Sleeves change shape with every new fashion season, ranging from slim to elegantly full. The height and shape of sleeves in a blouse or dress is really a matter of personal choice. Many women have amazing garments in their wardrobe with a little too much puff in the sleeves. Fortunately, a simple alteration can remove some of the excess fabric and deflate the puff sleeve to create a slimmer silhouette on a blouse or dress. A few sewing implements are required to get the desired and final effect.
Turn the garment inside out and lay on a flat surface. Remove the sleeve from the main body of the garment using a seam ripper. Be sure to remove any padding from the inside of the garment and the sleeve using the seam ripper.
Lay the sleeve, facing inside out, on a flat surface. Make sure it is folded along the bottom seam with the top of the sleeve folded in half. Flatten out any excess fabric so you get an idea of the shape of the sleeve.
Measure the circumference of the armhole using a measuring tape. Measure the circumference of the top of the sleeve where it met the armhole. At the end of this process, make sure these two measurements match when you put the garment back together. Generally, this means you will not adjust the top of the sleeve, but will work about an inch down from the sleeve seam to reshape the sleeve.
Draw a line using fabric chalk to create the silhouette of the sleeve you would prefer from about an inch below the shoulder seam down to the end of the sleeve. For smaller puff sleeves, this might be a tiny line that only goes from near the top of the sleeve to 2 inches down. For other sleeves, this might require removing more fabric. Leave enough fabric on the inside of the seam so your arm will be able to move comfortably in the sleeve. The line you create should be smooth and clean and follow the general contour of the original sleeve shape.
Pin the two layers of sleeve fabric together along the line you just drew. Sew along this same line using a sewing machine and matching thread. Use a straight stitch to create a clean seam.
Turn the sleeve right side out and put it on your arm to test how the new sleeve cut feels. If it feels like it fits right, turn the sleeve inside out and cut away the excess fabric on the inside of the new seam you sewed. At this point, you can also trim away any excess fabric that sits at the top seam of the sleeve where it meets the armhole. Sleeves that puff near the seam may need to be trimmed just slightly. If you trim away excess fabric at the top of the sleeve, be sure the circumference measurements remain equal on the garment and the sleeve so they may be easily reattached.
Pin the sleeve seam back onto the garment at the armhole, making sure the bottom seams are aligned on both the sleeve and the garment. Ensure the right sides are facing when you pin these two pieces back together. Sew the sleeve back into place using a sewing machine and following the old seam lines.
Repeat this entire process with the second sleeve. Turn the dress right side out.
Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.