Status Sleeves, cont’d

Here’s an easy tutorial on drafting corner pleats for sleeves.  Sleeve pleats have been a frequent feature of RTW tops, dresses and jackets in recent years and are one of the many ways of adding detail and structure to a part of garment that had for a couple of decades remained overlooked. 

I’m beginning to believe that just as padded shoulders of 1980s womenwear gave the impression of power, the extra width gained from these corners pleats somehow serve to enhance the status of the wearer!  Unlike in the 80s though, the means are more subtle and the result feminine. 

The pictures show the pattern with the underarm seam sewn but the seam allowances and sleeve hem unsewn.  The drafting is very beginner-friendly: you’re just adding squares to the sleeve cap.  The method is from  Adele Margolisbook: ’Design Your Own Dress Patterns: a Primer in Pattern Making for Women who like to Sew’.  

Corner Pleat Sleeves: a Tutorial

(Sometimes, it helps to see all the steps in one.  To do that, skip to here.)

Step 1: Make a symmetrical short-sleeve block

Make a copy of the short-sleeve block (sloper). (If you only have a long-sleeve block, copy to 4cm above the elbow and checking your upper arm measurement, ensure you have about 5cm of ease around the bicep.)  Fold at the centre and trim so the front and back of sleeve (left and right of centre line) are symmetrical.   

Yes, with this baby, it won’t matter if you put the sleeve in back to front!

Step 2: Extend upwards 

Pin the sleeve block to a larger piece of paper.  Extend the centre line upwards and create a T-shape.  I raised my sleeve by 4cm but you can be more dramatic, especially if your fabric is firmer!

Step 3: Draw  points on original cap

Draw 2 points on the original cap, equally apart from the centre line.  Mine are 5cm from the middle of the sleeve.  Label A and B.

Step 4: Extend points to top of T

Extend the points to the top line, making sure the lines are at right angles to it, and parallel to the centre line.  Label points.

Step 5: Extend to the side by same amount

Extend and label.

Step 6: Complete the square 

Close up and join to new points X and Y.

Step 7: Smooth out

Redraw around X and Y to make the line smoother.  Now trace around the whole outside area.

Step 8: New outline

Your sleeve, once you’ve unpinned the original, now looks like this: yes, an apron!

Step 9: Complete the pattern

Add seam allowances, grainline, fold instructions (that is, the four points to each pleat square) and knotches.  As there are no balance lines, when it comes to attaching the sleeve to the bodice, pin to the shoulder seam first then to underarm sleeve.  The rest should fit without tucks or gathers.

Step 10: Making up

To make the sleeve from your fabric, fold C to E and D to F.  The fold should stop at points A and B.  Baste along the armscye.


You may wish to fold the opposite way, from the outer side of the sleeve towards the centre, that is, from E towards C and F towards D.

And if you do so then turn the sleeve inside out, you get this interesting diagonal pleat as on the right….

If your fabric is on floppy side and can’t support such corners, you could try interfacing.

A nice addition to the bamboo shoot bodice?