DIY FRIDAY: ADDING SLEEVES TO A SLEEVELESS DRESS (REFASHION TUTORIAL)

These weeks are flying by — somehow it’s time for another round of DIY Friday! Lulu*s sent me this dress a few months ago, and although I totally loved it, I don’t wear sleeveless tops, so it was super annoying to have to wear a jacket or a sweater over it all the time. We’ve been having a crazy heat wave here as well, so layers were completely out of the question.

In an amazing stroke of good luck, I found a similar printed chiffon fabric at the LA fabric district, so I brought it home, lined it with some lightweight white cotton, and whipped up some sleeves for this dress. Now it’s the perfect dress — this silhouette is maybe my favorite ever for my body.

So today I want to show you have to make a simple sleeve to add to a sleeveless dress — it’s so easy! Keep reading to find the tutorial!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JYLARE
lulu*s dress, c/o (no longer available — similar here, here, and here
similar bag
chinese laundry heels
michael kors watch

Find the full tutorial after the jump!

Materials:

sleeveless dress
matching or similar fabric (or contrasting fabric would be fun too!)
matching thread

1. Find a shirt in your closet with a similar arm hole size as your sleeveless dress, and then use it as a pattern. Lay it flat on the floor on top of pattern paper (you can use parchment paper, medical paper, or just regular paper instead) and cut around the sleeve. 
2. Lay your pattern piece along the folded edge of your fabric and cut around it, adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Cut two of these sleeves. 
3. Open the sleeve up and fold the bottom edge over twice and hem. Repeat for the second sleeve. 
4. With right sides together, fold the sleeves in half and sew up the inseam with a straight stitch, as shown. 
5. Turn your dress inside out, and slip the sleeve into the arm hole (right side out), matching up the seams at the armpit. Pin in place. 
6. With the sleeve tucked inside the dress and pinned into place, sew around the arm hole. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the second sleeve. 
7. Trim and finish your seams (with a zigzag or serged stitch), and press, and you’re done!
*Note: This Lulu*s dress has an irregular arm hole, with the little notch at the collar bone.  I added a point along the curved edge (as shown below) to make it work. Also, because of this, I had to make the sleeve extra wide so it didn’t have any weird bunching or pulling, and then after the sleeves were both attached, I went back and took in the sides and sleeves, as shown in step 2. 

47 Comments

  1. Jess says:

    Merrick, This is fabulous! The sleeves look amazing – great match and sewing job! Thanks for the tutorial. You share the greatest ideas and have a true talent in design and fashion.

  2. Marie B says:

    Well done ! We don’t even see that the sleeves pattern is different. This is pretty natural.
    I’m starting learning sewing. And I can see that’s very hard πŸ™‚

  3. Kimberly says:

    I have this same dress and the cut of the top is very tricky – adding sleeves is genius!

    http://www.pennypincherfashion.com

    • Merrick says:

      Thanks, Kimberly! I remember seeing you in this dress — it’s such a gorgeous print, huh??

      And I also JUST saw that you featured golden tote on your blog and wore my swing dress! You looked AMAZING in it, of course, and I love it in gray — I hadn’t seen it in that color yet!

  4. Christina Storm says:

    I love this!! So many times I wish a dress had little short sleeves! It is so flattering and feminine! You look gorgeous in this dress! Thanks for the inspiration! Have a great weekend!

    The Style Storm

    <3, Christina

  5. Natali says:

    Once again such a beautiful and inspiring DIY!

    http://lartoffashion.blogspot.com

  6. Great job! I have a dress that is a tad too short and doesn’t have sleeves (blue and white and black pattern) and I am going to get some black leather (probably from Goodwill!) and add sleeves and a border. Hopefully it looks good.

    Thanks for the tutorial! I was just looking at my dress last night, so this is perfect!

    One last thing, do you have any tips for how to fix a dress/top that is too low without having to wear a cami? I dislike how dressy things look with a cami underneath.

    Philly
    http://togetherinitaly.com/about-our-family/
    http://togetherinitaly.com

    • Merrick says:

      Oooh, sounds amazing!! Good luck!

      I agree that a cami looks way too casual with dressy pieces! Try inserting a triangle of matching fabric into the low neckline and either hand sew it (so no stitches are visible from the outside), or secure it with fabric tape or glue. Hope that helps!

  7. rachel sayumi says:

    I’ve been wanting to re-do my lulu’s white dress that you did for your cute summer garden party (I have the same dress) but I had no idea how to start with the sleeves! so thank you!

  8. Jana Tolman says:

    This is SO helpful! Thank you so much for sharing this. πŸ™‚

  9. MARTA says:

    Beautiful dress! Love the print!

    http://www.MARTAsFASHIONdiary.com/

  10. Monica Packer says:

    Merrick, you are one of the very, very few ladies (your sisters too!) who are all things beautiful, talented, and hard working yet maintain your integrity and humility. I am just so stickin’ proud of you! I am POSITIVE you are going to create an empire, and can’t wait to see what you continue to do. Also, the YW of Walnut Creek, CA (and their leaders) are super impressed with you staying true to your beliefs and showing us modest can still be beautiful, not to mention resourceful (girl, you have sewing skills!). Finally, my budget thanks you–you know when to save, when to splurge, but even your splurges are way, way more affordable than other successful fashion blogs. This is all to say, keep it up! I love it all and feel so much more educated and empowered after reading your blog.

