DIY Dolman Sleeve Dress Transformation

Thank you all for your honest opinions on my last post. I liked both H&M; dresses but wasn’t in love with either. Your comments confirmed the features that were bugging me, and I didn’t want to keep something that wasn’t perfect! I ended up parting with the emerald (already have other items in that exact color), and taking matters into my own hands with the mint:

Drawing a pattern based on my bust and shoulder measurements:

Chop chop!

“Click to Read More” to see how this turned out!

Voila! Strange kimono/dolman sleeve turned classic sleeve. I am now completely in love with this dress.mintdress2

Creating a “pattern” for the armholes and sleeves was unfortunately not easy. It took about 3 attempts to get right (with numerous photos from the side and back to identify fit issues). The ideal way to make good patterns is to cut apart a top that already fits well and to trace the pieces, but who has nice-fitting tops just lying around for dissecting?

For anyone who is interested in making this dress sleeveless, this is how it looked before I attached the sleeves. I thought it looked nice sleeveless, but because the dress is so slim and almost rectangular, I like the balance that sleeves add. With sleeves, I can also wear this dress to work and not worry about an additional layer.


Lastly, the author of PAB expressed interest in writing some guest posts during my blogging slowdown. If you have any questions for him or topics on which you’d be interested in hearing a male perspective, please leave us a comment below!

Leave a Comment


  1. #059894 – It's in their "trend" department which is only in major stores, I think. Just call ahead and ask if your store carries trend. Good luck!

    Posted 3.11.12 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    do you have the code for this dress? I cant find it in my HM store

    Posted 3.11.12 Reply
  3. gigiofca wrote:

    You did an amazing job!

    Posted 3.9.12 Reply
  4. The transformation on that dress looks incredible! I actually love it sleeveless but I understand you want more coverage for work. Great job!

    xx Vivian @

    Posted 3.1.12 Reply
  5. Jen wrote:

    Really late in commenting, but you did a fantastic job with this! I'm so afraid to do alterations myself. This is very inspiring!

    Posted 2.27.12 Reply
  6. Moo wrote:

    Omg the dress looks wonderful now. my heart skipped a beat when i saw the chopped up pieces in the preview. haha but it turned out very nicely after your diy alterations. and I am so glad you didn't keep it sleeveless too :)) Thumbs upp!

    Posted 2.20.12 Reply
  7. wrote:

    wow amazing sewing skills….looks so much better…I am not liking the "dolman" sleeves or shirts I keep seeing

    Posted 2.19.12 Reply
  8. Ania wrote:

    Wow, it's so great!!

    Posted 2.19.12 Reply
  9. Monkey wrote:

    I am SO impressed! Seriously, I thought there was no saving that mint dress from awkwardness but now I love it too! Completely fabulous on you.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  10. I'm a complete gym novice…so pardon this crude explanation: I just do some sets each week with 5lb weights over the head and out to the side.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  11. Denim alterations are really tough when the material is thick. I've broken several needles before on my sewing machine due to the thickness. There are some YouTube videos on altering/hemming denim, so check those out. I would personally take it to a tailor to do, especially if you want to maintain the original hem on the sleeves to keep the rugged/washed look.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  12. How funny! I love the thought of the Oreo truffles as golden snitches : )

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  13. R.L. wrote:

    Jean, you're so talented with DIY alterations! Love the finished look. I agree with hearing about PAB's food adventures and maybe even a "pairings" entry or vid either on his clothes or yours.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  14. If the waistline were too low, I think the best approach with something like this dress would be to take it in along the shoulder line. That way you don't tamper with the waist line and the zipper. I've done that with blouses in the past. When I tried on this dress and pinched the shoulder up 1 inch, I felt the waist line was then too high. I wonder if the shoulder line alteration would work for your empire style dresses that are too low.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  15. I use a simple older Brother machine, but it looks really similar to this model for $80

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  16. I use a simple older Brother machine, but it looks really similar to this model for $80

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    I second the request to hear about PAB's food adventures in the Boston area.

    Posted 2.18.12 Reply
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    I would love to learn about PAB's skin regime, my hubby's skin needs help and I don't think there's much resources on that. Thanks!


    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  19. Anonymous wrote:

    What sewing machine do you use? I'm dying to start doing my own alterations, but I'm having trouble picking the right machine. Please help!

    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  20. Wow Jean, I saw you post on FB but only got a chance to view now, turned out great! You are BRAVE!!!

    I'd love to hear photography and photoshoot stories of a day in the life of PAB following PAG around 😛

    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  21. Amy wrote:

    Great decision to keep the mint dress, I really like the color and front pleat. And you've done a great job with the alterations!

