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How To Add Sleeves to a Wedding Dress

Finding the perfect wedding dress may feel like an impossible quest after you try on a dozen beautiful gowns that don’t seem quite right for you. But what if you find an almost-perfect dress that would fulfill all of your dreams if the dress just had sleeves? Go ahead and buy the dress because you can learn how to add sleeves to a wedding dress in several ways!

One simple way to add sleeves to most wedding dresses is to make or buy detachable sleeves. Other popular options include adding cap sleeves or beaded cap sleeves, applique straps, or off-the-shoulder sleeves or straps. For a quick wedding dress sleeve hack, adding a lacey bolero or cape can take the place of sleeves in a pinch.

In this article, you will learn how to complete thirteen wedding dress sleeve alterations. You will find out how much it costs to have a tailor add sleeves to your dress. Finally, you will discover tips for how to match the right sleeve style to your gown.

How To Add Sleeves to Wedding Dress

Can You Add Sleeves to a Wedding Dress?

You can add sleeves to any wedding dress style! You can also use many methods to add sleeves, such as sewing them on, adding detachable sleeves, or even wearing a lace jacket.

The bottom line is that if you decide you want sleeves on your wedding gown, you can make it happen!

You may want to consider a few important factors before you whip out your sewing machine to start altering your wedding dress.

First, some wedding dress designers offer the option of sleeves or no sleeves for many of their dress styles. You can often make this selection along with choosing stylistic preferences such as a heart neckline vs a scoop neckline for the bodice of the dress.

If you value the ability to personalize your wedding dress and add the type of sleeves you like, you might want to consider going with one of these designers to begin with, rather than altering a dress to suit your taste after you buy it.

Second, make sure you ask the shop or designer if they will add sleeves for you before you make your purchase. Some (though not all) wedding dress sellers can make alterations, though they often charge an additional fee for this service.

One more factor to think about is the resale value of your dress. OK, this may sound weird to you while you still have the prewedding tendency to stop whatever you are doing at any moment and daydream about walking down the aisle in your glorious white dress, but the fact is that you will have to decide what to do with your beautiful gown at some point after the big day!

These days, many women also choose to resell a dress later on so that another woman who can’t afford a brand-new gown can get to enjoy it. If you want to resell your dress, making alterations to it may lower its value, especially if you buy brand-name or designer gown.

Ultimately, you can find ways to pair sleeves with your dress that will work for you.

How To Add Sleeves to a Wedding Dress: 13 Methods

DIY Detachable Sleeves

You can add sleeves to your wedding dress in thirteen different ways ranging from the simple process of buying detachable sleeves to more complex DIY alteration methods.

Whether you make or buy sleeves for your dress, make sure you consider matching the fabric and color of the sleeves to your dress. For example, if you have an ivory satin sheath dress, you would not want to buy detachable poofy white tulle sleeves to go with it, as the shades of white would clash!

1. Make Detachable Sleeves

Making detachable sleeves is one of the most popular methods for adding sleeves to a wedding dress. Detachable sleeves can come in almost any sleeve style, from puffed sleeves to cap sleeves.

In some cases, they attach to the dress with snaps, ties, or other features. But most of the time, they fit your arm more like a long fingerless opera glove and do not physically attach to the dress.

You can make detachable sleeves in many different styles. For one of the easiest DIY methods, consider thrifting a used wedding dress and removing the sleeves!

This way, you can cheaply get exactly the type of sleeve you want without a lot of effort.

You will want to use sharp sewing scissors to remove the sleeve from the old dress carefully. Depending on the style of the sleeve, you may need to apply piping or another finishing element on the cut edge of the sleeve before using hand stitching to baste the sleeve to your new dress.

2. Buy Detachable Sleeves

Passat Ivory Long Detachable Chiffon Puff Sleeves For Wedding Dress Sleeves For DressOne of the easiest and most practical ways to get sleeves that match the style of your gown is to buy detachable sleeves. This cuts out all the hassle of finding the right fabric and taking your own measurements. You also do not need a sewing machine, and obviously, you will not have to spend as much time on the process!

As a fun fact for you, women have used detachable sleeves on dresses for hundreds of years. In fact, during the Regency era (think Jane Austen and Bridgerton), women often basted detachable slides onto dresses so that they could mix and match the parts of a gown to make it look like they owned more clothing!

