Puffy sleeves are always adorable and very feminine. They can make even the most austere of dresses look cute and pretty. It is usually frequently used on kids’ dresses but that is not to say that we do not have options. Many of the currently fashionable clothes sports variations of the puffy sleeves. Basically the puff sleeves are of 3 styles :
- Puff sleeves with fullness at the top and bottom
- Puff sleeves with fullness at the bottom only
- Puff sleeves with fullness at the top only
Different ways to design Puff sleeves
How to sew the puffed sleeves
Get a normal sleeve pattern according to your measurements. If you haven’t made a normal sleeve make a normal sleeve following the directions here for sewing different sleeves.
Fold the normal sleeve by the center. Keep it on another slightly bigger pattern drafting paper folded by half like the normal sleeve pattern. Even a newspaper would do. Add the necessary inches ( you can add inches keeping in mind the gathers you want.) I have added 1″ for a slight puff. You can add even upto 6 inches for a good puff sleeves.
After you have added the inches and marked one side of the pattern open up the papers, both the normal sleeve and the pattern paper. Mark the other side of the sleeves too.
You have extra fabric at the top of the sleeve which has to fit into the armsyce.
It is that part that has to be gathered and then fitted to the armsyce.
Fold the hem at the wrong side of the sleeve, twice inside ; this is for an elastic casing. Keep in mind the width of the elastic.
If you want a bottom hem frill you will have to add a strip of fabric some 1″ from the hem after finishing the hem. Stitch a 1.5″ piece of strip to the back of the sleeve 1″ from the finished hem – this will form the casing for the elastic. When you insert the elastic the hem will gather like a frill
Make two rows of gathering stitches ( basting titches with a long stitch length) leaving long trails of thread on both ends.
Checkout the post on how to gather fabric
You can also pin after pleating the top as in the picture below, instead of gathering.
Insert the elastic with a pin onto the elastic casing you have made at the hem.
Stitch the ends of the elastic to the side seam allowance with 2-3 back stitches with your sewing machine ( to keep them in place)
Gather the top of the sleeve by pulling the thread tails gently, distributing the gathers evenly
You have the sleeve ready to be joined to the bodice.
If you are adding the sleeve to an old sleeveless bodice, remove the side seam stitches under the armhole, some 3-4 inches. Keep the sleeves wrong side up on the armhole of the right side up bodice.
Stitch the sleeves at the armhole with a 1/4 inch allowance. Make double stitches. . Now join the side seam and the sleeve side seam in one stretch.
As you can see the sleeve with 2 inch additional added to the fold line and sleeve head makes a small puff only. You can add between 3 – 6 inches for a big puff sleeves
The puff sleeves with gathers at the top only – Pattern
Another way to get the look of puff pattern with gathers at the top alone, is to give darts at the bottom hem, by using the first pattern given here. One or two darts at the edge will ease the fullness the bottom
Gather or pleat the top edge
Butterfly sleeve is another variation which is a puffed sleeves with fullness at the top and a straight down or wide bottom edge ( unlike the tapered bottom edge of a normal sleeve).
A variation of the puff sleeve with tucks
Puffy sleeves – Would it suit you?
I know many girls on whom the Puffed sleeves look beautiful, but alas they are not for me. I have an inverted triangle body shape and puff sleeves would kill it . But I sew it regularly. The ones I sew have the perfect body shape for a puffed sleeve- my kids.
The puffed sleeves (Puffy sleeves, puff sleeves all one and the same) have an old world charm (a Victorian era reminder?) which is great, but only if you have the body for it. If you have a narrow top body (a pear body shape) or a slim figure go for the charming puffed sleeves. This sleeve will bring a balance to a body shape with broad hips.
Charlize Theron is sporting the puff sleeves in a long sleeved sheer version.
Dare to make it in Leather.
Updated on October 4, 2022 by Sarina Tariq