A ruched sleeve Sahara shirtdress hack

I made the Ralph Pink Sahara shirtdress a few weeks ago as one of my entries to the Indie Pattern Month competition on The Monthly Stitch in July. 

I loved the dress but actually found it a bit impractical when wearing it. Every time I raised by arms the sleeves got pulled up and tugged out the fabric from the belt. This created a problem when the side hem started inching their way a little to close to my underwear for comfort…

There wasn’t really a way around it as the belt was necessary to give the dress shape (otherwise it’s just a big square) and I kind of need to move my arms!

What I came up with as a solution for this problem (and as an added design feature!) was to “gather” the seam of the shoulder sleeve to allow a wider range of movement without affecting the dress shape too much. 

My preferred idea on how to achieve this was to create some sort of ruching via drawstring that would allow lots of control over how gathered the shoulders were. 

After much mulling over the best way to achieve this, I decided to add a drawstring casing into the shoulder seam. In the end I actually opted to add in two casings, one on each side of the seam, the idea being that I could then tie the two drawstrings together to hold them in place. 


To make this I cut out 4 casing pieces which were 4cm wide and the same length as the shoulder seam. I then folded back and topstitched one short end of each piece so the finished length was 2cm shorter than the shoulder seam. 

I added two long skinny rectangles into each shoulder, sandwiching them in between the bodice pieces when sewing (finished edge towards the sleeve). I pressed the seam and casings open then folded the casings under by 1.5cm. I then topstitched the folded edge of the casings at 2mm to create the channels. 

I made some drawstrings from the white cotton as well and threaded them through each channel (4 in total). I made sure that they were caught in the seam allowance of the collar stand which would secure them in place.

I started sewing this up at the Sewing Weekender at the beginning of August and I’ve only just gotten round to finishing it!


I guess you could use this hack for more things than the Sahara shirtdress. Be as creative with it as you want!

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