You can buy detachable sleeves for a wedding dress in many different places, including:

  • Etsy offers many options for buying detachable sleeves, including ready-made sleeves and custom-order sleeves you can request specifically to match your dress. You can browse many styles, from beaded sleeves that attach to a dress with straps to the fingerless-glove-style sleeves that you pull up over your arm. These range in price from as little as $25 to as much as $1,000 for a pair of sleeves.
  • If you want something cheaper but less artistic, you can also browse Amazon’s selection of detachable sleeves, like this elegant option of chiffon puff sleeves.
  • If you want to make sure the sleeves will match your dress, you may prefer shopping at a brick-and-mortar wedding dress store. Many prominent wedding stores will carry a selection of detachable sleeves you can mix and match with the style of your gown. You can expect to pay quite a bit for any accessories you buy from a bridal store, though!
  • Did you buy a designer wedding dress? Some brand names and designers offer their own selection of detachable sleeves so you can maintain the overall style of the design with your sleeves. Of course, buying from a particular label will cost much more than ordering a pair of sleeves off Amazon!

3. Straps

One of the simplest ways to add sleeves to your dress is to sew or snap-in straps. You can use straps over your shoulder or even add off-the-shoulder straps.

Adding straps is a lot easier than sewing sleeves. You can go with tiny spaghetti straps to give your dress unobtrusive extra support or add fluffy tulle or netting straps for a more decorative approach.

You can buy straps like these sparkly numbers to easily attach to a sleeveless dress. You can easily find detachable wedding dress straps in many different colors and types of fabric on Amazon or Etsy or from wedding dress websites online.

You can also make your own straps very simply like this:

  1. Try on your dress to take accurate measurements for the straps.
  2. Place one end of a flexible measuring tape at the front of the dress where you want the strap to go. Use a safety pin to hold this in place, or have someone help you hold the tape in place at this point.
  3. Then drape the measure over your shoulder to the back of the dress where you would like the back of the strap to go. Write down the length of the strap.
  4. Add an extra four inches to the length measurement. For example, if you measured 17”, you will want to add 4” for a total of 21”.
  5. Cut out two rectangles of fabric with this length. For the width, you can go as wide or as narrow as you want–if you want a tiny spaghetti strap, you may want a width as narrow as one inch. For the more common puffy tulle straps, try using a width of five or six inches.
  6. To sew your straps, fold the material in half long ways. Sew all the way down the long edge of the strap to make a tube, stitching ¼” away from the raw edge.
  7. Turn the tube right side out. For spaghetti straps, you will need a tube-turner like this one to complete this process. For wider tulle straps, you can pinch the end and use your fingers to work the tube right side out.
  8. If you can safely iron the fabric, give it a quick pressing at this point. If you cannot, smooth the tubes flat with your fingers.
  9. Finally, sew the straps to your dress! You will want to do this by hand using a needle and thread so that no stitches show on the outside of the dress. For an even quicker hack, you could also use tiny safety pins to attach the straps to the inside of your dress at the front and back.

4. Lace Straps

2' White Floral Bridal Lace Trim; Bridal Strap, Border Trim, Beautiful (2, White) - Amore FabricsAdding lace straps to a dress adds a note of whimsy and elegance and takes a lot less work than sewing your own straps!

You can even buy pre-made lace straps to snap or stitch into place if you do not want to cut out your own. Amazon, Etsy, and most bridal stores will offer a selection of lace straps to attach to a wedding dress like these pretty options.

To make a quick set of lace straps:

  1. Have someone help you measure over your shoulder to determine the length of the lace strap. Add two inches to this length to make sure you have plenty of room to sew the lace onto the dress at each end.
  2. To cut out the lace strap, follow the shape of the design within the lace. You may want to cut around the edges of flowers in the lace pattern, for instance, or follow the outline of a swirl if you have a swirling design in the lace. Try to maintain a roughly rectangular shape as you cut, to get a strap that looks like a strap!
  3. As you cut or immediately after, you will need to carefully apply fabric glue to the edges of the lace to avoid fraying.
  4. Alternatively, if you want to get professional, you can use a special heated knife that will seal all the cut edges of the lace as you go.
  5. In most cases, you will want to hand-sew the edges of the lace to a piece of mesh to give it a bit of stability.
  6. Finally, simply stitch the short ends of each strap to the desired point at the front and back of your dress!

