You go to a shop and almost all the tops ( the ones you like atleast) have no sleeves – Has this happened to you? This is a common scenario which plays out in my life. I do not like sleeveless tops much ( Nothing to do with flabby arms ofcourse.)
I do the only think I can now – I buy the sleeveless dress and add sleeve. My fabric stash will almost always have a matching or complimenting fabric for the sleeves. Or I will buy a sheer fabric which matches the main fabric.
Something you will have to ensure is that the armscye is straight and simple not a dropped shoulder or an angular one or a raglan style ( halter top) in which case check out the post on raglan sleeves
1. Ordinary sleeve
If you can sew a straight line you can add the sleeves. It is very simple. Checkout these different types of sleeves and you can decide on what you want. This post on drafting sleeves will tell you how to make simple sleeves. But all these are sleeves which you have to draft a pattern , take measurement etc. If you cannot be bothered about all that make this easy peasy sleeve
Fold the sleeve fabric and mark as in the picture below.
The armhole curve depth of 3 1/2 inches should be reduced to 2 1/2 inches for a small kid. The depth of the armscye should be equal to half of the bodice armhole circumference
Do the hem of the sleeves and then join the side seams
Keep the sleeve to the inside of your armhole and top stitch.
2. A Cap sleeve
How to stitch the cap sleeves to the top / dress
You will have to open up the side seams with a seam ripper about 4 inches atleast from the top. Finish the edges of the sleeve with a zig zag stitch and hem the bottom edge.
Align the center of the sleeves with the shoulder seam. Keep the sleeve under the armhole. Start stitching from the center. Stitch to one side. Then come back to center and stitch to the other side.
Now turn the dress inside out ; stitch the side seams
3 A fluttery sleeve
How to stitch this sleeve to the top / dress
This sleeve is stitched on top of the sleeves and the sides will hang down like an angel wing sleeve. It is best made with a stretchable fabric.
Open up the side seams with a seam ripper about 4 inches atleast from the top. Finish the (sleeve cap ) edges of the sleeve with a zig zag stitch and hem the bottom edge.
Align the center of the sleeves with the shoulder seam. Keep the sleeve on top of the armhole. Start stitching from the center. Stitch to one side. Then come back to center and stitch to the other side
4 Another Flutter sleeve
Checkout the tutorial for this easy sleeve in the post on making a flutter sleeve ( 3 ways)
4. Cold shouldered sleeve
This is another good sleeve to add which is currently much in demand. You will have to draft a simple sleeve like in the pattern below and cut off the top portion to draft this sleeve.
Checkout the tutorial for a cold shoulder sleeve in detail here .
What to wear under a sleeveless dress?
If you do not want to add sleeves ( stitch them to the armhole) an idea I have seen around is to make a simple top in a lace fabric with long sleeves which you can wear with all the sleeveless dress. This is worn as an inner under the sleeveless tops / dresses. Make it in a neutral colour like black and you can wear it with different tops or dresses
Checkout the post on the different types of sleeves you could sew on your clothes.