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Easy Bell Sleeve to Puff Sleeve Dress Refashion

DIY Ottolinger Deconstructed Sweater Knockoff
My Fourth Chemotherapy Treatment: The Home Stretch

There are some dresses that I truly believe were only brought into existence to be “okay to wear to work”.

This is one of such dresses.

Easy Bell Sleeve to Puff Sleeve Dress Refashion before

When my friend Erin first saw it, she said, “I’d like it on you if you were taller.”

Sadly, a growth spurt isn’t likely to happen (I’m 5’4″). And while she thought this dress was pretty much fine as-is. I had a few more problems with it.

I hate that metal thing at the neckline, and the bell sleeves combined with the overall silhouette of this dress feel really dated to me. Also, it’s just very very boring.

From Bell Sleeves to Puff Sleeves

I decided I wanted to change those dated bell sleeves into 2020 trendy boho puff sleeves.

It was super simple.

First, I made a tiny snip on each inside bottom sleeve hem.

snipping bottom sleeve to make elastic casing
Just a wee snip!

This is going to become a casing for elastic to gather the sleeve.

Then, I wrapped a piece of elastic around my wrist and marked it where I wanted it to end.

wad of elastic on cutting table
Elastic from my stash!

I made it just slightly longer than a perfect fit as I needed to allow for the fabric that would end up around it, as well as room to sew the ends of the elastic together when I was done.

elastic wrapped around my wrist
Looks about right!

I cut along the marking on the elastic and cut another piece the same length.

cut pieces of elastic
Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Now to thread it through! I added a safety pin to one end of the elastic.

safety pin on elastic
This will help push the elastic through!

I also pinned the other end of the elastic to the sleeve casing to keep it from getting lost inside as I pulled it through.

threading elastic through casing
Ooooh! It’s gathering quite nicely!

To finish my puff sleeve off, I sewed the elastic ends together, making sure to not get them twisted.

sewing elastic together
Go over it a few times to make sure it’s nice and secure!

My bell to puff sleeve conversion was complete!

completed puff sleeve refashion
But wait! There’s more!

I didn’t go back and close up the tiny hole I snipped on the inside as absolutely no one will ever see it or know it’s there except me…and well…er…I guess you since you’re reading this.

But about that neckline…

I used my seam ripper to carefully remove the stitches that attached the metal thing.

unpicking metal thing from neckline

Then, I pinned the sides down inside the dress to make a V-neck.

pinning v neck
Looking better already!

I didn’t want any stitching to be visible along the neckline, so I tacked each side down by hand.

hand stitching v neck
Tacking it down!

But that length!

The length of this dress was super unflattering on me, as I failed to grow a few inches in the refashioning process so far.

So, I made a chop!

cutting off bottom of dress
I’m not too short. The dress is too long. 😉

Then, I pinned a hem!

pinning bottom hem of dress
Methinks the new length will work much better!

I only needed to fold it over once, as this fabric is of a fray-free variety.

I stitched my hem down.

sewing bottom hem

But what about some decorative stitching?

I still wasn’t satisfied with this refashion. The puff sleeves looked great. the V-neck and the shorter length were a big improvement. But something still felt lacking.

I measured and marked the center point of the bottom of my dress.

measuring center of bottom of dress
Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Then, I folded my dress in half from the center & pressed along the fold.

pressing along the fold
I used the bottom mark and the center of the V-neck as my guides.
pressed fold down center front of dress
This will be my guide for the next step!

I threaded my sewing machine with yellow thread, chose a decorative stitch I really liked, and sewed it down the front center of my dress, stitching along the fold.

sewing decorative stitching down front center of dress

I also added it it along the bottom hem.

sewing decorative stitch along bottom hem

After pressing my new dress (which got rid of that center fold), my new boho puff-sleeved dress was done!

Easy Bell Sleeve to Puff Sleeve Dress Refashion after
From frump to fab!

I just love how that yellow stitching looks on the maroon fabric!

close up of decorative stitching
So pretty!
close up of decorative stitching after with wine
And yes, I chose the yellow to go with my new beret!

I styled my new dress with a cozy yellow beret! I think you’ll be seeing a few berets from here on out. Wigs are fun, but not very comfortable. Think of it like this…Wigs are like wearing a pretty party dress whereas scarves and hats are like wearing a favorite pair of sweatpants.

close up of decorative stitching after close up
They’re also Tres Chic, no?

