Bettine Dress from Tilly and the Buttons, with a boatneck alteration

The Bettine Dress is perfect for beginner sewists like's easy enough to put together that you can produce a very wearable garment fairly quickly. The dress features a tulip skirt and options to add sleeve tabs or pockets. It doesn't have any fastenings like zips or darts to worry about either! I bought the pattern on sale ages ago (subscribing to the TATB newsletter) and have been waiting for some summer like weather to inspire me in what to make it with. I was actually set off by a sponsored ad on Facebook that popped up for an online store. I saw their dresses and realised that I could make something similar (or better even!) using the Bettine pattern...I did alter it a little to get there but it was worth it. This is definitely in the success story category!!


The fabric I used was one I came across in John Lewis. I was in to get some black thread and ended up with 6m in assorted half price fabrics that I had fallen in love with. This is a John Kaldor fabric that was reduced by 50% to £8 pm...bargain! (It doesn't appear online so no link I'm afraid). The Bettine pattern says to use a drapey fabric which this certainly is...I'm not sure exactly what it is as it's only described as polyester (maybe a crepe?? to inexperienced to know). The pattern has a lot of colours in it so I've found it works equally well with nude and black accessories. I didn't have to worry about pattern matching either which helps. The fabric was nice to sew with (it didn't wrinkle or get stuck or slip) and did press enough for this pattern. When wearing it doesn't crease much at all which I love. It's also fairly breathable too so I'm looking forward to wearing this out over the summer.

Pattern and Instructions

I buy Tilly and the Buttons patterns because they come with such detailed and easy to follow instructions. The Bettine dress is no exception. The pattern envelope contains an instruction booklet full of colour photographs and pattern pieces on regular paper. I chose to make the version with no cuff tabs or pockets as I was going for a more formal looking dress.

There are only 6 pieces to this pattern, and they are all simply shaped with very few markings. The sleeves are part of the bodice (kimono style) so do not require separate pieces or complicated sewing either. I prefer patterns which come on regular paper like this because I like to transfer them using carbon and a tracer wheel directly onto the fabric (already on a cutting mat), then cut out using a rotary cutter. This way the pattern pieces don't get ruined and I don't have to spend ages tracing them onto a separate paper.

Bettine Dress from Tilly and the Buttons, with a boatneck alteration

The instructions booklet includes layplans to help with cutting out fabric and measurements to help with selecting the correct size. I made mine in a size 4 based on the body and finished garment measurements given. Every step is clearly explained with photographs to show you what you are aiming for at each point. This is so helpful for beginners like me, especially when it came to sewing the bodice and skirt together. This is the only bit I thought where I could get mixed up with what to sew where, but it was all fine. 


I had a look at the extra help in the blog to figure out if I needed to make any fitting adjustments. I was mainly concerned with having to shorten the pattern given that I am shorter than most (5ft tall). I found the advice in the blog really helpful in deciding what to do. In the end I didn't shorten any of it and I looks like what I wanted it to. If you are taller I thoroughly recommend checking out the blog as you may want it to fit differently. Normally I have to think about altering the waistline to patterns (raise it and take it in normally). Due to the elasticated waist feature this isn't an issue with this dress....hooray!

I'm not sure this is where it's meant to sit but I like it like this....

I did make quite a tricky pattern alteration for my limited experience...I changed the neckline. Now this was not a bad idea but it was very poorly executed. Basically I tried to remember what I had seen in other sewalongs and apply it from memory. Cue much trial and error. More experienced sewists may just want to skip this next section as it will mainly make you tut disapprovingly. As far as you are concerned I simply raised the neckline and elongated it to a boatneck style.....

....Everyone else....

I cut out the front bodice with a much higher neckline to start with. Then pinned the bodice together to try on and start figuring out the exact neckline I wanted. As that wouldn't go over my head (so obvious now) I took the shoulder seam 'start point' (my term) out a bit. (Time to close eyes and wish for the best....) I then cut down the middle of the front bodice, almost to where I wanted it to sit, then experimented a bit with folding this back inside the bodice and seeing what it looked like. I pinned this in place then used chalk to mark out a scoop from where the shoulder seams finished to where I wanted it to sit. Then I drew another line to account for 1.5cm seam allowance for the neckline facing.

Then I had to think about the facings and this is where I got it completely wrong. I tried tracing facings that matched the new line up to the shoulders and had seam allowance and everything. It was so off it was embarrassing. The main front and back neckline were fine but when it came to the shoulders it was all completely out. I had to do a lot of trimming, tacking, unstitching and tea making before I figured it out to a point where the facing wasn't popping out, wasn't bulky and looked natural. What do you think? (Seriously, anxious for opinions....leave a comment!)

Don't ask about the insides. They're a mess.
Could I do it again? Not without this dress as a pattern.


I am so happy with the final dress. I literally wore it out to dinner the next day with black tights and patent shoes. I also have to say that as much as I (and my husband) tried to photograph me in this it doesn't look anywhere near as good in photos as it does in real life, no idea why. The pattern shape is very flattering with the tulip shaped skirt and elasticated waist. I imagine a v neck would also look really nice if that's your preference.

The pattern is so easy to put together it would take less than a day, including hand stitching the sleeve cuffs (which I think I did more sewing for than is needed but at least the fold isn't moving anywhere). The seams are nice lines to follow and there aren't any complicated (for me) techniques, mainly due to the elasticated waistband which takes care of it all for you. The instructions and blog tell you everything you need to know to make the dress and give extra advice to really make it your own (that is the point of handmaking a dress after all isn't it?).

I made a Tilly size 4, and usually take a high street size 10. It fits me just fine and is comfortable to wear. I like where the hem finishes and didn't alter this. Do think about the fact that I am 5ft if you are using mine to decide on yours though! The fabric I chose was also a big factor in the success of this dress - it hides a lot of sins and hangs perfectly for the pattern. 

I am definitely making this again, and having had a look at the blog might try out a jersey version.
But I am still looking out for a better way of altering necklines. Please let me know if you have a better and more accurate way!


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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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