bum!

Despite this, and still being unsure if it was for me, as soon as I wore it as an actual outfit out in the real world I was sold. I’m still not sure it doesn’t make me too ‘cutsey but I didn’t really care! I think it came out great and can’t wait for Spring to really get started so I can wear it again (for some reason the green felt a little too much over the winter?!).     Once I’d made and measured it I realised the size would work pretty well for Jess with a only few tweaks – brilliant!

The key difference really was that her version was a lot more A-line, which on reflection seemed more suitable for a 12 year old. I traced off my size 4 pattern and just added a bit more width at the hem and the angled out the lines from the waist down (does that make any sense?!) For mine, I still made the size 4 but because there was stretch to the fabric I ended up using I was able to bring it in at the waist a lot more which made me much happier with the fit of this one.

For those of you who don’t know, my parents also live in the USA, I came over a few years after them. My brother and sister, their partners and their kids all live in Scotland so we don’t see each other often. Last year my parents had had enough and insisted we all got together for Christmas so they flew them all over to Florida to where they live and we got our first Christmas together in 8 years! (Yikes!).

Despite having lived at least 300 miles from her (minimum) her entire life Jess and I have managed to build and maintain a great relationship. I’m very different from the rest of my family but then Jess came along and she definitely got a lot of my genes (poor kid!) so to celebrate her being here Joe and I had planned to surprise her with a trip to Universal Studios.  I wanted to make her cleo for that trip. I also wanted to reflect our bond in her Cleo and so decided to make them matching, but personalised ones.  My plan was to make the main dress the same to show our connection but then just add little touches that reflected our individual personalities.

I used a navy blue, slightly stretching cord from my local Joanne’s. Jess is currently obsessed with watermelons so for the facing and pockets for hers I found a vintage watermelon print cotton on Etsy. This was harder than you’d expect: all the prints I found the watermelons were too big or they were pink, and like me, Jess despises pink! For a little added extra I bought a watermelon iron-on patch for the front pocket.

I’m a complete book worm so I decided that would be the theme for mine. Again I used a printed cotton for the facing, this time with bookworm print and for the front I found this amazing little pin of a stack of books and a cup of coffee (my other love), again on Etsy, a store called The Clever Clove. If you like pins and other cute accessories go check it out, such lovely lovely things.

To make them even more personalized and make my life just that little bit harder I decided to use different coloured top stitching on them both. For mine I went with yellow, but for Jess’ I did both red and green to pick out the melon. It was a royal pain in the arse but I really think it was worth it.

She didn’t know she was getting the dress.  I gave it to her the morning of our trip to Universal. You can never tell with a pre-teen but I think she liked it. Even if she didn’t, she was good enough to wear it out in public.

It’s safe to safe they were well and truly road tested – even surviving the Dudley Do-Right water ride (Best ride at Universal if you’ve not been yet!)


I don’t know about Jess, but since then I’ve worn mine a lot more than I expected I would. It really goes so well with everything, and the more me-mades I create the more I find to team with it. I just love how versatile it is! I’m not sure I’ll make another one (trying not to add to clothing waste!) but if I ever did I’d be putting hip yoke pockets in. I tried inseam on this one but it just didn’t sit right.

I did find a great use for the front pocket though:

Despite the lack of seam pockets (a very important thing in my life!)  I really do wear it a lot. I made it with that Florida trip in mind, knowing it would be warm and I could wear it with sandals but it really didn’t stop there. Now we’re in North Carolina and it’s definitely not that warm her yet but the other day while touring the Biltmore greenhouses the lovely Laura again took some pictures of me, this time I’m wearing my Cleo, more spring styled, with my wearable toile of the Nikko Top from True Bias and my beloved Fly London boots (please never die boots!)

Arghh, I really love this next photo! Is it bad to love a picture of yourself??

Laura is moving away soon and I’m gutted as who’s going to capture such lovely shots of my me-mades???

Well that’s it for today, I’m off to cut out my next project #addict!



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