5. Lace Sleeves

Passat New! Ivory Long Detachable Lace Pearls Sleeves For Wedding Dress Spark Detachable Sleeves For Wedding Dresses Add OnLace sleeves for a wedding dress come in all shapes and styles, from tapered full-length sleeves to tiny cap sleeves.

Check out some tips for adding lace sleeves to your dress:

  • The simplest way to add lace sleeves to your wedding gown is to buy detachable lace sleeves.
  • If your dress has spaghetti straps, you can easily sew cap sleeves cut out of lace onto the straps. Or ask a tailor to do this alteration for you!
  • Lace is a great choice to pair with many wedding dresses because it offers a delicate contrast to the satin, tulle, or chiffon used in many dresses. But if your dress already has lace, make sure you buy lace sleeves that match!

6. Off-the-Shoulder Sleeves

If you want to DIY your wedding dress sleeves, consider adding off-the-shoulder sleeves for one of the easiest possible alterations! This method is extra easy because you do not need precise measurements. An off-the-shoulder strap sleeve shoulder should drape over your upper arm, which gives you lots of leeway as you cut out the sleeve.

  1. Find a fabric that matches your dress. For this method, you can work with anything from satin to lace so long as the material looks good with your dress.
  2. Use a flexible tape measure to measure from the point where you want the strap to attach to the dress in the front, over your upper arm just below your shoulder, and around to the back of the dress. It helps to have a friend take this measurement!
  3. Now cut out two rectangles of fabric three inches longer than that measurement. You can pick your own width depending on how wide or narrow you want the off-the-shoulder sleeve strap to look. Six inches of tulle or netting will bunch up, but you will probably want a more narrow satin or chiffon strap.
  4. Fold the rectangle in half length-wise and then stitch ¼” from the raw edges of the long side.
  5. Turn the rectangle right side out and use a zigzag stitch to sew shut the two short ends.
  6. Use sewing pins to attach the strap to the front of the dress. Drape the rectangle over your upper arm and adjust it till it hangs the way you like. Pin it in place at the back of the dress.
  7. Cut off any excess length from the rectangle and sew it to the dress at each end!

7. Tulle Sleeves

While you can make many lovely styles of sleeves out of tulle, such as illusion sleeves, you can also go big with these fun ruffle sleeves made out of tulle!

This tulle sleeve will work most easily on a dress with spaghetti straps.

  1. Start with a very long strip of tulle measuring roughly six feet long and six inches wide. These measurements can vary depending on how full you want the ruffle to look.
  2. Sew a basting stitch all the way down the center of the long tulle strip.
  3. Use the bottom basting thread to gently gather the tulle into a ruffle.
  4. Pin the ruffle over the spaghetti strap so that the basting stitch, or the middle of the ruffle, rests over the strap.
  5. Hand stitch over the basting thread, attaching the tulle ruffle to the strap.
  6. You can expand or tighten the ruffle using the basting threads to make the ruffle exactly fit the length of the strap.

8. Long Sleeves

You can add long sleeves to a dress in several different ways depending on whether or not you want to sew.

Real long sleeves are usually inset sleeves, meaning that they attach to the dress in a rounded seam. Adding inset seams to a dress takes a lot of work and is best left to a professional tailor, but you may want to consider this if you plan to get alterations done on your gown anyway.

For an easier option, you can also find many detachable sleeves that come in a long-sleeve option. You can get puff sleeves or elegantly tapered lace sleeves, among many other long-sleeve styles.

9. Puff Sleeves

Beach Lace Wedding Dresses for Bride 2022 A Line Chiffon Long Puffy Sleeve Wedding Gown with Train White Us16 Plus SizeCreating DIY detachable puff sleeves gives you a fun option that pairs well with many styles of dresses, but especially with any full or flouncy gown.

