Thursday, October 4, 2018

A recipe for de-puffed sleeves

The best tutorials always begin with a long, digressive story, right? So here's mine!

I was not the most fashion-forward individual in the latter half of my college life and the early part of my adulthood, so I basically slept through the trends from 2003 through maybe 2011. But I'm beginning to suspect that the early years I missed featured an excess of tiny puffed sleeves. I have received clothing donations from quite a wide variety of women in basically my own age group or a little older—people who would have just been starting their professional lives during my personal fashion blackout—and all of whom have bequeathed me substantial collections of essentially the exact same blouse: a slim-fitting, tailored top with a rounded and flared bottom hem, with extra-short cuffed sleeves puffed at the shoulders!

This is the white version of the pink shirt
I ultimately used in my refashion

I am fairly certain I've received this same style of blouse, made by different brands, in almost every color and pattern imaginable, from three separate people, at least 11 times.

That must have been quite some trend that I missed out on...but I'm not too sad I missed out on it, because, as we all know, puffed sleeves are anathema to me.
I've done all sorts of things with the blouses I've received—sold some of them, kept others in my closet for years and then realized they'll never suit me before selling them, turned them into off-the shoulder blouses, open-shoulder blouses, and sleeveless blouses. Every once in a while, if the proportions are just right, I even see fit to leave them in their original puffy state.

One thing that I've been experimenting with lately, is converting them from puffy sleeves to more standard sleeves. I started my experiments with T-shirts (apparently those often had puffed sleeves in the aughties as well), but a woven fabric is a lot less forgiving than a knit (which just stretches to fit any shape!), so I've been hesitant to try the technique on any of my button-down blouses. Until I finally did, and it worked!

So here you go: a recipe for de-puffing the sleeves of any short-sleeved top.

1. Start by ripping out the top half of the shoulder seam.

2. Iron the gathers flat, and re-attach the sleeve, starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. The sleeve will poke out above the shoulder significantly.

3. Sew a seam along the top of the sleeve, lining it up with the shoulder seam.

Prepare to retry steps 2 and 3 multiple times, as it is really hard to line up two intersecting seams without creating unsightly bulges!

When you've gotten it pretty close to right, trim the excess fabric and sew an additional seam over the top of the shoulder (that's the bottom seam in the picture!). This will help smooth out any imperfections in the join.
5. Try your shirt on in the mirror, and play around with folding the sleeve under until you've selected a flattering length. For me, that ended up being a minimalistic cap sleeve, since anything bigger overemphasized the size of my shoulders.

Hem the sleeve end!

When you're done, it should look something like this from the top.
Tada! You should now have a finished blouse with nice smooth-edged sleeves!

Here's how I wore my blouse for the first time, with a subtle pastel pink-and-green outfit! And sandals! In October!

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