    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  22. Alice wrote:

    Wow, I am really impressed by your DIY alterations. I really need to learn how to sew. But how does one start with this task? lol

    But on a dress like this, would you ever DIY dissect the dress at the waist line and then reattach the two pieces with the chest portion shorter? I feel like I've gotten dresses that fits, but they fit my body different than how the designer envisioned – like an empire waist dropping lower and changing the shape of the dress. I'm not sure if that would look better or worse, but I am curious how it would look in comparison.

    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  23. Anonymous wrote:

    I would suggest trimming off a little from the bottom and wearing a belt to raise your waist line. This will elongate your legs. Just my 2 cents. very nice DIY!:)

    Posted 2.17.12 Reply
  24. Erica wrote:

    Wowza!! Incredibly impressive. Especially given that you are so busy! 🙂 How did you fit in the time?

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  25. noniq wrote:

    Wow you're awesome and it turned out to be even better 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    wow amazing! it looks fantastic on you

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  27. Sarah wrote:

    great job with the dress! im sure all the hard work was worth it to have something fit just right

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  28. Jean you are so brave! I'm glad the DIY alterations worked out well for this dress – the fit looks so much better and gives it a classier feel. Good job!!

    PS – Canada finally is having 20% off at H&M.; They didn't forget about us this time! 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    I second the photography tips! I assume that he learned a lot of tricks on his own, but if he can also offer his top online resources and blog recommendations, that'd be appreciated.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  30. ellabella wrote:

    i want to hear about PAB's favorite eats in Boston!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  31. Suzy wrote:

    agreed! it looks even more amazing after the alterations 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  32. Joy wrote:

    I love how it looks sleeveless! But you're right about the sleeves being more appropriate and more hassle-free for work.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  33. Tiffany wrote:

    I actually just bought those two blouse today. I wasn't sure what color to get but since it's only $9.95 I decided to get both since I could wear it to work or for the weekend if I decide to dress up for a dinner or something. Love it.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  34. SugarNikita wrote:

    Very nicely done! I thought at first you WERE making it sleeveless, but I like it with the classic sleeves too. It's always a little frightening altering something without a pattern, isn't it? 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  35. Gosh I need to learn how to work a sewing machine! Like you, I have issues with fit and learning how to alter my own garments would be a HUGE help. So glad you kept this one! I loved it the best!


    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  36. Victoria wrote:

    Wow you have skills!! I actually like the sleveless version on you too! I really hope PAB can do more posts, they were some of my favorites!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  37. SamanthaF wrote:

    ok. Now I'm sold 🙂
    Happy studying.

    cheers, Samantha

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  38. I'm your new fan!! Please check out my blogs to at

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  39. Anonymous wrote:

    Cant wait for PAB posts on Mens professional wardrobe! Picking the right shoes, proper fit for suit pants/jacket, good deals…but of course will miss you Jean! Just got a bit excited to share this blog with my man. Goodluck on the CFA!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  40. Melanie wrote:

    Oh wow, that dress looked so much better when got done with it.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  41. You are like a fashion wizard, lol! This dress turned out so good. Great job.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  42. obsessed too. can you do a pretty lookbook photoshoot so i can pin this? hm…did u ever put the price for this dress? i know it's a TREND line so I wouldn't be able to get it, unless I felt like driving over an hour, but just curious to know how much they're charging.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  43. Great alterations!!! I'm glad you kept the mint 🙂

    You really have toned arms! What kind of workouts do you do to get them so toned??


    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  44. I LOVE the sleeveless version. Very classy. Great job on the alterations.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  45. newpetite wrote:

    I love the dress now and love it more without the sleeves 🙂 Cant wait to see what PAB has to say here! 😀

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  46. Liz wrote:

    Let's get some input from PAB about going out/date looks!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  47. LC wrote:

    wow! i really need to brush up on my sewing. i used to do it all myself, but i got soo lazy. you`re definitely inspiring me to start up again. i actually prefer the dress sleeveless on you! it makes your arms look super toned.

    xox, LC

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  48. Annie wrote:

    Love the after tailor effect of the dress! looks so much better!!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  49. Janki wrote:

    It looks perfect! I need to take sewing classes ASAP. You're eye for what "can be" is really developed. I normally would not have picked it because I wouldn't have been able to see the potential. I'd love to see it styled for work. I have a tough time with dresses at work, esp with accessories.

    PAG is hilarious and would be a welcomed guest blogger! In addition to the things mentioned above, perhaps he can give some ideas on quick, stylish "recipe outfits" that can be used when we are running late.

    I made your Oreo truffles for my son's Harry Potter Party (the golden snitch they became). They are fantastic! They taste much better than my super labor intensive cake balls. The trick with the fork/spoon worked great.