Follow these steps to make fun balloon-style detachable sleeves:

  1. Find one yard of a fabric with some body to it, such as satin, chiffon, crepe, or even netting in a shade that matches your gown. Lace may work, but knits or anything stretchy will flop instead of poofing.
  2. Next, measure around your upper arm right where your armpit begins. Then measure around your upper arm just above your elbow. Finally, measure the distance between those two points to know how long to make your sleeve.
  3. Now you will create a pattern by drawing a rectangle on the fabric that matches your measurements. Start by using chalk and a ruler to sketch out your measurements. Make sure you do this on the reverse side of the fabric!
  4. For instance, if you measured the height of your upper arm as six inches, that will form the height of your rectangle. For the width, use the measurement you took of the top of the arm for the top of the rectangle and the measurement you took just above your elbow for the bottom of the rectangle.
  5. Now you have to do a tiny bit of math. You will want to add a bit of body to the width of the sleeve to create a poofy shape. To do this, add another half of the width measurement at the top and bottom of the rectangle. For example, if your arm measured eight inches below your armpit, you divide 8 by 2 and get 4. So add 8 inches and 4 inches for a total of 12 inches across the top of your rectangle.
  6. You will also want to add one inch to the length of the sleeve so that you have space for sewing in elastic in a later step.
  7. Once you have added another half to the measurement to the width and another inch to the height, cut out two rectangles using these measurements.
  8. Now you get to the actual sewing, which is fairly basic! Start by folding your rectangle in half so the short ends meet together. You will sew up the side seam of the sleeve first, using a straight stitch and then a zigzag to finish it, or a serger if you have one.
  9. Press that seam to the side to have a neat sideseam crease.
  10. To create the balloon shape of the sleeve, you will next make a casing for elastic along the top and bottom edges of the sleeve. To do this, either use a serger to create a finished edge along the top and bottom of the sleeve or sew a quick zigzag stitch down the top and bottom edge of each sleeve.
  11. Then fold over a one-half-inch hem on both the top and bottom. Stitch this down using a straight stitch as close to the finished edge as possible to leave space for the elastic.
  12. Once you have created a casing on the top and bottom of the sleeve, cut two lengths of ¼” elastic. The easiest way to get the elastic lengths right is to pinch a piece of elastic around your arm just below your armpit and also around your arm just above your elbow. Hold the elastic, so it feels tight but not uncomfortable, as this will help the sleeve stay in place. Cut it at this point, leaving an extra half-inch to sew the elastic together.
  13. Put a small safety pin on the end of the first piece of elastic and insert it into the casing you made in the sleeve. Work it all the way through the casing till the safety pin comes out on the other side. Use your sewing machine to stitch the two ends of the elastic together, creating a closed loop. Repeat this three more times to insert all four pieces of elastic into the top and bottom casings on both sleeves.
  14. Clip the threads and use a steamer to remove any wrinkles from the sleeves if necessary.
  15. Now you have two balloon-shaped, puffy sleeves ready to slide up onto your upper arms at a moment’s notice!

10. Cap Sleeves

Making your own cap sleeves requires some sewing skills but is much easier than attaching an inset sleeve to a finished wedding gown. You can use this method on any dress with a full armhole, such as a sheath or sleeveless dress.

  1. Start with a fabric that either matches or contrasts nicely with your dress.
  2. Cut out four half-circles of the fabric. To measure for this, begin by using a flexible measure to measure around the armhole in the dress, starting one inch away from the armpit seam on each side of the armhole.
  3. Add one inch to this measurement and use it as the long, flat side of the half-circle. For the rounded part, trace a bowl that is as wide as your length measurement.
  4. Sew the round side of two half-circles together. Clip this sea and then turn the circle right side out and iron it gently.
  5. Use a zigzag stitch to finish the straight edge of the half-circle.
  6. Hand-stitch the long edge to the inside of the armhole of your dress, and you have attached a cap sleeve!

11. Beaded Cap Sleeves

Adding draped strands of beads to a lace or stain strap on your dress adds a note of old-fashioned elegance to your gown.

As usual, you can choose to buy beaded cap sleeves like this lovely option from Etsy. But you can also super easily hand-sew strands of beads to your dress!

  1. You can go to a craft store to pick your beads or order a pretty selection online.
  2. Use beading needles to build a strand of beads long enough to drape over the top of your shoulder. Then use a sewing needle to stitch both ends of the beading thread unobtrusively onto the underside of the strap on the dress.
  3. You can add two, three, or even more strands of beads! Make each strand a bit longer so that they will drape in tired layers down your upper arm.

12. Sleeves on Dress with Straps

You can easily add several types of sleeves to a wedding dress with straps.

Try one of these methods:

  • If the gown has spaghetti straps, try adding lace straps over the top of these thin straps. You can make or buy lace straps quite easily.
  • If the dress has wider tulle straps, you can add detachable balloon sleeves made of tulle.
  • If you want to sew sleeves into your dress for a permanent alteration, you may consider asking a professional seamstress to remove the straps and sew in the sleeves.

