How to make quick padded arms

Padded arms. Photo by Sam Gatley. Te Papa

You will need:

  • Arm pattern adapted to the sleeve measurements of your garment

  • Paper and fabric scissors

  • Calico and silk fabric

  • Dacron stuffing

  • Curved needle and thread

  • Glass headed pins

  • Mountboard offcuts

  • Sewing machine

  • Chalk and ruler

Step 1: A sleeve pattern should be amended to match the measurements of your garment and made up in calico for a basic padded arm. Adding an outer layer of silk to the calico when making up this pattern will allow the garment to more easily slide onto the form when ready for dressing.

Dartless sleeve pattern. Illustration by Sam Gatley. Te Papa

Step 2: Once the pattern fabric has been sewn up and seams and darts pressed, the edges can be finished with an overlocker or pinking shears. The arm covers can be stuffed with a slightly shaped roll of Dacron to the desired density.

Padded arm. Photo by Sam Gatley. Te Papa

Step 3: Fold back the sleeve cuff and cut off excess dacron flush just short of the sleeve length required. Oval shaped end-caps can be made to finish the visible sleeve support using off cuts of conservation mount board covered in the desired top fabric. These are then sewn to the end of the arm to create a neat, subtle finish.

Padding a sleeve cuff with dacron, calico and cover fabric. Photo by Sam Gatley. Te Papa

Step 4: Arms should be attached along the top side of the shoulders only and encouraged to hang naturally at the side of the body. At this point, it is worth noting that human arms are limbs that hang at quite a sharp angle close to the body. It can be helpful to remove some padding from the top of the arm to help them sit better over the dress from the shoulder. Also, consider using a hot iron to flatten the top arm to achieve a more natural shape.

Mount for 1870s wedding dress. Photo: Samantha Gatley