Kimono sleeves or bell sleeves? That is the question!


For months, I was sure the sleeves on this top were called ‘kimono sleeves’ until I was corrected by a clerk in a local fabric store. “No,” she insisted. “Those are NOT kimono sleeves. Kimono sleeves are cut as part of the bodice. Those are definitely bell sleeves.”

Really? I was doubtful. But, well, yes. According to the Craftsy website, she was 100% correct. Bell sleeves are are always narrow at the shoulder, wide at the bottom and they are never cut as part of the bodice. Live and learn.
For me, the Bell sleeves are the major attraction of this otherwise simple top.
I fell in love with those fun sleeves all over again this Spring, when I noticed them in the Chanel resort collection.
And this is by Oscar de la Renta….
 I’ve been a bit obsessed ever since for reasons I can’t explain. Perhaps, it’s because they’re a bit retro?
Or is because they’re so comfortable? Who knows?
I used Butterick 6175 for my bell sleeved top, a semi fitted pullover top with sleeve variations.
B6175B6175 (2)
Since the top has a very simple design, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to use a not-so-simple fabric. So, I chose a Japanese border print I had in my stash. It has a large floral design as the main motif, with a contrasting (but subtle) checkered print as the border. I cut  the bodice from the flowered motif and the sleeves from the checkered border.
The tricky part was laying the pattern out in a way that captured the directional focus of the floral print. Because the pattern’s ‘repeat’ is widely spaced, it was a bit tricky, since I’d purchased a (very) scant yard and a quarter (when will I learn to buy a little extra to be on the safe side?). I also wanted some pattern at the neck for interest.
After struggling for well over an hour to get it right, I decided, I’d had enough torture for one day. So, I simplified things and made the liberating decision to cut the sleeves from the contrasting border print, which didn’t have a pattern repeat to contend with.
 I made one slight variation to the pattern. I skipped the back neck line slit, as I am not a fan of that look and used a short zipper in the back instead.
The construction of the top was easy. But do I like the finished product? Hmmmm.  I’m not altogether sure. In hindsight, a boxy, cropped top probably isn’t the best choice for a short-waisted girl like me.  But I do like the fabric, so I’ll probably wear this top, anyway. I guess I could always add a couple of eyelash darts to the back to give it a bit more shape (?). Regardless, the project was worth the effort as I learned a lot from the challenges posed by choosing a fabric that has a one way print with a repeating pattern. Next time (if there is a next time) I vow to buy way more fabric than I think I need!!  And, I do love those sleeves!
How do you modify patterns to make them less boxy? Or do you just skip the look? Thanks for stopping by!

12 thoughts on “Kimono sleeves or bell sleeves? That is the question!

  1. I think it is lovely just the way it is. Gorgeous fabric and I like the shape (or lack of).

  2. Hi! Just found your blog and am enjoying looking over your projects! I linked in when I googled Butterick 6097. I signed up to get your emails.

    1. Thanks Linda! I agree knits are nicer for short waisted types. I feel way more comfortable in them, maybe because the waist placement doesn’t have to be so perfect I think. This style of top is definitely a departure for me. Glad you’re digging the sleeves too :).

  3. This top is adorable. Love the sleeves and the print placement. I’m short and short waisted and always wonder about boxy shapes too. I love them but am afraid my waist disappears and I look like a box. Such a balance for shorties. I found you via Pattern Review and added you to my Feedly. Yay. Can’t wait to see more makes from you.

    1. Nice to meet you, Tracy! We short-waisted girls must stick together. The boxy shape makes me nervous too. I like the look on others, but it is tricky on me. If it wasn’t for the fabric I used for this top, not sure if I’d take it to the streets :).

  4. As I am reading this blog post nearly two years after the fact, I wonder if you ever warmed up to this adorable blouse. I LOVE it, and the way in looks on you. In fact, I stopped midway through the post to order the pattern for myself, even though I own way too many patterns already. I love the contrast of the sleeves with the print on the body of the shirt, and I love the bell shape. With your petite figure, I believe you can wear just about anything,

    1. How fun that you ordered the pattern right away! Yes, I grew to love this top, and it’s still on regular rotation in my wardrobe! The bell shape is so fun on this particular top, that I’m considering making it again. I know you’ll love the pattern, and I hope your version turns out to be fabulous!

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