The Wedding Dress: struggles with sleeves

img-113125903-0001Once I had the bodice of my dress done, it was time to think about sleeves. You may remember that a very long time ago I had come up with 3 ideas. During the mock up process I came up with another alternative plan which quickly leapt to front runner. As I liked the shape of a shrug that would go from under my arms up to my neckline I had a rethink.

B5797 The plan I came up with was an adapted version of the shrug from Butterick 5797 (without the ties, frills or collar). I decided I would make two versions, both using my embroidered poly-organza as the outer fabric, but underlined with a warmer jersey in one case and plain white organza in the second case. This would give me a flexible sleeving system that would fit any weather, while giving me the same look (a long sleeved shrug in the poly-organza) but I could remove the shrug so I had no sleeves at all for ceilidhing.

The mile wide shoulders effect.

The mile wide shoulders effect.

It seemed like an ideal solution, so I cracked on with the jersey version which I tried on when I first tried on my fitted bodice. However the first think I noticed when trying on my bodice is with a fully strapless top my shoulders looked HUGE. I know I am broad shouldered, but the balance between my curves and the horizontal neckline below my shoulders made them look a mile wide.


Just too much of a good thing.

So I tried on my shrug so I could see what it looked like with sleeves… the answer? My shoulders looked in proportion again, but the shrug just wasn’t working – waaaaay too much of the embroidered poly organza, which is beautiful, but apparently only in small doses.

So I was scuppered, neither my bodice or my shrug was working. In desperation I took out a bit of fabric and started playing and draping. What I decided was to return to plan B with broad gathered straps/capless sleeves. I also decided that doing this in the white organza backed poly organza would be a nice touch giving me another contrasting texture to the dress.

But this photo reminds me how much I LOVE this fabric. Everytime I use it I fall in love again.

But this photo reminds me how much I LOVE this fabric. Everytime I use it I fall in love again.

Draped straps/sleeves

Draped straps/sleeves

The quasi french seam, which is nice and tidy.

The quasi french seam, which is nice and tidy.

At least this time I had a bodice to test it on. I took the sleeve pattern from Sewaholic’s Cambie dress, removed the top seam allowance and cut it on the fold. Then I sewed the two pieces of organza together right side to right side along the long sides of the sleeve/strap, trimmed the seam allowance and turned the tube I had created right side out. Then I top stitched along beside the sewn seam – this gave me a neat and finished quasi-French seam edge (I have no idea whether this is a real technique – I made it up out of necessity) which was needed as you can seem the seam allowance between the two layers of organza. Then I gathered both short ends of the sleeve/strap and pinned it to the bodice, with a bit of playing around to get it to sit in the right place.


The magic camel shrug

Now I had a sleeve to break up my mile wide shoulders, but nothing to keep me warm. I was concerned by the failure of my shrug, as I was sure this style worked on me (I was starting to doubt my dress sense). So to see if the shape still worked I tried on an old faithful RTW camel-coloured wool ¾ length sleeve shrug bought from a charity shop several years ago with my bodice. And magic happened. I still can’t work out why but it all worked – the shapes were flattering, and the camel colour complemented the gold in the bodice without overwhelming it, or being too samey.


I think this photo shows how the colours do compliment each other because of the pale gold – it definitely wouldn’t work with a darker or brassier gold.

The combination had never entered my mind as a solution, but suddenly my problem was solved, and no sewing was required – this shrug would be perfect for any chilly weather, and it was free and easy.

Happy days

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