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I purchased a boho maxi dress a while ago.

I lost weight and it is now big for me.

How to narrow the sleeves to maintain their poofy shape?

Can I simply trim along the seam of the sleeve, or is there something more involved?

I know how to alter the bodice as I've had successful experience (based on this tutorial).

And I'm unsure if I'd attempt to narrow the skirt (length is absolutely perfect though) - I'll save that for another question if the time comes.

Here is a pattern of the dress in question (note the poofy arms)

enter image description here

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    Do you have any experience with sewing and alterations? If not, you're likely better off either buying the dress in your size, or taking it to someone who is skilled, as you're looking to do a lot more than just take up the hem. – Allison C Sep 18 '19 at 18:37
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    I agree with AllisonC, what you want may be too risky to undertake, if you do not have enough experience. You risk ruining the dress. And if you ask the question here, you are quite likely to not have the experience. My mother was a clothes maker. I know from her experience that resizing a piece of clothes actually means transforming it back to pieces, adjusting all the pieces to the new size, and putting them together again. – virolino Sep 19 '19 at 8:19
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    @Marium Do you mean "narrow the poofy sleeves" or shorten them? Narrowing would make them less poofy. Or do you want to reduce the poofyness only in a certain part of the sleeve? – Elmy Sep 19 '19 at 12:56
  • @Elmy - Narrow them while maintaining their shape. That's why I was thinking (top of my head) to alter along the seam of the sleeves (which would be curvy). Please advise. – Marium Sep 19 '19 at 13:04
  • @virolino You bring up a great point. This got me very interested in learning more. I posted another question, feel free to chime in, crafts.stackexchange.com/questions/7532/… – Marium Sep 19 '19 at 13:46
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An assembled sleeve isn't much more than a tube of fabric, but completely disassembled, it looks more complicated.

If you are inexperienced with tailoring, this "quick and dirty" tutorial looks like a good start: How to tailor a sleeve. It requires you to put on the shirt (or dress) inside out, gather the surplus fabric at the existing seams and pin it to your desired size. You then open the original seams, sew along the pin lines and trim and neaten your new seams.

What it doesn't explain is how you match the new sleeve seam to the existing side seam of the bodice.

If you want to reduce the size of the bodice as well, it's perfect to do both at the same time. Otherwise you either need to match the new sleeve seam up to the original side seam (which preserves the puffiness at the shoulders) or you need to sew the sleeve seam in a crooked line back down to the side seam (which artificially narrows the arm hole).

I suggest going with the first solution, because it's the neatest and an armhole that's too narrow is very uncomfortable. This solution is shown in this video: Resize oversized sleeves


The professional way is to dissassemble the sleeves, adjusting the cut of the pieces and reattatching them to the dress. Of course this is more complicated, but if the "quick and dirty" solution doesn't look good, this is the only way to make it look perfect.

First of all, mark which sleeve is the left one and which is the right one, because they may differ very slightly from each other and sewing the left sleeve to the right armhole looks strange and feels uncomfortable.

Then take your measurements as described in Create custom sleeve pattern. Keep in mind that you want to measure your desired sleeve, so if you don't want it to be skin tight, don' t measure skin tight.

Follow that same instruction and construct your new sleeve on a big sheet of paper. Once you're done, measure the circumference of the armhole in your bodice. Then measure the length of the "sleeve crown", the curved line on top, from seam to seam. The sleeve crown should be slightly longer than the circumference of the arm hole.

If your sleeves have cuffs like shown in the picture, reattach them after closing the long sleeve seam.

At the end, sew the sleeves back onto the bodice as shown here: How to insert sleeves.

| improve this answer | |
  • Very comprehensive @Elmy – Marium Sep 21 '19 at 20:42

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