    Keep up the great work, and study hard!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  50. Okay, now I think the dress is perfect! Lol at "strange kimono/dolman sleeves" hahaha… I also like it sleeveless, so Posh! I want to try some DIY transformations with some old clothes now! Also, I noticed in your previous post (one of the first pics with the white/black H&M; skirt) and in this one: You're arms are so toned! ^_^

    Can't wait to read PAB's blog posts!!!!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  51. You did such an amazing job, Jean! I also love how it looks sleeveless. For Nick, maybe share his fave recipe (as Elle mentioned above)… professional attire for men?

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  52. Amazing job you did. I would be so scared to take apart anything!

    I have some questions for PAB for a male perspective:

    1. If a guy has everything, what's a cool gift to surprise him with?

    2. What's a trend that most guys like to rock nowadays for professional attire and just casual wear?

    Thank you,

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  53. Great job with DIY alteration Jean! It's a great color on you so I can't wait to see you style it!

    Looking forward to the PAB posts! I'd love his behind-the-lens perspective. 🙂 Or how about, when bloggers meet up and PAB 'tags' along. "my life as an assistant to a style blogger" (shopping, blogging, taking pictures, web support etc..)

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  54. Gracie wrote:

    The after looks fabulous! Just some food for thought, have you considered making the sleeves a tad shorter? With so much sleeves fabric, they make your shoulders look a smidge wider.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  55. Annabelle wrote:

    So much better! I continue to be amazed by your tailoring skills.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  56. Jen wrote:

    PAB guest blogs would be great! My boyfriend never shops for himself, so I always go out and purchase things for him. I'm getting a bit tired of the JCrew sweaters and button-downs. Or, some fresh suit/tie/shirt combos would be great!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  57. any tips on how to alter sleeves of Denim jackets!! I always get ones that fit well on shoulder n bust…but has long sleeves…that is even difficult to fold due to the nature of thick denim. I really hope you could answer me someday…

    Thank you

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  58. Kira wrote:

    Great job! Love the dress now on you!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  59. Elle wrote:

    Holy moly!!!!!! Jean you have outdone yourself with this DIY…uh, want to alter one for me (I kid I kid)?

    As for what PAB could write about…maybe share some recipes as he seems like an avid cook? Or photo tips for fellow photographers?

    Back to drooling over your newly altered dress!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  60. Anonymous wrote:

    Absolutely fantastic job on the alterations!! It seemed a perfect fit after.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  61. Olá!!! Eu visto tamanho pequeno também, aqui no Brasil meu nº é 36 mas mesmo assim é muito difícil achar algo que fique certinho, sempre preciso fazer alguns ajustes, o problema é que muitas vezes eu não tenho tempo e com isso a roupa fica parada por tempos. Isso muitas vezes me desanima muito de levar alguma peça que eu tenha gostado, que é uma pena!!! Bjs!!!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  62. I am seriously impressed with your DIY. The dress is now perfect! I absolutely love it. Are you thinking of hemming up the dress to above-knee or keeping the length as is? I forgot to mention on Twitter that the orange blouse might be big for you since a size 2 fits me perfectly. As for PAB posts, I would be interested in photography tips and recipes =)

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  63. pandaaa wrote:

    i'm hunting down those chiffon-like blouses! thanks for the info!!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  64. Shy wrote:

    I'll echo the others with a "wow!" on the sleeves.
    For PAG post I did Love the humor of his previous posts; more please. (I like the previous poster's suggestion about how to spend time while waiting on a shop-a-holic)
    Yet I'd also like some men's clothing suggestions.
    My hubby lives in jeans & then has suits for special occasions. Nothing in between.
    I'd love a list of men's basics as well. Dressy/casual would be great.
    Maybe some reviews of versatile items for regular guys (not the fashionista-men) lol

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
    the after picture is AMAZING! i'm so impressed. beautiful 🙂 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  66. Missy wrote:

    i loved the new dress!! fits you like a glove

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  67. Miriam wrote:

    I love the dress after the alteration and the new sleeves make you look taller in the dress. Amazing job!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  68. Wow, great job!! I'm glad you kept the sleeves. It looks great sleeveless but it also looks more average that way. The sleeves are what give it character. 🙂

    As for PAB posts, I'd love to hear about any photography tips! I cannot for the life of me get a good photo straight out of the camera. My whites are either blue or yellow and then I have to color-correct.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  69. Anonymous wrote:

    Wow, that dress is amazing on you! I can't believe you altered the sleeves yourself! Where did you learn to sew like that? I can hem pants, but that's it….

