sleeves added to a prom dress

How to Add Sleeves to a Dress Tutorial

Let’s add sleeves to this darling prom dress, for a bit of added modesty. This post shows a how to add sleeves to a dress tutorial with step by step instructions. Read through all the instructions first, before beginning. (Please excuse the color differences in the pictures. Natural light from the window compared to overhead light bulbs really made the dress color change!)
how to add sleeves to a dress

how to add sleeves to dress Luckily, in the case of this dress, it came with a shawl (drape or shrug) of the same fabric so we started with a perfect match for making the sleeves. Otherwise, look in fabric store for a fabric similar or identical to the actual dress fabric.

fabric from shrug for sleevesWe measured over the shoulder and determined the length of sleeve, in this case, they needed to be 18″ long. We added an inch for seam allowance and cut two 19″ pieces.

fold in the edgesI folded the sides in an inch or two, to keep the stitched edge hidden. In this case they were already finished. In the case of raw fabric, finish the sides with a narrow folded hem.

gather the edgesWith a long basting or gathering stitch, sew along the ends of the fabric.

the gathered endPulling the thread on either the top or bottom, (it can be pulled from both sides) gather up the fabric to be the width you would like the sleeve to be, where it will attach to the dress.

use bias tape or ribbon to cover the endsI used bias tape to help finish the ends in a clean, no-loose-threads way. You could also use ribbon or make bias tape (with the same sleeve fabric) to cover the ends. Generally, fancier fabrics unravel in an annoying and messy way so it’s nice to keep them covered and protected from falling apart.

sew across the gathered edgesSet the stitch length on the sewing machine back to normal. Make sure your gathered  width is correct and sew across the bias tape and sleeve edge, just above the gathered seam.

sew over the bias tape and fabric, then turnWhen flipped over, the other side should look like this (above).

both sleevesRepeat this for all four ends, measuring repeatedly to avoid any length or width mistakes.

steps for finishing the raw edgesTo finish the bias tape ends: 1. Trim the excess fabric, and the bias tape to a 1/4 inch from the edge of the sleeve. 2. Fold in the end of bias tape. 3. Fold the top over. 4. Fold in the final edge and pin to hold into place.

sew over the finished endsStitch along the edge to finish the sleeve ends.

line up the sleeves to the dressWith a seam ripper, carefully remove the other straps (if there are any) and carefully repair any seams that might need to be fixed. Then, place the sleeves where you want them to be situated  on the dress. Re-check the desired length by having the garment owner try it on. Pin into place.

blind stitch by hand into placeBlind stitch the sleeve into the dress. Be careful to only go through the lining layers so the stitches don’t show. This part is a bit frustrating, take your time and check both sides as you go.

hand stitched in placeThe finished product should look something like this (above). I will admit, I had to pick out the stitches (to change the sleeve placement) at least once, in my case to make the sleeves fit tighter and not slip off the shoulders.

the finished sleevesAnd here is the finished dress. The gathered sleeves work especially well with the design of this particular dress. Depending on the dress, you could add flat pleats or just a flat piece of coordinating fabric as a sleeve- depending on your dress. Good luck friends!

I’d love your feedback…. Leave a comment here and let me know if this tutorial was helpful or could be improved or clarified in any way. Thanks!


  1. Jennifer Humphreys

    May 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Thank you so much for such a clear and thorough explanation. I need to do this exact thing for my daughter’s prom dress, and your help has been invaluable!

  2. Jennifer Humphreys

    May 7, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Thank you so much for your clear and thorough explanation. I need to do this very thing for my daughter’s prom dress and now I feel like I can. Great job!

    1. NoelleOlpin

      May 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

      Great, so very glad this helped!

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