My new ensemble enjoyed a lovely dinner outside with the hubs.

jillian sitting at patio table
I scored that peacock for $6 after a brutal bidding war at a rural auction.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you found a few frocks in your closet that might enjoy a similar puff sleeve upcycle treatment, and I hope you’ll give it a try!

refashionista in beret selfie
Maybe you’ll give berets a try as well!


refashionista Easy Bell Sleeve to Puff Sleeve Dress Refashion before and after
DIY Ottolinger Deconstructed Sweater Knockoff
My Fourth Chemotherapy Treatment: The Home Stretch

47 thoughts on “Easy Bell Sleeve to Puff Sleeve Dress Refashion”

  1. For some reason, I cannot see the post for today. Keeps telling me there’s a broken link. So I’m backtracking to let you know.

    • Thanks for reaching out and letting me know!

      I’m so sorry about that! An email notification went out for a very old post I was actually deleting (It wasn’t very good).

      I know getting unwanted emails is a real pain, and I promise I respect your inbox space. I have figured out what the issue is and fixed it so it won’t happen again!

      Thank you for being understanding!

  2. Huge improvement to this dress – nice work once again!

    Do you have any tips for successful decorative stitching? I often find I have trouble getting the right balance between forward and backward motions during the stitch to generate the right pattern.

  3. As always, lovely work and styled to you. V necks work better with your pixie shaped face and the plain dress needed some embellishment. You look terrific!

  4. I love this refashion! And your beret looks great with it! (Liked your wig analogy.) I have a dress that is that same shape (A-line, bell sleeves) and my first thought was Yes! I can do this! Then I realized I wore that dress about 20 pounds ago…LOL!

  5. I love that color combo – and it looks so very comfy. I would totally do the hat or scarf thing, too. My sister wears a wig because she has lost so much hair…I feel badly for her having to hassle with a wig. Embrace the bald and wear great earrings, I say!

  6. I love how you just follow where it leads you, then finish up by balancing everything perfectly! The second safety pin, why did I never think of that? The beret is the frosting here. Always inspiring to “watch” you work out one of these magical transformations. Your posts are such day brighteners! Keeping you in my prayers. Stay strong!

  7. Beautiful! A really stylish way to use decorative stitching – I usually wouldn’t think to use dec stitching as it brings to mind 1980s embroidered sweatshirts (I dare you to refashion one of those!). The beret is tres chic & if you lived in a winter climate I’d say add some high boots in an eggplant shade and a colourful scarf.

  8. Always a clever solution. Love the beret. They are so easy to adorn with beads, sequins, some embroidery ever popular vintage brooches. I wear them all winter. Folks fear that a beret will look like a plate sitting on their heads. Not so. Just wear it out in a rainfall a few times. That will break down the factory stiffener.

  9. Another fabulous refashion. I have to go through my clothes to see what I can refashion. I am such a horder hoping they will come back into fashion

  10. This is just genius (no brain fog for you!) — I’ve never added a safety pin to the other end of the elastic (duh) but will be doing that from now on. And, I think that great vertical seam (plus raising the hemline) has added to your height! Love and prayers —

  11. Please, please, please create a YouTube channel! I have been following you since 2013. Keeping you in my prayers for a miraculous recovery.

  12. Even though I liked the dress as it was, your version was a great improvement! And so simple too. I love refashioning! And have for years. I just enjoy people’s amazement when I say things like, “Thank you. This summer dress used to be a pair of pants.” Lol. PS. Remember palazzo pants? Lol

  13. Love this! I HATE bell sleeves because they’re impossible to roll up and get them to stay, and I am typing most of the day so they get in my way. But this could be a refashion that even I could manage! This will definitely make me reconsider the bell sleeve tops I see when thrifting!

  14. Very pretty. Such a lovely color on you. Love the changes – especially the yellow stitching. So cute with the soft, cozy beret.

  15. Looks great! Now I know what to do with my blouse that is styled the same as your dress. Thanks!
    PS Everything looks great on you…….

  16. The original is totally a “wear to work” dress that I’d probably pass over due to the metal thing (I hate sewn in accessories). Love the updates!

  17. Well, I liked the dress before, but you’ve made it your own and it’s really cute and it just suits you to a “T.” Brava! Another great refash! Way to go, J!


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