by Cynthia Anderson
Today I am going to show you how to make the iconic Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress a little more appropriate for summer by shortening the sleeves to make a short-sleeved version. I will show you how to do this with test muslin fabric so you can try it yourself and make the adjustments you might need to get a good fit for a short sleeve.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s movie stars held the American public in thrall and this figure-flattering dress was emulated by many. Movie studios published still photographs of their stars in elegant attire, and fans clamored for the chance to copy the dress, coiffures, and make-up of their favorites. Folkwear’s Glamour Girl Dress is a stunning example of early 1940’s styling, designed to emphasize feminine curves, to drape elegantly, and give the wearer an aura of discreet sexiness.
A close-fitting bodice is highlighted by a narrow “V” neckline. The front bodice and skirt gather into a curved midriff that ties at the center front, providing snug individual fit. A fitted back hip yoke ensures a smooth line. The flared skirt drapes gracefully at center front and back bias seams. And, the three-quarter length sleeves are distinctively gathered at the elbow. The dress zips at left side seam for ease getting in and out. And, of course shoulder pads are essential for the proper fit of the early 1940’s silhouette; but feel free to leave them out as desired.
Three skirt lengths are offered in this sewing pattern: the ankle length of our original evening gown, a 1940’s daytime length, and a strictly contemporary mid-calf length.
Note the reasonable yardage requirements, which reflect the need to conserve fabric during the Second World War. And read more about the history of fashion during that time on our blog here.
Fabric Choices for Warm Weather
This dress has a lovely drape you will want to keep. Any light to medium weight fabric with drape will do. Silk or rayon crepe, satin, challis, or soft cotton make beautiful choices. To make this dress a go-to in your summer wardrobe, use cotton lawn, bamboo, silk/cotton blend, or linen. Choose a fabric that is soft enough to allow for the subtle built-in shaping at the neckline. Be sure to have a look at Folkwear's fabric selection.
Make a Test Muslin
It is best to test any sewing pattern adjustments by making a cotton muslin first. I am going to show you how to transform this glamorous dress into an breezy summer version, by shortening, and slightly widening, the sleeves in a test muslin.
If you are making this dress for the first time, I recommend making a test of the entire dress to ensure a good fit and length. If you only want to test this short-sleeve adjustment, you can just make a muslin of the bodice and sleeves. For this short-sleeve adjustment, you will make the dress as instructed in the pattern, but with the new sleeves.
Design a Short Sleeve for the Dress
Note: Shortening the sleeves will eliminate the gathering detail on the lower portion of the sleeve. The gather is a great feature, but doesn't work for short sleeves. But, the short sleeves will keep you cooler in warm weather.
Sleeve fit is different for everyone and varies depending on the pattern used. How you prefer to wear your sleeves is personal preference and totally up to you. If the sleeve looks or feels too tight or is not as comfortable as you would like in your test muslin, then an adjustment is in order.
A good sleeve fit requires an adequate amount of fabric to go around the arm, plus a little bit more. This extra amount of fabric is called ease. All commercial sewing patterns are designed with some kind of ease.
It generally takes one to three inches of ease for a woven sleeve to fit comfortably at the bicep and allow for a full range of motion, but this can depend on your size and the cut of the sleeve. If a sleeve feels too narrow there is not an adequate amount of ease. Adding 2"(5cm)-3'(8cm) will create more width and room. It does not take a large amount of ease to make a big difference in how a garment fits and feels. Making a simple sleeve width adjustment is not hard to do.
If you are happy with the fit, amount of comfort, and look of a sleeve pattern as is, then leave well enough alone. Go with the sleeve from the sewing pattern straight out of the package.
Sleeve Fit: For the short sleeve in this pattern, you probably want a little more room at the bicep than the fitted long sleeve for comfort and ease of movement. To figure out if the sleeve in this Glamour Girl Dress pattern is roomy enough, start by measuring the circumference of your arm at the bicep (usually the widest part of your upper arm). Take the measurement with your bicep flexed.
