Bell Sleeve Dress Hack

Bell Sleeve Dress Hack


When Ellie & Mac Fall Pinspiration came up, I knew exactly what I wanted to sew: a lovely dress with a deep neckline that had popped up on my Pinterest suggestions. At the time, I saved it on my Inspirations board, thinking “Don’t go anywhere…I’ll get back to you!”. Little did I know it was going to be sooner than I thought…

Playing it forward and there I am looking at the photo of a woven garment with a deep neckline, a bow and bishop sleeves… No problema, right?? Well… Not quite… You see, the most similar fabric I had to the one in the photo was a green knit that I had bought not too long ago… and knits need to be treated differently (let’s leave that to another post).

While checking Ellie & Mac patterns, I ended up choosing the Bell Sleeve dress pattern to hack and sew my pinspiration.

I made quite a few alterations:

- sleeves – traced a line from the top of each sleeve edge til its end and sewed an elastic casing to transform the bell sleeves into bishop sleeves.

- dress – the pinspiration dress had a clear line at the waist, so it was bodice + skirt, not a full dress like the Bell Sleeve. I cut the pattern in paper, re-drafted with seam allowance and sew the skirt.

The bodice needed a deeper neckline and this was something several people asked me about when my Fall Pinspiration was released. So here we go…

Lowering a V-neckline on a pattern

Playing with a neckline on a pattern is not very hard, but you should bare in mind a few things:

  • Make a toile/muslim – Preferably in the same fabric weight as your final garment, so you’ll know how it acts when sewing and afterwards, how it looks on your body.

The first thing I saw when making my toile, was that I didn’t like how the bow looked in knit. It made the bodice  heavier and the neckline drape more than it should… and I didn’t want that, so I ditched it.

I could have made some additional changes to prevent this and, if I went for a deeper neckline, I would surely need them, but, once I removed the bow, the neckline didn’t gape anymore and I was good to go.

The second thing I saw was that I didn’t feel comfortable with such a low neckline, so I traced it again and made it more modest. It became something in between the Bell sleeve and the inspirational Picture which, to me, was quite pleasant.

  • Symmetry – Check if your garment is symmetrical (mine was). If so, work on half the pattern, trace any modifications you did from one side to the other. It will keep the pattern symmetric and well balanced.

Ok… But what did you do exactly?? Good point! Let’s get to it!

To adapt my V- neckline, I used:

  • The pattern “Bell Sleeve dress” by Ellie & Mac
  • Tracing paper
  • A ruler (A regular one…no curves on this neckline, so I didn’t need a flexi curve)
  • Pencil and rubber
  • Scissors (For paper. I had my fabric ones already.)
  • Tape to fix any parts on paper
  • Fabric for muslim and for the final garment
  • Sewing machine (I also used my serger)
  1. Tape the pattern as you would normally do (or trace it to your muslim fabric, if you use a projector);
  2. Plan the new neckline shape by placing the paper pattern on your body and marking where your bust point is and where you’d like the V of the neckline to hit.
  3. Measure from the end of the original V-neckline to the mark you made (point of the new V-neckline). Mine measured one inch.
  4. Take that measurement and trace the same amount from the top of the neckline to the shoulders. Put in front of you and check if it’s what you envisioned. From now on, it’s mainly a trial – error process til you achieve the fit you’re looking for.
  5. After you get the perfect fit, measure the neckline all around. It’s going to be wider than the original, so you can use the width of the original neckband, but not the length. I cut it at 85% of the total measurement.
  6. Sew it by following the pattern instructions and voilá!!...

You have a new and deeper V-neckline!!

Bellow you can see my Pinspiration and my E&M outfit!

(Written by: Dora Serrano)

Pattern: The Bell sleeve dress pattern
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