For my size I have upper arms which are larger than that size. I'm overweight at the moment so it seems quite pronounced, but its actually genetics and even when I am slimmer I still have arms that are fatter than the rest of my size.
I'm late 40s now so have got used to sewing for my body at different weights. I know that I need to be careful of upper arm, thigh and derriere as I am always larger in those places.
So I thought I would think aloud a little about solutions I have found and tried which may help others.
Full Upper Arms Solutions
- fabrics, styles, alterations
RTW (ready to wear, ie bought clothes)
- fabrics, styles, alterations
I'll start today with RTW, as I do buy things as well as sew them.
Stretch fabrics are your friend. You are more likely to find a comfortable fit in knit top, ponte jacket, cardigan or other garment where the fabric has some give. However you do need to try the item on and bend your arms to simulate driving or typing and see if this is comfortable. Don't buy (or return if bought online) anything which is too tight. It won't be comfortable and you are unlikely to wear it.
Some styles have more design ease and will therefore be more comfortable for larger arms. For example Kimono sleeves on a jacket or blouse, looser frill sleeves on a top etc. Sleeveless tops can also be good if you don't mind you arms showing when you remove the layering piece.
Where a blouse has loose sleeves gathered into a tight cuff on the bicep or further down the arm, you can remove the cuff and have a simple hem. This can work quite well but does make the sleeve shorter. I did this on a crinkle shirt which worked well.
Where a stretch jacket has a non stretch lining, you can remove the lining from the sleeve to make use of the stretch. I did this on a ponte jacket which worked fine.
Where a shirt has short sleeves which narrow at the hem and are therefore too tight, unpick the seam and add a triangle of other fabric, stretch lace, elastic etc in the gap. For example on hiking shirts you could add a triangle of sports mesh fabric to the under arms, on something dressier maybe a stretch lace or knit etc. I have some where I plan to do this, unfortunately it involves unpicking a lot of tiny stitches.
Size up and take in the body. Here buy a blouse or shirt in a larger size but then add princess seams which run up the front across the shoulders and down the back to allow you to take the body in to fit. The sleeves remain the larger size.
Where the sleeve is in a woven fabric or is very much too small I would generally avoid buying it in the first place, but if I already have it one option is to remove the sleeve entirely, use a two piece sleeve pattern altered to fit your arm and cut the upper sleeve only out of the existing sleeve, and then cut a new lower sleeve from a suitable different fabric, sew the new sleeve together and then set it back into the armhole. If you've used a ponte or similar for the lower sleeve it can look quite sleek but be really comfortable. If you decide to line your new sleeve as well then make sure the lining has enough ease or is from a stretch lining fabric not a woven one. It can be good to use the second fabric elsewhere in the garment or outfit, so for side body panels in a jacket, or for a co-ordinating skirt for example. This will make it look more deliberate.
If you like the look you can remove the old sleeve and make an entirely new contrasting sleeve. I've seen some great ones in RTW which use a stretch faux leather which looks great.
Another time I will talk about my easier and harder pattern alterations when sewing from scratch.
Hope this helps. Please free to share any alterations you have done to make sleeves larger.