Adding Sleeves to Spaghetti Straps

Spaghetti strap dresses show off lovely arms and shoulders.
Spaghetti strap dresses show off lovely arms and shoulders. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Spaghetti strap dresses are best suited for those women whose shoulders and arms are well-toned, because the placement of the straps draws the eyes above the bust and to the bare shoulders. These dresses are usually warm-weather staples and are worn when cold weather arrives. Spaghetti straps dresses are also a major trend in wedding dresses, bridesmaid’s dresses and formals. However, some religious institutions are reluctant to allow bare shoulders during ceremonies so the dress often has to be covered with a jacket, shrug or shawl, and this addition may ruin the line of the dress. Other times, a spaghetti strap is not flattering to the wearer and even with some adjustments can't be made to look good on any figure. An economic solution is to add sleeves to the dress so it is usable in all seasons and even in religious ceremonies.

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Matching the Fabric

Since it will be difficult to match the dress fabric exactly, choose a lacy fabric either as closely matched to the dress in color, or one that complements other colors that may be in the dress. If the dress has a pattern, pick a dominant color for your sleeve and match your fabric color to this. If you are altering a wedding dress or formal, find a corresponding lace and ribbon color to create the sleeve. This fabric match is important, because the ribbon or the material may have to extend the strap to the shoulder cap, depending on what type of sleeve you are planning to set onto the dress. Adding bead work, lace or even contrasting fabrics are also options to finishing the newly added sleeves.

Flutter Sleeves to the Rescue

Flutter sleeves are the simplest to attach to spaghetti straps and add an elegant appearance to the dress. Start by measuring the spaghetti strap from front to back to determine the size of the flutter sleeve, and add 2 inches. Draw a line the total length of your measurement of the strap onto tracing or pattern paper. Find the exact center of this line and, using a compass or protractor, stretch to the end of the line and draw a complete circle. Cut the paper in half, and pin each half onto the fabric you’ve chosen to make the sleeves for the dress. You can add to the width of sleeve at this point by adding more inches at the outside edge of the circle. You can take up any difference when you create the gather stitches along the straight edge of the fabric later.

Sew the Sleeves, Change the Look

Sew a gather stitch across the top of the sleeve and gather slightly. Sew a satin ribbon in the corresponding color across the gather stitches. Sew a 1/4-inch hem all around the sleeve. Unpick the stitches at the top of the arms in the lining and facing in front and back. Insert the ends of the sleeves in these holes. Fold the ribbon around the spaghetti strap and sew it closed from front to back, encasing the strap in the middle. Sew the insert area with a short seam and you have added sleeves to the spaghetti straps and made a summer dress more versatile.

Cap Sleeves

The cap sleeve is a short sleeve that covers from the strap to the shoulder cap. Of these alternative sleeves, this is perhaps the simplest, as it entails covering the strap with fabric or ribbon the width of the distance between the strap and an inch or so below the shoulder joint. The ends of the cap sleeve are inserted into the top of the bodice and sewn firmly, leaving the armhole open underneath and covering the cap.

Other Sleeves, More Changes

Kimono, three-quarter and long sleeves require more extensive structural alterations to the dress and changes the entire profile of the garment. Adding material, gussets and additional seams to the already-completed dress means tearing out seams, restructuring the bodice and matching materials, so these options are not as easily completed as the flutter or cap sleeves. No matter what sort of sleeve is added, however, the final outcome of adding sleeves to spaghetti straps provides a more versatile and long-wearing outfit.


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