Friday, January 25, 2013

Making my 1830's Sleeves

The dress is coming along. Slowly, but surely. The sleeves have ended up taking me an ungodly long time to do. Why?? I used to whip out a whole dress in a day or two. Sleeves took me a few hours. But then, the baby has been sick this week and I have felt rather indifferent to sewing and have been utterly depressed because of current events. (political stuff, but I won't go there.) But then, sometimes it is nice to sit down and not feel rushed to work on something. I put the last stitches in my sleeves just this evening and now they await to be attached to the bodice, as soon as I can scrounge enough scraps to make the self piping needed for the armscye seam!

These particular sleeves are made with a fitted upper sleeve that reach to just above the elbow. The bottom sleeve is gathered to a narrow, piped cuff. The seam between the upper and lower sleeve is trimmed with a little flounce that is gathered on a narrow cord and then tacked to the seam.

Oftentimes sleeves of the late 30's were just gathered or pleated and banded down to the upper arm. That was a very practical and easy way to convert the fluffy gigot sleeves of the early 30's to the fashionable silhouette of the later 30's. However, for this dress, I did decide to cut separate upper sleeves since they take so much less fabric and I did not have a whole lot of fabric to work with.

The upper sleeves were problematic to fit. To fit the armscye, the sleeve head needed to measure about 17". To fit my arm just above the elbow the bottom edge of the sleeve needed to be 13". I ended up having to take two small pleats at the bottom edge of the upper sleeve to fit my arm at the back of the arm. A nicely fitted upper sleeve does look so much better than a loose and baggy one (at least in this period of history) but I didn't think it would be so much trouble to fit it!

I added two piped bands at the neckline to shape the neckline. I really like how it looks and am looking forward to completing the dress, hopefully this weekend! I still have the entire skirt to make but since that is just straight seams and pleating I do not think it will take that long.



  1. What a pretty, attractive gown! It's so much fun to watch it take shape.

    I can empathize with your sleeve fitting, though my experience is with modern garments. How did you get so good at fitting things? Was it just by doing it and learning? Did you have a book or resource that was helpful? The reason I'm asking is because I'm working (struggling) on some sleeve fitting and just trying to slog through it--but what I would give for some gentle, encouraging, in-person expertise! You are so blessed to have such skills:). Thanks for sharing the fruits of your labors with us!

  2. That is going to be a very beautiful dress when it is done. I can not wait to see it and I really like that fabric.

  3. I am going to try to make something like this dress, perhaps without the sleeves to be quasi-Grecian looking.
    This is so beautiful.
    I have been depressed about the world/political stuff too. I look at my babies, and know God sent them into this time, now, little messengers from Him. And that they are the future and are full of hope and little joys. And then I feel better.

  4. Hey Sarah
    I love this dress and I'm wanting to make something similar. How many yards of fabric did you use in this?


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!