Boho Bell Sleeve Dress Tutorial

May Lina
by May Lina
9 Materials
2 Hours

Refashioning is fun and easy, and today I’m going to show you a simple tutorial for how to sew a bell-sleeve dress that you will love to wear out of old clothes that have seen better days. Follow along with this bell-sleeve dress tutorial, and enjoy the fabulous results.

Tools and materials:

  • Button-down shirt
  • Long skirt
  • Bleach (optional)
  • Bucket (optional)
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
DIY bell-sleeve dress

Sew a bell-sleeve dress

Bleach and wash

I wanted to fade the colors on the clothes I was using for this project, so I soaked them in a bucket of a mixture of water and bleach. If you do this, make sure to test a small bit of the fabric in the bleach before soaking the whole thing. After bleaching, I washed and dried the clothing before beginning the project. 

How to sew a bell-sleeve dress

Remove unwanted features

I removed the ruffle, collar, and button closures from the shirt, as I didn’t want them on the finished piece. 

Make a bell-sleeve dress


Next, I cut the shirt so the bottom edge would be straight. I cut it lower than the waistline, so it would create an additional skirt layer once the dress is gathered by the waist. 

How to make a bell-sleeve dress

I also cut the sleeves at the point where I wanted the bell of the sleeve to begin.

Easy bell-sleeve dress

Pin and sew

I tried on the shirt and placed a pin where I wanted the neckline to end. Then I sewed the seam closed below it. 

bell-sleeve dress tutorial


Next, I cut the waistband off my skirt. I also cut the skirt to my desired length, leaving an extra inch or two for seam allowance. 

Cut bells for the sleeves

Using the offcuts of the skirt, I cut two wide rectangles to use as the bells of the sleeves. Make sure to cut them very wide. I did not cut mine wide enough and needed to add fabric later.

Pin and sew

I pinned the sides of the rectangles and sewed them down, creating two tubes with a circumference wider than the sleeves of the dress. 


I gathered the top edges of the skirt and the bells of the sleeves using a wide, straight stitch, making sure not to backstitch at the beginning or end, and then pulling the thread.

Pin, sew, and remove thread

With right sides together, I pinned the skirt and bell sleeves in place and sewed them down. Once everything was sewn into place, I removed the gathering threads. 

Fold, pin, and sew

Next, I hemmed the neckline by folding the edge once inward, pinning it in place, and sewing it down. 


I wanted my dress to have a panel on the bodice of the same fabric as the skirt, so I cut a rectangle of fabric from the offcuts of the skirt.

Fold and iron

I folded the edges of the fabric inward and ironed them down. 

Pin and sew

Then I pinned the panel in place down the center of the bodice, from the neckline to the waist, and sewed it in place by hand. 


To hem the bottom edge, I folded the edge over twice and ironed it flat. Then I sewed it down. 

Add lining

I decided to add a lining because the skirt was very sheer. I just sewed a tube of fabric as wide as the bottom of the skirt and sewed it to the seam where the shirt and skirt are attached. 

I hope this tutorial was helpful. If you use these instructions to make a bell-sleeve dress of your own, I would love to see your results. 

Suggested materials:
  • Button-down shirt
  • Long skirt
  • Bleach
See all materials

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Join the conversation
3 of 5 comments
  • Cathy QB Cathy QB on Jun 09, 2021

    Looks great! Nice video!

  • Lynn Manheim Lynn Manheim on Jun 11, 2021

    Very pretty, and you look lovely in it. It doesn't hurt to have a good figure! I have very ugly, veined lower arms, so can't wear my short-sleeved tops anymore. The belled sleeve idea is perfect and I'll be using it. Thanks.