13. Cover-Ups

Allegra K Women's Elegant 3/4 Sleeve Sheer Floral Lace Shrug Top Small WhiteThe easiest way to add sleeves to your wedding dress is to buy a pretty cover-up such as a lace bolero, a satin cape, or even opera gloves for a formal wedding!
  • You can find all sorts of elegant cover-up options at most bridal stores or online, like this option from Amazon.
  • Adorable wedding capelets like this one will pair well with a vintage-style dress.
  • If you want a more cost-sensitive option, you can easily find cover-ups not specifically designed for weddings, which will cost much less than buying something from a wedding store!

Professional Sleeve Alterations

If you like the idea of custom sleeves on your wedding dress but do not feel confident DIY-ing this process, you can take your wedding gown to a professional for sleeve alterations.

Getting a wedding dress altered costs quite a bit, usually anywhere from $100 to $500. But you may consider this a small price to pay when you put on your perfectly fitted wedding dress with new sleeves on the day of your wedding!

How Long Does it Take to Add Sleeves to a Wedding Dress?

It can take as little as two minutes to add sleeves to a wedding dress or as long as several weeks. It all depends on the method you choose.

If you order detachable sleeves online from an Etsy store, for example, you do have to wait for the shipment to arrive, but it will take you about thirty seconds to put on the sleeves.

If you decide to pay for a professional alteration and have a seamstress sew sleeves into your dress, the wait time will vary a lot. Some seamstresses may allow you to schedule an appointment to come in and wait while the alteration is made, but in most cases, you go in for a fitting, leave the dress, and come back and pick it up at a later date.

It’s a good idea to plan to get your alterations done at least a month before your wedding in case the tailor or seamstress has a backlog of projects and can’t get to yours immediately.

How Much Does it Cost to Alter Sleeves on a Wedding Dress?

On average, it will cost you from $200-$400 to have sleeves sewn into a wedding dress. If you already have sleeves in the dress and would like the sleeves shortened or tapered, the cost drops to under $100. Simple fixes like adding straps to a wedding dress will usually cost as little as $20-$80.

Is it expensive to add sleeves to a dress? Of course, this depends on the type of sleeve you want, but sewing sleeves into a finished dress is tricky, even for a professional seamstress. This is why adding sleeves could cost you several hundred dollars.

In general, wedding dress alterations do get very pricey. This is because formal gowns use fancy, expensive fabrics and have lots of complex parts. Things like hemming a gown, adding a train, or adding sleeves take a lot of work, even for a professional.

On the other hand, paying for professional alterations does ensure that your once-in-a-lifetime dress will look pristine and perfect on the day of your wedding!

Can You Add Sleeves at David’s Bridal?

David’s Bridal shops will add sleeves, straps, or even long sleeves to any strapless dress if you pay for the alteration in-shop. This may cost anywhere from $150 to $500, depending on the complexity of the alteration.

Alternatively, you can also mix and match a variety of detachable sleeves at David’s bridal for a less expensive option. The benefit here is that you can try on the detachable sleeves during your dress fittings to see what you like!

What Kind of Sleeves Will Look Good With Your Dress?

You want to pick sleeves for your wedding dress that will look good on you and match your dress!

  • Spend some time matching the sleeve and dress fabric. Keep in mind that you can choose a contrast, such as lace straps paired with a satin dress, rather than trying to exactly match the fabric type and color.
  • Think about your body shape as you select a sleeve style. Diagonal hems on sleeves look good if you have full upper arms, and puffed sleeves look great if you have narrow shoulders. Elbow-length sleeves draw attention to a defined waist, and full-length sleeves draw attention away from a more rounded waist.
  • Most importantly, look at wedding magazines, scroll through Insta, and visit popular wedding blogs to decide what kind of sleeves you like!

Conclusion

You can add sleeves to a wedding dress by making or buying detachable sleeves in any style you want. Poofy sleeves with elastic look great with full-skirted wedding dresses, and tapered lace sleeves look elegant with formal fitted dresses. You can also make your own cap sleeves or straps using a sewing machine or even add ruffled tulle to a spaghetti strap dress!

The cheapest and easiest way to add sleeves to a wedding dress is to buy a cover-up such as a lace bolero. The most permanent and professional way to add sleeves to your gown is to pay a seamstress for alterations.