Updated on January 3, 2023 by Sarina Tariq
You go to a shop, and almost all the tops ( the ones you like at least) have no sleeves – Has this happened to you? This is a common scenario that plays out in my life. I do not like sleeveless tops much ( Nothing to do with flabby arms, of course.)
I do the only thing I can now – I buy the sleeveless dress and add a sleeve. My fabric stash will almost always have a matching or complimenting fabric for the sleeves. Or I will buy a sheer fabric that 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
Adding sleeves to clothes without sleeves – easy solutions
- Adding sleeves to clothes without sleeves – easy solutions
- 1. Add Ordinary sleeves
- 2. Add a Cap sleeve
- How to stitch the cap sleeves to the top/dress.
- 3. A fluttery sleeve
- How to stitch this sleeve to the top / dress
- 4. Another Flutter sleeve
- 4. Cold shouldered sleeve
- 5. Add a lace sleeve
- What to wear under a sleeveless dress?
1. Add Ordinary sleeves
you can sew a straight line, you can add the sleeves. It is very simple. Check out 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 for which you have to draft a pattern, take measurements, etc. If you cannot be bothered about all that, make this easy-peasy sleeve.
Fold the sleeve fabric (keep them stacked right sides to the inside) and mark it 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. Add 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, at least 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 the 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 stretchable fabric.
Open up the side seams with a seam ripper about 4 inches, at least 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 the 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.
You can find a very flared flutter sleeves in this post on making a top.
Checkout the tutorial for a cold shoulder sleeve in detail here .
5. Add a lace sleeve
Adding lace trims as sleeves does not work much in the way of coverage – but it is a great way to add sleeves to some tops, especially for kids or give a girly vibe for adults’ tops.
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 dresses. This is worn as an inner under sleeveless tops/dresses. Make it in a neutral color 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