Compare your bicep measurement to the sleeve pattern at the upper sleeve or bicep point, as the case may be. Your arm circumference measurement should be at least 2-3 inches less than the pattern measurement. If you feel a little more room may be needed at the bicep, I will show you how to add the ease needed below.
Sleeve Length: To create a new short sleeve for this dress, trace the sleeve pattern for your size using Swedish tracing paper (or any paper that is transparent enough to see through) using the shorten/lengthen line as the cut line for the bottom sleeve edge. You can always make it a bit shorter, but don't forget the hem. I recommend a 1" (2.5cm) hem; 1/2" (13mm) turned up twice. If you decide to shorten your sleeve further, indicate the final length with a horizontal line. The hem will be added when the ease adjustment is made.
Now that you have the length of your sleeve, cut out the sleeve pattern and pin it to the test fabric (on grain for testing). I prefer to cut the sleeve pattern out without the hem added. I find it easier to make the ease adjustments and add the hem on the test muslin. This method preserves your original sleeve pattern, so it does not need to be recreated if you make a mistake or decide to readjust the ease.
Note: This is not a full sleeve adjustment. Which means the armhole and the sleeve seam are not disturbed or altered. This adjustment is made by adding width to the bottom of the sleeve edge only. Then a line is drawn to connect and grade the underarm edge to the bottom of the sleeve. This creates a gradual width increase down the length of the sleeve, ending at the bottom edge. We are widening the sleeve to create a short sleeve because the cut and fit of the Glamour Girl Dress's sleeve is fairly narrow.
The sleeve for your pattern size may still need more ease added to make it fit well. Even though the sleeve pattern was designed with ease built-in, adding a bit more can make for a more custom fit.
To widen this sleeve, extra width (ease) needs to be added. The amount of ease listed for the sizes below should be considered a maximum. This adjustment is meant to make a narrow sleeve design a little bit wider for comfort. For a basic rule of thumb, you can use the numbers below for your size to add some extra room (ease) to the bottom of a short-sleeve for this Glamour Girl Dress. You can, of course, add a little more or a little less, depending on how you prefer the sleeve to fit.
Making the Adjustment
With the sleeve pattern pinned to the test fabric, draw a horizontal line that extends beyond each side of the bottom sleeve edge.
Divide the amount of ease you are adding in half and add this half-measurement to each sleeve edge on the drawn horizontal line, as seen below.
In this case, I am making a size medium and adding 2" (5cm) of ease. The 2"(5cm) of ease is divided in half, adding 1"(3cm) to each side of the sleeve edge. Remember that the seam allowance has already been added to the pattern and you do not need to add more.
Using a French curve or hip curve draw a smooth line connecting the under sleeve edge to the newly added width. The connecting line can have a slight curve or be more straight.
Using a hip curve will allow you to experiment with the degree of curve the line has. More ease can be gained through out the sleeve edge if there is less curve to the line drawn.
Draw the same curved edge on the opposite sleeve edge.
Draw a perpendicular line at the newly widened edge. Extend the line down to accommodate the hem to be added.
Determine the total hem depth and divide it in half. In this case, I am adding a 1" (2.5cm) hem. Draw a horizontal line parallel from the bottom edge of the sleeve that measures half the hem depth, 1/2-inch (13mm) in this case.
Stitch up the sleeve right sides together as normal and add the sleeve to the armhole according to the pattern instructions. And if you want, shorten the skirt hem for cool comfort!
For a bit more fun, also consider changing up the curved midriff and back yoke. These details are perfect for playing with pattern design direction or cutting on the bias. Try these options on a test muslin to see what you like.
The Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress paper pattern and pdf is on sale the month of May. Not only is it a great pattern for summer, but it is always nice to get ahead in next season's sewing. You will not regret the adding the long sleeved version of this dress to your upcoming Fall/Winter wardrobe!
Hope you enjoy making and wearing this shorter sleeve version of the Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress! As always, share what you make!!
September 29, 2023 1 Comment on How to Make a Short Sleeve 233 Glamour Girl Dress for Summer