Style Arc Cleo Knit Dress

My apologies for the less than impressive photos. I took these after getting home late from a work event.

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Got a little bunched up back there after I reached for something and forgot to tug it back down again…oops!

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Isn’t this an elegant neckline?

The Cleo dress from Style Arc is a simple V-neck, below-the-knee jersey dress with optional waist darts. You have the option of making it sleeveless or with long sleeves.

I chose to sew the darts. I think t-shirt style dress can often look rather frumpy, but sewing in those darts made it look sleek and greatly improved the fit. It skims my body without needing to be skintight, there’s definition below the bust without the back tenting out, and there’s minimal pooling at the small of my back.

My wardrobe has been lean ever since I did a big purge a few months ago. On Wednesday night I realized I needed a dress for Friday afternoon/evening. I decided to sew the Cleo because the darts made it a little bit more structured than the average t-shirt dress, and the sleeves were suitable for the cooler weather we’re having right now. I know fitted knit dresses like this are perhaps not the best choice for a pear shaped figure, but they’re more practical than wrap dresses and fuller skirts when the wind blows and both of your hands are occupied carrying equipment…

The fabric I used was a bright royal blue acetate/lycra matellassé knit from Gorgeous Fabrics. The rich texture of this knit definitely brought this dress up a notch. The weave and fiber content made this a very comfortable dress to wear when it was in the low 50s in the morning and mid 70s in the afternoon. The fabric is light as a feather too, and could easily pass for a woven.

Since I wanted this to pass for a woven as much as possible I hemmed the sleeves and hem on my regular sewing machine with a blind stitch suitable rather than a coverstitch. Look at how invisible it is! The thread just disappears in the texture of the fabric.

While this knit is incredibly wrinkle-free and would be amazing for traveling, it did not like to be pressed. I needed my wooden clapper when it came time to hem it. The weave of this knit was really odd too. It didn’t grow like some knits without lycra do, but it was difficult to get the darts fitted because stretching it too much would remove a lot of the knit’s depth. It was like sewing a sponge. So if you use this fabric, choose a pattern without a lot of negative ease.

I was pleased to see that the neck binding pattern piece Style Arc included was slightly smaller than the neckline, which eliminated gaping. (I think it was 95% the length of the neckline opening.) Due to the personality of this knit though, I removed an additional 3/4″ from the length at the ends, and when I stitched the ends together I also stitched inward an additional 3/8″ halfway rather than just straight down the edge. This way the sewn seam  would naturally form a V when attached to the neckline of the dress.

Alterations:

  • Added 5″ to the hips
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • 1/2″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • Added a 3/4″ dart to the back shoulder for my prominent shoulder blades. Normally with a knit I would just ease in maybe 3/8″ extra fabric or ignore this type of alteration completely in favor of letting the knit stretch, but since this was a more formal dress I went with a dart.
  • Added 3/4″ width to the sleeves, mostly at the elbow
  • The sleeves run long on this. I lengthened them 1″ and ended up needing only 1/2″ extra length.
  • Removed the slight pegging from the skirt, making it a straight skirt. (Pegged skirts, especially pegged jersey skirts, are not kind if you are widest at the lower hip/upper thigh area like I am.)
  • I ended up taking in the side seams 1/2″ each from just below the bust to about mid-thigh level. I think this is mostly due to the fabric.
  • Let out the front darts 1/2″ at the waist. I should have also moved the front darts inward 1/2″. I just forgot in my scramble to get this done.
  • Took in the back darts a LOT. There was a lot of variation as to how much – 1/2″ in some spots and up to 2″ in others.

Despite spending an awful lot of time tweaking those back waist darts to fit my freakishly narrow and hollow mid-to-lower back, I am pretty happy with how this dress came out. As I mentioned before, the darts really help improve the shaping. The neckline is wide and deep without being overly expansive. The skirt length can be tricky to carry off without the help of a nice pair of heels, but it is also very ladylike and helps nicely balance the neckline and slim shape. (Plus skirt length is probably the easiest thing in the world to change.)

Off to bed…more work events on Saturday!

37 thoughts on “Style Arc Cleo Knit Dress

  1. Love it! That’s a fascinating fabric you used, looks gorgeous and I’m laughing at your sponge comment.

    I plan to make Cleo up this week in a ponte, however I’m thinking of making it 3/4 sleeved. And possibly a round neckline. Good to see your review on it.

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    1. I end up pushing up the sleeves most of the time to 3/4 length. I think this would be great for the winter months in wool ponte.

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  2. I love this dress, the fit is great and the fabric really lifts it. I’ve avoided darts on jersey in the past, but I think I need to be brave!

