1830s Sleeve Supports


When I decided to make my 1830s day dress, I knew that I was going to go BIG. Sadly, the gigantic sleeves of my dress were never going to *stay* gigantic without some kind of support on the inside. While the Truly Victorian pattern suggested that I make a version of the evening puffed sleeve out of netting or something similarly stiff to use for a sleeve puffer, I decided to go in a different direction.

Kenna (a talented costumer and photographer) had the brilliant idea to make wired sleeve supports, kind of like mini hoop skirts for your arms– and it looked like a perfect solution. Using her post as a base, I used large plastic cable ties to make hoops that were 30″ and 25″ in circumference (I clipped them and melted the ends with a flame to smooth them out), and put them together with painter’s tape to determine the best arrangement to puff out the sleeves properly.


I measured everything out and came up with the pattern below:


Once I had everything set up, I cut out the pattern from plain white cotton broadcloth, and un-taped my cable ties so I could assemble everything.

I stitched the short ends of the fabric together to make the basic sleeve and flat-felled the seam to reinforce it. Then I turned up the hem to make a channel for my larger hoop, stitching it down with a 3″ gap in the seam so I could insert the cable tie later. I stitched a line of seam binding along the angled line through the center to make another channel for the smaller hoop, again with a 3″ gap. I’d rather have used bias tape, since seam binding is kind of flimsy, but I didn’t have any on hand. I will note that this channel would end up being gathered, unlike the lower edge, due to the shape of the fabric.


I threaded my cable ties through the channels and then used the open space left by the gaps to overlap and tape together the ends of the cable ties. Note– this makes the overlapped section twice as thick as the rest of the cable tie, so you need to make sure your channels are wide enough to accommodate it (I had to do some fudging to get mine to fit). Then I hand-stitched the edge of the channels closed to seal up the gaps.


Once the hoops were in, I zig-zagged with my machine over the raw upper edge of the sleeve to keep it from fraying. Then, since there was tons of excess fabric, I folded in a box pleat at the center and two more pleats at the sides to take up some of the extra. I didn’t bother to stitch them down– just sewed my snaps down through all the layers to keep them together. The pleats had the added benefit of making a reinforced section for me to stitch in my snaps– there are five per sleeve (two at the top, one at the bottom, and one on either side), corresponding to matching snaps stitched to the seam allowance of my dress’s armscyes. This way, I can remove the supports to store flat, and transfer them to other dresses when desired.


These sleeve supports worked perfectly to puff out my sleeves– check out the before and after, below!



And they’re so nice and cool! No hot layers of insulating stuffing for me! Thanks again for the idea, Kenna!

3 thoughts on “1830s Sleeve Supports

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