    • Merrick says:

      Wow, I hardly know how to respond to this comment, Monica! You are seriously too sweet. Thank you so, so, much for taking the time to write this comment. It honestly made my day. Miss you, pretty lady! xoxo

  11. I like the dress better after you’ve added the sleeves – a true eye for fashion you have! πŸ˜‰ Love this DIY. Xo, Alison

    http://www.simplyfairbyalisonjeanine.com

  12. Sara says:

    very clever!

  13. Lisa G. says:

    The clear way you illustrated this is a big help to me – thank you!

  14. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much, Merrick! This is super helpful since most of my dresses are sleeveless, unfortunately. I just love your blog!

    http://www.geekyjessy.blogspot.com

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I love that you did this tutorial! It makes me so happy to see that you stay modest and always look so pretty, and I love that you have really clear directions on your sewing tutorials. Now I can wear those cute patterned dresses I always see in stores because I know how to add sleeves and make the skirt long enough (by altering a bigger dress) thanks to your tutorials. I appreciate your blog a lot!

  16. Jilly Gator says:

    Thank you! Just what I needed! (:

  17. Its basically all about trendy accessories and that is what women bother the most which is a good thing because fashion should be the one that is in trends.

    leather apparels style

  18. Mimsie says:

    Hi, I found your blog from following Everyday Reading. I have a question, and I do not mean to be rude. Please just delete my comment if you find it offensive. You mention that you do not wear sleeveless dresses. I understand (from Google) that LDS women do not wear sleeveless dresses, for reasons of modesty. Why, then, are skinny jeans permitted–aren’t they much more immodest than showing your shoulders? Some of the pants worn in some of your photo shots are very tight. I wouldn’t have thought they would be acceptable in the LDS culture.

    • Tawni says:

      Hello! I saw that your question had not been answered, and I would like to answer it for you as I am LDS as well. It is true that we do not wear sleeveless dresses for reasons of modesty. Ultimately, this prepares us for when we enter the temple and make sacred covenants. One of those covenants is wearing temple garments. For more information you can watch this video as it explains it much better – http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/temple-garments

      Since we wear these garments under our clothing that we believe to be sacred, we are supposed to cover them with our clothing. Because of this, longer pants and skirts are necessary as well as covering our shoulders. As for tight clothing, that is a matter of personal preference – if the person feels comfortable wearing it, it is alright.

  19. Jodie says:

    I agree with you Mimsie, I find those skinny pants and yoga pants that everyone in our culture seems to be wearing these days, way too tight to be considered modest. I wouldn’t dream of wearing them and hope my daughter never chooses to go that route. They are not only tight, but shape, outline and accentuate the rear and private parts of a woman.

    • disqus_d7yAEDwlT0 says:

      Sorry, but I really don’t see what this and Mimsie’s comments have to do with this tutorial at all. Honestly, if you can’t say something nice (or germane, for that matter), don’t say anything at all….most people have learned that before leaving kindergarten.

  20. Angie says:

    Hi Merrick. I love your tutorials! However, I am stuck on the sleeve. Would it be easier to draft a sleeve by laying the sleeveless dress over the paper to match the arm hole size? I have a hard time tracing an existing sleeve and having it match for me.
    Thanks!

    • Merrick says:

      You can do that, or use pins to pin the sleeve to your pattern paper right along the seams. Then use a pencil and maneuver the shirt around as you draw to make sure it’s as close to the right size and shape as possible. Then remove the shirt and make sure your drawing is right. Then cut the pattern paper and use that as your pattern when you cut your fabric. Hope that helps!

  21. Meghan Jenson says:

    Good job on finding similar fabric

  22. OphelieLechat says:

    This post was exactly what I needed! I’m just starting to draft my own tops, but always get stuck with the sleeves.

  23. Sally says:

    Great idea! What fabric would use with a black cotton dress?

  24. Sanya says:

    If I wanted to add full sleeves, would I just have to extend the length of the sleeves when cutting the fabric, or would I have do some extra steps? Thanks!

  25. LS says:

    I have a sleeveless dress pattern, unsewn at this point, that I would like to add sleeves to. Can you recommend a different tutorial for that? Thank you πŸ™‚

  26. Noelle says:

    When I saw the first picture of the sleeveless dress and the after I was stunned, the fabric you found is nearly identical! Thanks for the tutorial!

  27. Shannon says:

    I love this so much! As a fellow non-sleeveless dress wearer, I really appreciate the simple tutorial. It was exactly what I needed for a festive Christmas dress I got for a work party that sadly had no sleeves. Also, I like your after dress better than the before! They should really consider adding your version to their shop.

  28. MrsTJNic@aol.com says:

    U would need to rip out the Facing, under the armseye, first. I’m a Fashion Designer. I do this all the time.

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