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    1. I plan on using darts more often with knits, especially knit dresses. Lycra alone does not magically make everything fit…

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  3. This looks gorgeous on you! I was debating whether or not to get this pattern, but this convinced me I need to order this rightaway! Did you also get the coordinating pattern?

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  4. Wow, stunning!! I am in awe of your sewing skills. Can I ask, do you do your alterations on the pattern before you make the dress? And if so, are these standard alterations you have worked out for your own body type and the pattern company? Or do you baste the garment together and work out the alterations afterwards? Or a mix of both? I am just learning how to sew and making my first toile (the Vogue shell). I can’t believe how much time it takes me to do this and I hope I will build speed over the next several years. I am on vacation at the moment and have spent three full days on it, and am just sewing the bodice together now!!

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    1. A mix of both. I do alter the pattern as much as possible before cutting. I make more or less the same adjustments for Style Arc, but just to be on the safe side I use my tape measure and inspect the pattern before altering and also compare the pattern to existing garments. I err on the side of a little loose because that way I can just take in the extra. I usually adjust things like the hip curve and center back seam/princess seams/darts after the fact.

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      1. Thanks Anne! You’re giving me really useful tips there. I would never have thought to alter darts or princess seams to refine fit. I love sewing for its creative and intellectual challenges. It’s the perfect hobby!

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      2. Anything can be altered. I don’t consider it realistic to make something out of the envelope and expect it to fit perfectly.

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  5. BeautIful dress, Anne; very well done. I find it impressive that you can ‘whip up’ a stunning dress complete with necessary tweaks in an evening. The color is terrific, the pattern of the knit is lovely. And to overcome the special care which is required when stitching sponges is just plain awesome. Thanks for sharing! I’ll be reading your posts more carefully here forward, too. A dear friend’s son is getting married next year and she asked for help with whatever she’ll wear. Her figure is much like yours (and she’s 4’10” tall). Fit will be everything! Have a great weekend.

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    1. I actually did it in two nights. The first night I cut and sewed most of it, the second night I bound the neckline, hemmed, and tweaked the side seams and back darts.

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    1. I know! It is so nice not to have to worry about careful washing or pressing. I think this and an ITY wrap dress are the lowest maintenance items I own.

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  6. This is beautiful dress Anne and the colour suits you really well. I once wore an airline uniform that colour and it seems to suit most.

    I’ve not yet got the pattern but think it would look good in black.

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  7. Anne, this dress looks amazing. It really looks like a woven and I wondered how you got it to fit SO AMAZINGLY well, but I can imagine the the stretch helps quite a bit. Thanks for the details on sewing with that fabric. Also, I how know tempting it is to refer to oneself as “freakishly” disproportionate (I have said that about my neck/shoulders) but as someone fond of you, I want to step in and say “no, please don’t describe yourself that way!” You are really lovely.

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    1. I would never be able to get a woven this fitted – I like to be able to move and breathe in my clothing, and not worry about the invisible zipper ripping apart! I think the darts help a LOT. I will be using them more often in knits.

      I say “freakishly” not in a bad way, just seems that most people do not need to go the lengths I do when it comes to taking in the back waist.

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  8. Beautiful dress, great fit and it’s really flattering. If shoulders being narrower than hips is the definition of pear shaped you really barely make it. Much more an hourglass, especially in this dress. You look great.

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    1. Oh I’m definitely a pear. If I pegged the skirt and wore flats and stood facing the camera straight-on it would have been really obvious at the upper thigh level. When I’m wearing a dress like this I also make sure to pair it with a foam lined bra too instead of my normal unlined bras.

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  9. The dress looks fantastic on you. Can you explain how you manage your fittings especially I ally for things like the back darts.

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    1. I just keep pinning out, stitching, trying it on, pinning out more, stitching again, etc. I don’t think even a custom dress form would help, since I have to move around in the garment before I decide whether I’m done altering or if I need to keep going.

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  10. Stunning, Anne. You’re always an inspiration. Your fitting skills, ability to select perfect fabrics for each pattern, and sewing/finishing skills are always so impressive.

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    1. I have a huge fabric stash because it gives me much more flexibility for my projects. I think when I bought this fabric the Cleo wasn’t even available yet. I had no idea on Monday that I would be using it for this dress!

      Can you believe how invisible that hem is? I was shocked at how good it looked when I finished stitching it on my Janome. It is stretchy like a coverstitch too.

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  11. I’d never heard of this particular fabric before. Thanks for sharing so much technical detail, and so many full descriptions.
    I’ve never had access to any shop where people knew what everything was…. haha
    The dress suits you very well.

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    1. I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased it, since I didn’t want to wait for a swatch…buying online is always an adventure!

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