Tutorial ~ Dolman Sleeve Shirt

by Destri on February 2, 2012

I shared this dolman sleeve shirt tutorial on as part of her .  It was meant to introduce an idea of just taking a shirt you like and use it as a starting point to make a new shirt with different elements.  Since then, I have had a lot of questions on how one would go about using a regular long sleeve shirt to make something similar to the shirt I made.  It really would be pretty simple.  There is only one back panel, and one front panel, with no sleeve to set – so this is perfect for a beginner.  Catch me after the jump and I will show you how!

Dolman Sleeve Shirt Tutorial


  • all your sewing stuff
  • a long sleeve shirt that fits nicely (or just keep in mind the parts you don’t like about it)
  • fabric – the type will depend on the shirt you start with – just make sure it is similar, or adjust fit to compensate

Like I said, the initial idea was to use a shirt you love and then switch it up a bit by adding a few details you like.  For this tutorial, I am just going to talk about how you can use a regular long sleeve shirt to make a Dolman sleeve shirt.

You can see in the photo above the general shape of the sleeve.  It starts angling away from the body at the ribs to make a fairly large sleeve.  Take your shirt lay it down on a double layer of the fabric if you are wanting the front and back the same (we will adjust the cut of the neckline in the second cut).  If you are wanting to have more of a cowl neckline like my shirt, just lay it on one layer of fabric.

If you want, take a pen and draw the shape out before you cut it out. You could even start with a paper piece, but I am far too impatient for that ;).

Cut around the perimeter of the shirt, making sure to angle out at the ribs, and then slowly tapering down the length of the sleeve.  For the top of the sleeve you should be able to follow the cut of the shirt you are using, just follow the angle on the underside.

For the neckline if you are cutting two layers, just follow the cut of the back of the shirt, and then cut the front panel separate to be the shape you want.  You may want to hold the front panel up to you to determine that.   I left a little length on my cut.  You can skip the next two parts if you are ready to sew.

If you are aiming for the cowl neckline, you have to get a bit creative.  Lay down the second layer of fabric.  I just gathered it up at the top like shown in the picture.

Next I just took the back panel and carefully placed it over the gathered top where I wanted the neckline to be, paying attention to where the shoulder seams would meet. Then just cut around it to make the front panel.

I pinned at the shoulder to make sure the front kept the shape.  At this point I only had 15 minutes invested and that is with taking pictures – not bad!  Now it’s time to sew it up.

You don’t normally see all those jagged edges on my projects, but that was part of my New Year’s ReSewLution, to loosen up a bit…feel free to straighten yours ;).

I started at the neckline on top, down the length of the sleeve on both sides. Then I sewed at the waist up the underside of the sleeve on both sides


Now is the time to try it on and decide where you need to alter it.  I have one sleeve that somehow had a longer length, but decided to ultimately make them 3/4 sleeve length anyways.  And though I wanted more length on the bottom, I have a bit too much so I cut some off the bottom too.

If you are going to make any cuts after you have sewn, just stitch a little back and forth right on the seam where you want to trim, then cut under that stitch.  This will ensure you don’t lose the seam.

I adjusted those things, left the hems unfinished (the joys of knit!) and voila’!  A new shirt in thirty minutes!  And I really do love it.  It hides my upper arms that aren’t quite my favorite, the way it gathers at the waist is slimming.

There are so many things you can do with this concept, as the sleeves are super simple to pull off, just have fun with it!

If you have any questions about the shape, fabric choice or anything else – just leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them there.

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