Bat sleeve fitted dress with a strap

To do this you need:

  • 1.6 meters of a material 1.5m wide; choose a light, gauzy and falling in soft folds knit or fabric
  • 1.5 meter of a soft drawstring, tape or string for a strap
  • a tape-measure, a ruler, a pencil and a paper forms
  • threads, tailor scissors, pins and tailor’s chalk (French chalk)
  • your T-shirt, choose the fitted one but not too tight-fitting and at least your mid-bottom-length; it will be used as a basis for a form.
Step 1
The work starts with preparing a form for half of a dress; cut a form out of a folded paper in order to obtain symmetrical elements. 1. Prepare a form for half of a T-shirt; press your T-shirt with an iron and fold it in half lengthwise; spread it down on a paper so that the material stays not tightened or not gathered; outline your T-shirt (sides, a bottom, arms and a neckline); a shape of an armhole and a front part of a neckline should be copied by densely spiking seams with pins so that there are holes in the paper that determine the shape (if you put a thick material under the paper, pins will be spiked deeper and the holes will be more visible); the width of a bottom of a T-shirt should be equal to ¼ of your hip size – if it is not, widen a bottom. 2. Convert a form for a dress; the dimensions given are pretty universal as far as knitted materials are concerns, but you can modify them to your expectations and needs:

-determine the width of a neckline and divide it in two, a bateau neck fits best when it begins roughly in the middle of an arm (A=13cm); draw a front neckline so as not to deepen the original neckline of a T-shirt, and so as to make it contact with a center line of a dress at a right angle; a back neckline should be slightly shallower than a front neckline (2-3cm) -lengthen a bias of a sleeve to the desired length of a sleeve (A=50cm, as measured from a new neckline) -at a right angle, enter a desired width of a sleeve (C=12cm); a width should equal half of your hand size (half of a circumference of your hand) just where a sleeve ends, increased by 2-4cm -determine the length of a dress and add 5-10cm for pulling a material up, gather and ease it into the waistband; measure the length from the highest point of a shoulder – in the picture, it is the highest point of a neckline in a T-shirt and on a silhouette, it is a curve between a neck and an arm (D=90cm) -determine (at a right angle to its center – a line D) the width at a bottom of a dress – it should be equal to (in case of a fabric) or 1-2cm narrower (in case of a knit) than the width of a bottom of a T-shirt (E=24cm) -draw a side line of a dress (F): start at a right angle to a line C, then turn downward with a fluid arc drawing a bat sleeve shape and connect an arc with a width at the bottom with a straight line (E); If you want to wear a dress loose at the hips, add 1-2cm to the width of a bottom of a T-shirt -mark a place where you want to set a tunnel for a strap, preferably about 508cm below your waist which is below the highest point on a T-shirt (a dotted line G).

3. Cut a form along a line G and draw aside along a line H=3cm which is an allowance for a tunnel for a string; prepare forms of a neckline of a front and a back; copy a strap around a neckline of a front and a back, 6m wide; keep a shape of an arm; sewing of a front and a back must have the same width on a shoulder; these elements should coincide with a shape of a dress – do not cut them off a dress as they will make an additional layer of a material.
Picture2 cutting
4. Copy separately a front (a deeper neckline) and a back (a shallower neckline) including an allowance for a tunnel; if you use a knitted material, prepare a form for cuffs – a rectangle of a width equal to your hand size (half of a circumference of your hand) just where a sleeve ends (I=20cm) and twice the height of a cuff (J=12 cm); if you use a fabric, you will trim sleeves by turning up edges – remember to lengthen sleeves by 1-3cm for turning-up.