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  70. You are very talented!!!! I love the new look!!!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  71. Diana wrote:

    For PAB: love to gain some insights on how a stylish guy's dressing routine goes. And what are men's staple wardrobe pieces?

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  72. Diana wrote:

    What a great transformation. Go you! love the DIY.
    It's true…that dolman-ish thing was not doing you favors. But the color was too divine to let go. So happy you worked your magic on this dress because it's definitely worth it. Very 50s chic 🙂
    and thank you for the H&M; coupon you linked the other day. got me some leggings that I'd been eyeing. Ugh…I might have to go back and get that cream-colored blouse!


    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  73. Liz wrote:

    That's fantastic. That dolman look was a hot, trendy mess but this is completely chic and classic!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  74. Rachel wrote:

    I just purchased the white blouse few days ago ! it's definitely a great deal, love the gold button accents 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  75. Umm…have you ever taken a sewing class? Do you think I could sew as well as you if I took a one-day seminar? Geez, you made that dress look so good Jean!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  76. Lloyd Lim wrote:

    Wow. I do like the altered version. It fits you much better and I think the shoulder to arm line is beautiful. Amazing work. (I would re-position my response to your earlier post: pick whichever and alter!)

    – Lloyd

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  77. Where did you learn how to sew so amazingly like that?! Your DIY tailoring was executed flawlessly–you should make a video the next time you do alterations on a piece. Just a suggestion 😉

    As always, I adore you, Jean!
    <3 caroline

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  78. Michelle wrote:

    Dang! Great job with those alterations!! Glad you got the color and fit you wanted!

    I like anon's suggestion of Nick doing a "favorite looks on you….his least favorite looks" post.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  79. Omg you did such an incredible job on the sleeves…what a transformation! Looks so much better now! Also, all of my local H&M; stores are completely out of the small sizes of that blouse…I really liked it too!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  80. That looks AMAZING! Great job. xoxo

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  81. Katherine wrote:

    Wow you did such an amazing job! Love it , you make it all seem so easy 🙂 I love the existing posts that PAB did, maybe he can share with us the women's fashions that he loves vs. hates? I want to hear his take on harem pants and rompers!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  82. Annie wrote:

    Wow, it looks like you don't even need a tailor – your self-alterations are amazing and professional!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  83. Sophia wrote:

    I can't wait for the PAB posts! His previous ones were sooooo funny 😀 I enjoyed the sarcasm about girls' shopping habits.

    And the dress looks great by the way.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  84. Mary Ann wrote:

    You did the sleeves yourself? I'm impressed….sleeve installation is definitely not on the list of easy DIYs! 🙂

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  85. Anonymous wrote:

    the altered dress looks great! you are so skilled.

    i'd love if PAB did a cooking post!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  86. Anonymous wrote:

    Your altered dress is amazing!

    Your PAB is so adorable, too, for wanting to help you…or we could also have a closet exhibitionist at hand! Look forward to anything he wants to write about, but if he wants some suggestions:

    1) his favorite looks on you, and if he can be diplomatic, his least favorite looks
    2) what trends/styles you have never tried before that he would want you to try
    3) his top Spring/Summer 2012 picks (for the general population and also specifically for you)
    4) and since Fashion Week is going on, his top Fall/Winter 2012 picks (for the general population and also specifically for you)

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  87. Tam wrote:

    You did such a great DIY job on this dress–what a difference a proper sleeve makes! It looks so classic and lovely on you. I had been thinking you should keep the emerald dress, but this one is definitely my favorite now. I am feeling inspired; I really need to break out my sewing machine and start doing some of my own alterations here soon.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  88. myhanh wrote:

    Great tailoring job, Jean! Good luck with your studies!

    Ideas for PAB: How to "kill time"/entertain yourself during early morning Target runs, long H&M; fitting rooms, etc.;
    Crock Pot recipes for Winter and Spring; or tips on how to scout good photo locations?

    I liked the spirit of the first post even if it was for April Fools Day! Can't wait! Thanks, Nick.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  89. Nng02 wrote:

    Alterations look amazing! Any recommedations on sewing machines?

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  90. Ping wrote:

    jean– you did a great job! no botching here
    looks much better with those slim sleeves….will you do one for me 😉

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  91. Great job on the alternation! The dress looks fabulous with the new sleeves.

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  92. Susan wrote:

    The dress looks so much better now, amazing what a difference that a proper fit makes!

    For future PAB posts, I would be interested in reading more styling tips for men and good sale deals. 🙂 There's only so many plaid BR/JCrew/Gap shirts that I can buy for my husband. Since I'm the one styling his outfits, I'd like some cost-effective tips!

    Posted 2.16.12 Reply
  93. Your "new" dress looks fabulous!

    Posted 2.15.12 Reply

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