Skip to main content

Stout Alteration Tricks: Pick a sleeve based on your boobs.

Well, upper bust.
I know this is going to sound strange, and perhaps I spend way too much time pondering the fit of the bust to arm, but I've been asked a bit about how to pick a sleeve when you are altering a garment, or if you want to change the sleeve on something new that you are making. Here is what I've concluded.

It all is in the boobs.
For me, when I pick a sleeve, I want one that will give me a good range of motion. To determine that, its about the upper bust/arm pit ratio and how much of you actually fills that area. Sure, we all know to adjust this when we are making a garment, but also, if you are adding a different sleeve to a garment, you will also need to take into consideration the armscye with the new sleeve. 

That's why some sleeve patterns came with mockup bodice pieces to test the sleeve, which I think was brilliant. Match that up to the bodice of what you want to add the sleeve to and you're golden. But a lot of times that's not the case, and a lot of times if you are adding a sleeve, you don't take this measurements into consideration. I know I didn't. This I'm sure we all know.

I really, really hope these diagrams make since. 
Selecting the sleeve I find depends on the fullness of your upper bust. Compared to my frame, my upper bust should be fuller, but no, it's all down low, in my full bust, so I often have to compensate sleeves and the front (and sometimes back) of the bodice of a garment with a more narrow armhole, or a fuller sleeve. I've tried bust darts but it's too difficult a fit and such a pain so I just go for a different sleeve.

A cap sleeve I find works best with the fullest bust. It gives ample room in the arm, and the top of the sleeve just hangs on the center of the top of the shoulder. Often this is a good fit for suits.
Here are some samples.

This sleeves requires a longer shoulder seam, so make sure you adjust properly for that.

 The darted sleeve is the one that fits me the best. My bust is kinda square, so the side angles don't lend too well to the cap sleeve. I get too much gaping because the armscye is too wide.. Also, I have mega square shoulders, so a darted sleeve cups over my arm and shoulder for a more molded fit.

I like this look with dresses and even some suits.

The last sleeve, the puff sleeve I think works best with a smaller bust or a much fuller arm. It sits high over the shoulder, but rarely has a lot of form to it, because of the organic gathers at the top of the shoulder. Puff sleeves are not my look, I think I'm too busty, but they can be awesome on the right frame.

I don't think you have to be youthful per se to wear them, but you do have to own that look. I also find them the easiest to add to a garment. Just simple gathers. 

This sleeve can work at pretty much any length of the shoulder, but think it looks the most flattering higher up.

So there you go. I so hope this post made since. I had a hart time articulating it. In any account, everyone have a super saturday!


  1. This was a very interesting post to read. Tailored sleeves NEVER fit me. Ever. I would rather just make jumpers the rest of my life and wear cardigans over them.
    The real problem is that once on, I usually can't lift my arms past my shoulders! I was struck by what you said about puff sleeves. Besides being easy, and allowing me motion, I find them one of the most flattering styles for me, personally. Now, I'm not a plus size girl, but I am disproportionately busty and equally too-small shouldered, so puff sleeves (really anything that makes me shoulders look bigger) sort of balance everything out for me!

  2. One thing I've found is that the closer you can get the underarm sleeve to the underarm, the greater the range of motion (it seems counter-intuitive, but it's true).

    also, if you have a lot of side-boob and are trying to get that boxy-shoulder 40's look (or 80s), lengthen the shoulder seam such that the sleeve hangs straight down when you are wearing it (extend it past the top of the shoulder, for most people this is just an extra 1/2") and use a long, stiff shoulderpad (even if you are football shouldered)-- it makes an amazing difference in the crispness. it is also good for squaring out the shoulders if you have very slopey shoulders.

  3. I knew you all would be able to say this better than me! :)

  4. Lots of good information Shelley. I also noticed that the length of the sleeve matters. If you are large chested and the sleeve ends at the bustline, it makes you look pretty broad across it.

  5. I found your diagrams very helpful. Will that translate into better fitting sleeves for me? Let's hope so!

  6. I love this. Thank you so much for writing it. : )

  7. Oh, this is very useful, thank you. I draft my own patterns, and I'm trying to get all the information I can about fitting sleeves--they're incredibly difficult! It's easy to make a puff sleeve by mistake. :) I might give that darted sleeve a shot, though, it looks like it would be flattering on me.

  8. I've been researching sleeves a lot lately (so many unfinished projects, haha) and particularly how to deal with range of motion because I've got very chubby arms. I came across a blog on how to alter sleeves, and the author says that it's all in the angle that the sleeve attaches to the body of the garment. As in, sleeves set at 90 degrees, like a tshirt, have the most motion, and the smaller that angle becomes, the less range of motion you have. I think she says you can apply it to any type of sleeve. Somebody might find this useful if they are set on a particular type of sleeve (I hate cap sleeves, for instance). Here's the link.

  9. Thank you for this post and thank you to bonster for the link that I will check out right now.

    1. Wider at back under arms with those little triangles reverse ease center dot to armpit gave huge range of motion but close fot for a petite client.I'm also Bonnster..but Bonnster the Monster. Haha.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Stout Alteration Tricks: Pants-rise to the occasion.

Foundation Garments: Formal Wear

Patterns I'm sick of seeing: Special Edition