5. Fold a material in half lengthwise and arrange forms as in the picture below (a center of a front is in contact with a bend in a material, a back is made of two parts); cut it adding 1cm allowance around each element, and at a bottom of a front and a back add 3cm – a blue outline is a cutting line; cut a sewing of a neckline after fitting of a dress.
Put two parts of a back one on the other so that their right sides are in contact; sew up a center of a back; in case of a knitted material, use a stitch for jersey or a zigzag stitch which ensure elasticity and stretchablity with a knit – first do a trial sewing and choose which stitch is more appropriate to the material; if you sew a fabric, do a regular stitching; if edges frays, do overlock stitching after sewing each seam – an overlock stitching reinforces edges and prevents them from fraying.
Now unfold a back with its right side up and place a front on it so that their right sides are in contact; sew up shoulders and sides together; try on a dress to check whether a neckline suits you; If you change a shape of a neckline, remember to change consequently a form for sewing – its form must be identical to a neckline; line a piece of a material of which you cut out sewing, with a fleece on a left side – select its thickness to the thickness of a material; cut out forms of a sewing of a back and a front and sew them up by shoulders.
Using an overlock machine, overcast a bottom edge of a sewing; this is a seam imitation executed by an overlock machine; the machine will instruct you on what kind of a presser foot you need to install to achieve an optimum seam.
Turn up a dress to a right side and put a sewing to a neckline so that unhemmed edges of a dress and those of a sewing overlap one another, and a layer of fleece remains visible; pin and sew up edges of a neckline
In order to prevent a seam from gathering, after you turn up a sewing into the inside of a dress, make a nick in across allowances, in the corners between a front and a back of a neckline; be careful so as not to cut a seam.
Now turn up a sewing to the inside of a neckline.
Press it with an iron; if a sewing turns up; sew them to allowances on shoulders, or do the stitching around a neckline.
If you sew a fabric (not a knit), turn up edges of sleeves to the inside and sew them all around; ff you sew a knitted material, prepare cuffs; fold a cuff in half and sew up shorter edges together – you will get something like a tunnel; turn up a tunnel half so as to hide a seam inside, between two layers of a material, and unhemmed edges to overlap with each other on one side.
Thus prepared a cuff slide into a sleeve – unhemmed edges of a cuff and a sleeve should be in contact; sew with a presser foot inside a sleeve, gently pulling a cuff – it has a smaller circumference than a sleeve and that is why you have to stretch it during sewing to the appropriate width in order to prevent a tuck (a fold) at the end; a smaller circumference of a cuff results in a sleeve to hug hands and not slide off after pulling it up.
Select a blind stitch, change a presser foot according to the instructions that appear on a display of a machine head; do a trial sewing as this kind of stitch requires high precision; when you become skilled, sew a binding; press an edge of a bottom with an iron.
Now taking advantage of the functions of a machine, embroider a hole, at a back, at the height of an insertion (do you remember a form? You put an allowance for tunnels below the waist); when a hole is cut, turn up a bottom of a dress almost in half; turn up a bottom to the front in order to obtain a folded edge exactly in the middle of a hole – an allowance for a tunnel should be folded in half.
Do a stitching, joining two layers of a dress and forming a tunnel around a front and a back of a dress; press a seam so it does not show up; enter a string to a tunnel through a hole, using a safety pin. You can also form a tunnel by sewing a strap of a material 3cm wide from a bottom, around a front and a back.
A dress is ready! You can wear it loose as an oversize tunic, then turn up sleeves which adds a shapely form and a nonchalance; too thick or stiff string may distort a form – in that case, pull it out of a tunnel; if you prefer to wear a dress pulled up, gathered and eased into the waistband, tighten and tie a string to match it to the waist size.
Janek Leśniak – fashion designer who, together with JUKI, conducts dressmaking courses in Warsaw. He infects others with a passion for making your own clothes on his blog:, where he reveals the arcana of his trade. Combining craftsmanship and design, he builds an awareness of the quality and the fashion industry among people non-related with the business. He has aquired fifteen years’ experience working with such brands as Reserved, House and Big Star. He has independently created original collections and conducted lectures on fashion business at the Cracow School of Art and Fashion Design. He has rejected massive fashion in favour of passion and work under his own name. His official website is: