Roundup: Wedding Dresses With Sleeves

Hip, Modest, Mini

Ellie Two-Piece Lace and Cotton Wedding Dress by Leanimal via Etsy

Wedding dresses are An Issue for me. White wedding dresses, even. Yes, I think it would be great if there were a wider range of wedding outfits that were socially acceptable (or just more commonly worn). Yes, I think black wedding dresses are badass. But I also know that lots of us (me included) just plain old want to wear a white wedding dress, and the fact that our options are so limited galls me.

Let me take a moment for a side note, here. Thanks to the research I did when writing the APW book, I’ve learned few things about the origin of the white wedding dress. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to do with sexual purity (gross); it has to do with wealth. Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress when she made the unusual choice of selecting white. I also am a firm believer in the fact that the real importance of wedding tradition is the personal historical meaning that it holds for us. Couples only started getting married in churches in the United States around the turn of the century, but if your mother and grandmother and great grandmother did it, it might mean a lot to you. Thus it was with me (and with lots of us) and the white wedding dress.

My issues with the white wedding dress are these: the hugely limited options, and the way that those options impose a certain vision of womanhood and femininity on us. In short, I really didn’t want to wear a sleeveless, embellished, ball-gown. Not for any political reason, but just because it wasn’t my style. But what I found in my endless battle with wedding dress shopping was that not only was it almost impossible for me to find a dress that wasn’t strapless (spoiler alert: I wore one), it was almost impossible to find a salesperson that didn’t insist that I really WANTED a strapless embellished gown for “my special day,” so I wouldn’t “regret it.” It often felt like I was being told that if I couldn’t cram myself into the extremely restrictive role of BRIDE, then I shouldn’t even be getting married.

Because of this, I’m perhaps oddly passionate about wedding dresses with sleeves. I’ll take any kind of sleeve: a cap sleeve, a short sleeve, a three-quarter-length sleeve, a full sleeve. And when I got up at the crack of dawn to watch the Royal Wedding in 2011, I screamed with delight when I saw Katherine wearing a dress with actual, honest-to-god, sleeves. And while Ms. Middleton’s wedding dress choice didn’t popularize sleeves here in the States quite as much as I’d like, we’ve made serious progress in the last few years.

So today, I’m pleased to bring you this Wedding Dresses with Sleeves roundup, for the modest and edgy alike. We had more dresses than we could possibly fit in one roundup, so when you’re done looking through these, head over to our new Pinterest board for forty-plus more options. We focused on dresses with a noticeable sleeve, in a variety of price ranges, and we divided them by long, short, and modest (or, modest with the help of a good seamstress to help a sister out with some lining). Because no one who wants a sleeved wedding dress gets enough help finding good ones.

1.  Persephone Shift from BHLDN ($280—Sold Out, but you can probably find it used!) 2. Ivory Openwork Floral Pattern Lace Dress by Lover ($1,166) 3. Long Sleeve Dress by Isabel Marant Étoile available at Farfetch ($721.06) 4. Penelope Mini available at BHLDN (Only XS in stock for $80! But most likely available used.) 5. ASOS Midi Dress in Lace with Wrap Back ($62.29)

 1. Salina Built-In Corset Gown available at BCBG ($598) 2. Metallic Lace Gown by David Meister available at Neiman Marcus (on sale! $227) 3. Sapphire Long Dress in Ivory/Silver available at Revolve Clothing ($795) 4. Lia Gown by Catherine Deane available at BHLDN ($2,000) 5. Kerry Gown available from Watters Brides (price not listed)

1. Laura Dress by Aria ($878) 2. Sequined Lace Gown by Carmen Marc Valvo available at Saks Fifth Avenue ($1145) 3. Posey Dress ($278) 4. Distinctly Darling Dress available at Modcloth ($87.99) 5. Vintage Inspired Ivory Lace Dress by DreamersLA available on Etsy ($350)

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  • Laura C

    In my brief flirtation with white, this flutter-sleeved dress from Saja was my favorite. So pretty.

  • Cat B

    Oh holy blessed stuff! It is SO hard to find sleeves! I’ve found myself in the “knowing exactly what I want- but no one else wants to share” limbo of dress shopping. Hopping over to Pinterest to see what you lovely women have found!

    • meg

      True. It’s really hard. This roundup felt like pulling teeth, and times. UGH. However, yay for finally finding stuff!

      • Class of 1980

        When strapless wedding dresses first came out, I truly thought it was a passing fashion. I gave it five years. I never dreamt they would hold on so long, let alone push out all other options!

        Sleeves offer such a wealth of variety and different effects. You’d think more designers would have gone back to sleeves just for the sheer design possibilities.

        Then again, some designers have blamed brides for not wanting to look at anything else.

        (I knew Kate would wear sleeves – royal wedding dresses are required to have them.)

        • Grace

          I feel like strapless dresses have stuck around in part for one big reason – boob room. I was pretty set on a v neck dress when I first started shopping, but my full busted self was just not having it (bust measurement of 40, underbust of 32, waist of 30ish). I realized I would have needed a custom dress if I wanted a v neck just because the options in my size range just didn’t have enough fabric in the bust, and trying to size up for my bust would have been a giant guessing game (and altering the rest of the dress down that much probably would have ruined the structure of it). So strapless it was. It may not have been my first choice initially, but the girls will be comfortably contained, which is all I wanted in the first place.

  • kyley

    I am tempted to buy that long, glittery #2 and just, like, show up to work in it. Seriously, guys, I think my heart is beating faster just from looking at it.

    • Rebecca

      With you on #2. I swear, I bought one sequin mini skirt and I turned into a magpie. I blame my mother- she instigated the purchase in the first place. But sequins! and sparkles!

      • C

        Just had to chime in on #2 long. It’s a dream! Tragically too fancy for my backyard bbq wedding.

        Love this whole round up. I’ve never looked good in anything strapless, YAY sleeves!

  • Vee

    Long sleeve, short dress #5 has been on my “GIVE UP ON EVERYTHING JUST GET THIS” list forever!!

    I want a simple but *long* dress, but I can’t afford anything custom and I’m too tall to buy ‘floor length’ off the shelf!

    At the moment, I’m trying to find the courage to commit to having a dress replicated in China. Has anyone done this? For every horror story on the internet of the money disappearing or the dress turning out awful, there seem to be two more stories of everything going great and the bride saving tonnes of cash…

    • Maggie

      I just wanted to recommend Muse Clothing on Etsy. I am in no way affiliated with the seller beyond buying my dress for her for around $300. She uses vintage lace to handmake beautiful dresses, many of them with sleeves (like mine!)

      • Vee

        Thanks, this is actually really helpful! I’m terrified of actually *choosing* a seller, especially on Etsy where the vendors can delete any negative feedback they receive…

        • (Pst. I’m leaving another note here in hopes you have your “notify of replies” button checked – I addressed your concerns of Etsy sellers deleting feedback below. :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I did this. It turned out good but not great. (My satin dress fit poorly in the shoulders, limiting how high I could raise my arms.) I placed my order through a local storefront, which gave me some peace of mind that there’d be someone to go after if things worked out badly. The store was recommended to me by friends, and I’d recommend it, with some caveats, to others.

      Another option is used. Had the dress I ordered not turned out well, or not shown up, preownedweddingdresses, ebay, and some vintage sites had alternatives. Etsy also has vintage dresses and you can order custom dresses there, too.

      • Vee

        Can I ask which site you used to buy your dress? (Even if you had a less than perfect experience…)

        Unfortunately, I’ve tried the pre-owned sites but when I look for a floor-length dress (TEA? NOT FOR ME!) for someone six feet tall there’s suddenly VERY LIMITED styles to choose from.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          The storefront was My Day Wedding & Photo Studio in San Mateo, CA.

          I actually ordered a dress from ebay, which I returned for a full refund because it was stained, but there were several others I kept my eyes on until my dress was complete. I also watched APW sponsor Unfortunately, I’ve deleted the bookmarks for the vintage sites I obsessed over.

    • april

      Have you considered going to a local dressmaker or costume designer? They’re surprisingly affordable, and you’ll be able to meet with them in person (which is key for getting a good fit, not to mention discussing exactly what you want). Ordering from China might be cheaper up front, but you’ll probably have to pay to have the dress altered once it arrives anyhow.

      • Vee

        FI keeps suggesting this but I have no idea where to look! I’m in a big (ish) city… Is it unreasonable to expect them to produce something in the $200-350 range?

        • ElisabethJoanne

          My dress was fairly simple, long-sleeved, floor-length satin, with a train. It was $350 plus tax. At one stage I went to a fabric store and tried to price materials. I think just the fabric could be over $100, but it was a really rough calculation.

          • Vee

            Really? That *is* reasonable! How did you go about finding a costume designer/dressmaker?

          • ElisabethJoanne

            I complained at church about not being able to find anything close to what I wanted, and the little old ladies told me about the shop I mentioned. But they hadn’t actually been there. In retrospect, I should have read some yelp reviews and asked around some more. As I said, my dress experience was good, but not great. I had precisely the problems with the arm-armhole-back-chest measurements described below.

    • Kelly

      Fellow tall lady here (6’1″). And UGH, yes. Not only do I know I want sleeves but I also want a covered back (I have a tattoo that I’m proud of, but it doesn’t need to be front and center at our wedding. Plus I don’t want to be worried about my Almost 30, WTF Skin issues) I found a Tadashi Shoji evening gown (with sleeves) that IS actually floor-length! (Like, actually pools on the floor). Amazing. I ordered a size up, so it will need to be taken in a little bit at the waist, but I think he is really good at proportioning dresses to be flattering for all body types. Before I found my dress, I was considering buying something “floor length” column design and having it hemmed up to hit at my mid-calf area. Of course, success for that would depend on the cut/drape of the dress and fabric. As far as custom-made Chinese dresses, I’ve heard good things about For Her and For Him (based in California but manufactured in China). Good luck!

      • Brittany

        I’m not that tall, but I ordered my dress (with sleeves) on sale from Jcrew and it was a good 7+ inches too long on my 5′ 9″ self, and the girl at their store said all their full length dresses run that long. Plus, the shipping is standard J Crew shipping and you can just return if it you try it on and it doesn’t work. I feel like a J Crew ad, but I was so happy with it after finding the rest of the shopping processes way stressful (hello dress salons that made me feel dirty for having the salary and wardrobe of a public servant) it’s hard not to gush! To me it felt less terrifying than buying from an unknown retailer.

        • Vee

          THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS INFORMATION! It’s nice to know that those dresses run longer than most. Unfortunately, my budget won’t allow for the (BEAUTIFUL!) J Crew bridal gowns but I haven’t yet ruled out getting a JC bridesmaid dress in a light shade, and wearing that for my dress.

          I did *NOT* realize you could just STRAIGHT UP return them if they didn’t fit (or look right) just like normal J Crew stuff. That makes a lot of difference to know – THANKS, YOU DA BEST!

          • M.

            I came down this thread to make sure someone mentioned J.Crew as well. Sooooooo long! I think their Champagne color in bridesmaids is so pretty and would make a great wedding dress. Keep your eyes open because bridesmaids are also subject to sales/free shipping deals. I got one recently for my lady of honor for 25% off free shipping. Good luck!

          • Laura C

            Oh my gosh, not only can you straight up return them, you can return them in person to any J. Crew store. So you only pay shipping one way, and at least when I ordered (and then returned) one, shipping was free over $150 so on all the wedding dresses. And then I just went to the nearest J. Crew and they did not blink at the return.

            Also, yes, they are long. I am 5’11” and they pooled on the floor on me.

    • Have you considered Etsy?

      I’ve had this seller bookmarked for ages for my own dress:

      She replicates gowns and four (!) of the dresses I see on the front page of her shop have sleeves. Her reviews are outstanding, as well.

      • Vee

        Here’s my question on Etsy… (From a non-etsy person!) If the seller has sold, like 300 hundred things but only has, say, 4 reviews.. that’s a BAD sign right? So many of the etsy prices look amazing, but I’m SCURRED, guys.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I got my veil from etsy. I have no idea how many reviews she had.

          I think etsy is like other stores. I order from Amazon regularly and have never posted a review. I’ve been to Starbucks hundreds of times and have only twice submitted a comment. (Once was one of those deals where you get a free drink if you complete the online survey; the other was the district manager was visiting and I really loved the staff and wanted their boss to know, so I went up to him.) I read once that a standard way of determining the number of radio listeners was 1,000 times the number of people who call in.

          So a 1:100 rate of reviews to sales doesn’t strike me as suspicious on etsy, as long as they’re positive.

        • Well, that’s tricky.

          I’m an Etsy seller; I make handmade notecards. In March I introduced “Will you be my bridesmaid?” cards into my shop (had to channel that just-engaged energy somehow!) and sold practically nothing but those cards until I shut my shop in mid-September to move. Over that period, I made 137 sales, but only 20 of my buyers left feedback on their transactions.

          I noticed that a lot of my customers were first-time or fairly new Etsy buyers; a lot of them were unfamiliar with the checkout process, so I can’t imagine that they would be familiar with the feedback process. And some of those non-feedback-leaving customers emailed me directly to say how happy they were with their cards, or used the Etsy message system to do the same. So I received positive feedback from the gals who bought my cards, and some of it was so beautiful and positive that it absolutely blew me away, but there is no way to display those responses on my shop’s profile.

          I guess I would worry if those 4 responses were negative or even neutral. I think we, as buyers, are more likely to leave feedback if a transaction has somehow gone wrong, in an effort to rectify things or to warn other customers. If things have gone well, we don’t always have that driving force to share the details of our transaction. It’s like when I buy nail polish through Etsy: if it shows up and I love it, I’m more likely to start using it right away due to being distracted by my “ooh, yay, pretty!”response than if it had been broken or the wrong color, in which case I’m almost immediately headed to the computer to try and set things right.

          If you’re worried about dealing with a seller, message them and try to feel them out; explain your reservations and ask them if they have any references they could share with you or if they have any customers they’d be able to put you in touch with to talk about their dealings. If they won’t, or can’t, then you might be best looking for another seller.

          • Vee

            That’s a really good idea, I might do exactly that – be upfront about my concerns.

            Can I ask you something… as an Etsy seller can you *delete* negative feedback?

          • Vee, I hope you see this, I can’t reply to your reply to my comment!

            There is not, to my knowledge, a way to outright delete negative (or positive, for that matter) feedback. There is a method for sellers and buyers to work together to resolve any issues and change negative feedback to neutral or positive, but that is the best that can be done.

            I guess I should mention, too, that Etsy recently revised their feedback system. You used to be able to receive feedback as both a buyer and a seller; the feedback as a buyer was removed when the system was changed. So a seller may have been an upstanding member of the Etsy community as a buyer for many years before becoming a seller with only a few positive feedback remarks that now show on their profile. My positive feedback was well over 700 before it was reduced to 300-something with the change.

    • Bradley

      I bought a dress from China on Ebay and it was THE WORST THING EVER. Ever. The dress was unimaginably awful in every way. It looked nothing like the photo and actually was more like a $15 polyester Halloween costume. Also, they apparently completely ignored all of the measurements I carefully took, and NONE of the modifications we had agreed on were done. It was seriously a nightmare. I had to buy a completely new dress with about 1 week notice. I tried to consign it, but the shop wouldn’t even take it brand-new because it was so bad.

      • Vee

        EEK! WHICH SHOP!?

        • Bradley

          The seller was called tianyifinerys, but I’m not sure she’s in business anymore. You should also know that many of the sellers bribe customers to change their reviews. My seller did, and I saw other sellers’ reviews that mentioned they had been bribed, as well. So you really just can’t trust the reviews. Please, find a local dressmaker. They aren’t that much more expensive and you will be SO much happier.

    • Jessica

      I bit the bullet and bought from a Chinese company. TERRIBLE DECISION. WORST DECISION EVER. I have been fighting to get my money back for two months. The craftsmanship is awful and I might be out $200. Not as bad as being out $600 or $1200 on a dress from a salon, but the craftsmanship is so much better. They didn’t even hem the bottom of the dress I bought and they cut it crooked. The zipper in the back was regular sized and exposed. The list goes on and on…

    • kissyboots

      I got a Justin Alexander 9552 for my wedding dress (a lovely sleeved dress that wasn’t pictured above) but I am having my bridesmaids’ dresses made in China.
      There are two really good and reputable dressmakers that I know of. One is DressilyMe, and the other is Jasmine’s Bridal Shop (NOT the Jasmine bridal line; this is different.)
      Dressily is the cheaper of the two, and does pretty good work. Jasmine’s is the higher-priced, but does AMAZING work. You’re not going to find one of the $50 dresses like people sell on Ebay, but the positive side of this is that you’re going to get a dress you know will A.) fit your measurements, B.) be made as promised, and C.) will actually be delivered to you after you pay for it. Jasmine’s boasts up to 95% accuracy in reproducing pictures with their designer grade craftsmanship, which is what we went with (since I am a control freak and wanted to be able to see the in-progress photos.)
      Best of luck either way!

    • hampton

      It was on my backup list too! I actually ordered it (thank God for ASOS free two way shipping) but it just was not flattering on me at all. It bummed me out that it didn’t work for me but I still think it would would be a great dress on someone else.

  • Jaime

    My dress had sleeves! Not long ones, but they definitely helped with that “I feel naked in a strapless” feeling.,primary_content

  • stephanie

    short dresses with sleeves! yes!! i bought this one for my planned elopement next spring:

    • meg


  • Rachel

    Wedding dresses with sleeves are my JAM, and I’m so excited designers are FINALLY starting to make more of them.

    Also, long sleeves, modest dress #3 was almost my wedding dress, though I ultimately decided to have my grandma make my gown! I still love that dress and have considered buying it in a different color as just a nice go-to dress to have in my closet.

  • april

    For someone who is not afraid of a little color, I think this dress would make an amazing wedding gown:

    • Maddie

      Oh my goodness, that dress.

  • A

    thank you!!!!!!!!

  • Emily

    One thing I had never considered before my upcoming (second) wedding was a mother of the bride dress. But, lo and behold, I shall be wearing the following in ivory:,ivory

    I almost went for the bridal version of this in the Watters Encore line, but I liked the v-neck better than the boat neck.

    Oh, and I got it from Pearl’s Place for under $400.

  • Kerry

    I’m having a dress with sleeves made through Dolly Couture! It’ll probably turn out to be something like this, but with 1/2 or 3/4 length sleeves:

    SO glad sleeves are coming back into style!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Those are wonderful

    • MTM

      I got this dress for my wedding and loved it! Dolly Couture was great to work with and the dress was super comfortable (the lace is lined enough that you can even wear a regular nude bra with it).

  • Stephanie

    This is great, but a real challenge would be dresses you can wear a bra (not strapless) with. Half of these have lace sleeves so you still can’t hide the straps.

    • TeaforTwo

      That was important to me, too. A few things:

      1. This is basically the only use I can think of for those clear sticky rubber straps that come with strapless bras sometimes. They’re not fooling anybody under a tank top (WHAT WHAT THE NINETIES) but under a lace shoulder you would never see the strap.

      2. #modest or #lds is how you’re going to find dresses you can wear with a bra. I’m neither modest nor Mormon, but I am getting married in December, and wanted sleeves and a normal bra. One of the best things that I have learned from pinterest is that there is a whole world of Mormon/modest fashion blogs out there, whose clothes are almost guaranteed to be bra-friendly. (And the non-wedding stuff is always office-appropriate, too. Woohoo!)

    • meg

      Ah, well. As we noted, you can’t take dresses as is! It’s super easy to get the sleeves lined, which you need to do anyway if you need a modest dress. But you can also do for bra-wearing. The whole modest board is dresses picked so after a visit to your local seamstress you can wear them with garments. And garments are FAR more demanding than a bra.

      • Rachel

        What are garments?

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Garments are special undergarments worn by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). The Mormons also have rules about what can be worn in their temples (requires sleeves; I know that).

          I’m glad Meg clarified that’s what APW means here by “modest.” I went to an evangelical school grades 5-12, then a Catholic high school, and the word is rather fraught for me after 12 years dealing with dress codes “to maintain modesty.”

    • meg

      Also, LOTS of the short dresses are bra friendly. In short. There are a lot of bra friendly dresses, with and without lining, here.

    • MTM

      See my comment above about the Avila Bay Dolly Couture Dress — the lace was lined enough that I could wear a regular bra. Good luck!

  • Lindsey d.

    Yes! I’m redoing my grandmother’s dress and removing the full length sleeves, but replacing them with lined, lace covered cap sleeves. I’m okay with my arms on display but absolutely DID NOT WANT strapless.

    • mimi

      I did the same thing. My fabulous seamstress turned my full-length lace sleeves into cap sleeves for me. I liked the dress on my grandma and my mom with sleeves, but the dress was too big for me all over and I thought the sleeves may be too hot for my August wedding.

  • anon

    Have been thinking about buying the Alice by Temperley dress from Revolve for weeks . . . was going to wait but figured I better snap it up since I saw it here!

  • Angry Feminist Bitch

    YES, YES, YES!

    That is all.

  • Jenny

    This was my wedding dress! It had sleeves AND pockets! Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

    I also own this dress (not really sleeves, but you can wear a bra with in) in another pattern and I love it.

  • I wore a dress with cap sleeves and LOVED it – didn’t have to readjust, didn’t feel too exposed in a chapel:

  • Trinity

    A quick note about the Posey (Watters) dress–for this petite (5’3″, 120lb.) girl, it required SO MANY ALTERATIONS (hem, torso, sleeves, even the collar). The only thing my tailor didn’t touch was the zipper. So it went from being $340 to being almost $600.

    But in the end it was really pretty and fit me wonderfully, so it was worth it.

  • Amanda

    I was adamant that I would wear a long-sleeved dress for my wedding. Vancouver, BC does not offer ANY off-the-rack long sleeves (trust me, I looked everywhere possible). So I had mine custom made with the fabrics I wanted (lace, raw silk & silk velvet) at about $1500, including materials. Pretty decent considering the sleeveless dresses in my price range were mostly polyester… It is SO worth researching dressmakers in your area, especially if they come recommended by friends.

    Anyway, here’s our wedding blog with various pictures of my long-sleeve beauty :) Enjoy!

    • TeaforTwo

      OMG your dress is gorgeous!

      • Amanda

        Thank you :)

    • Caroline

      You’re dress is so beautiful! I have a question. I love long lace sleeves but I worry about being able to move my arms. Was that a problem?

      • Amanda

        Thanks so much :)

        It was a little restrictive, yes. It depends though on #1. If you want almost skin tight fitted sleeves (like me) or looser sleeves and #2. If you want real lace or synthetic. Mine was made with real Italian lace with no stretch (French lace is the same). You have the option though of using a polyester/ synthetic blend that has some give. I love the expensive look of real lace (showed up beautifully in pictures and in person) so I used it but, in doing so, lost flexibility. We didn’t have dancing and my dress was backless, so the only discomfort I had was the ability to lift my arms over my head without pulling. Not a big deal IMO. If you want a tighter look to the sleeve than mine and don’t mind the synthetic blend lace, go for it!

        Good luck! I hope it turns out lovely :)

  • Meredith

    I just got my dress, I’m totally in love with it, and it has sleeves too!

    Agree that I didn’t realize it would be so hard to find a dress that’s not strapless. I’m running into the exact same problem with bridesmaids dresses. One of my bridesmaids finally did find one with sleeves (JCrew) and everyone was swooning over it!

    • Maddie

      I want to see that on a real bride, because hot damn it looks sexy.

    • JSKelly

      I have been staring at that dress for months (in my pre-engaged state). Is it as gorgeous in person?

  • Jessie

    During my dress shopping days, I *desperately* wanted a dress with sleeves. I actually found tons of beautiful options on designer websites, but the problem was that no stores actually carried any of those dress styles, even if they had tons of samples from the same designer. We even contacted stores in advance of visiting to see if they could order something in, but no luck. My requests for sleeves were met with furrowed brows and the suggestion that, “you could just wear this lace bolero and it looks exactly the same.”

    After lots of looking, I finally ended up with a sleeveless, but still pretty covered-up, dress ( To all the ladies still on the hunt, my thoughts go out to you!

    • Amanda

      YES to only having online dresses as options (it sucks because you never know exactly how things will fit or if they’ll look good on you) and YES to rudeness at bridal stores. I didn’t want to buy super expensive sleeveless dresses (think $2500 min) with custom added sleeves without having tried them on first or boleros (not at all wanted). 90% looked at me like I was crazy for wanting sleeves.


    You guys rock, I’ve been fantasizing about a wedding dress with sleeves for ages!

  • Amanda
  • Caroline

    Thank you. I’m searching for a long waisted, full length, ethereal ballgown-y twirly dress. It is so impossible to find. Seriously, I have seen exactly one non-slinky dress with straps (no sleeves) and the waist hit halfway between empire and my actual waist (not flattering). It is so hard to find a dress with sleeves, and the dress ladies and my mom and sis want me to get a strapless and just add a bolero or a custom bolero like peice sewn to the dress. Is it really that hard to sew some higher necklines and sleeves? I see them online but not in stores.

    • KC

      To be honest, yes, it is harder to fit with sleeves, because instead of basically having a tube that has to be taken in at various places to accommodate curves, you also have to have the shoulder length, neck, arm hole positioning, etc. all go correctly enough to not gap but also to allow movement. (think about how hard it is to get a button-up-the-front shirt that fits correctly without gapping or pulling or hanging weird anywhere, and then think of doing that in bridal materials with a full wedding dress below…)

      This is not a *good* excuse, really, since it just means slightly more alterations might be needed and alterations are already pretty normal when getting a bridal dress. But from bridal shop perspective, it’s a lot easier to clip strapless dresses on “to fit” and have them look more or less “right” in the mirror from the front (enabling the “oh, it’s my perfect dress!” moment) than it is to make dresses-with-armholes-in-one-size look like they could work, before alterations.

      (Says she who made her own dress specifically so she could wear her favorite comfy bra underneath it, although I didn’t include sleeves. And making my stupid arm-hole not gappy without any elastic materials was a mild challenge – but I could see it being a major challenge if mass-producing, since no one’s breasts are exactly the same or at exactly the same height to the shoulders, etc.)

  • Mallory

    Another beautiful option:

    I found it to be actually more beautiful in person. The lace is gorgeous and the little details on it really make it.

    • ElisabethJoanne


  • I was adamant that I wanted a wedding dress with sleeves – I rarely wear anything strapless and am always uncomfortable when I do. The dress I ended up wearing is here:

    This one was initially my dream dress, but I couldn’t find one that I could afford:

    I ended up in love with the dress I wore, but the “dream dress” was the first dress that made me realize that having a besleeved wedding dress wouldn’t mean having to settle for something frumpy, or something that looked like it had stumbled out of David’s Bridal circa 1985.

  • Rebecca

    I spent a lot of time looking for a dress with sleeves and a covered back that I could wear a regular bra with. I ended up buying a knee-length sleeveless white crocheted lace dress on clearance at Dress Barn ($35!). Super cute and I can wear a regular bra, but since it is sleeveless and has a fairly deep V in the back, I’ll likely end up wearing a shrug, bolero, sweater, jacket… something with 1/2 or 3/4 sleeves to cover my insecurities and my back tattoo.

  • Itsy Bitsy

    This is amazing! My requirements when I started dress shopping were: not strapless, not satin, not ball-gown. This has proven a bit difficult on a budget… But these options are beautiful! Love.

    Not to nit-pick (because, see above, this list is great) but in the “long-long” list, #4 in the picture is the BHLDN gown and #5 is from Watters. (I only noticed because I covet that BHLDN dress. Sigh.)

  • LBD

    Ugh, I’m still mad that in February 2011 I couldn’t even find a dress with STRAPS, much less sleeves. Like, not even an option on something I hated, not a one stocked in the store. I found a sleeveless dress I was happy with, but it’s not what I had imagined or truly wanted. It seems there are a few more dresses with at least straps now, if the boutique I frequently walk by in my neighborhood is any indication (I can’t resist a peek at the large window display). Not-a-one when I went there over two years ago. I had just wanted some cap sleeves or a v-neck with wide straps kind of thing! I am apparently still pissed about this.

  • Kate
  • Sarah

    You should check out Saja dresses as well – some have sleeves, and almost none fit the sleeveless poofy ballgown look. I’m thrilled with mine, and love the different sleeved options they have.

  • fermi

    Speaking of sleeves, did anyone see Kelly Clarkson’s wedding dress-long sleeves!

  • Kelly

    First time poster here! I’m getting married in January and really wanted sleeves or at least something sheer to cover my arms (I didn’t want to look freezing in a strapless gown). After I bought a strapless gown off the rack waaaay under my budget, I was so torn up about not sticking to my guns and finding sleeves (I really had trouble finding them in more standard shops).

    So I ended up buying a bolero to cover my arms. Here’s the thing: it looks like it’s a part of dress. It’s soft and lacy and just divine. It’s a perfect compromise to wanting my sleeves covered, but not wanting to restrict arm movements while dancing (I’ll take it off during the reception, and voila two different looks too!). My bolero was on the pricier side ($250), but I found options down to $50. AND I think it would be really pretty cheap to just make a bolero out of tulle or silk than make a whole dress. It’s an option if you want sleeves but can’t find the exact dress you want. It turned my blah strapless dress into an entirely different look!

    It doesn’t really look like this, but you’ll get the idea.

  • Cat B

    Back again to say, is my new best friend. Sleeves, willing to work with me to tweak the dress into my dream, and for me, affordable. Done! Can’t wait to report back with a finished dress! With 3/4 sleeves, and a swirly skirt! (Which was my problem, lots of pretty sleeves with tight skirts.)

    This is my new favorite website, and I’ll be reading it as long as you wonderful people keep writing! Thank you!

  • Pippa

    Oh, so glad this is a round-up. I hate strapless dresses, and how they are worn by everyone! I’ve always wanted a dress with sleeves after my mum got married in a drop-dead gorgeous long-sleeved dress with a cowl neck. Alas, reality had other plans. I SWEAT like a drug mule at customs, like, all the time so had to settle for cap sleeves (although almost daily I think, what if..?) But wedding dresses with sleeves will always have a special place in my heart <3

  • Lovely style of wearing a dress having long sleeves, quite interesting as i have never heard of it before. Nice collection and beautiful designs.

  • KayDee

    This is fantastic! I am dying to find a dress with sleeves for our date in May.

    Now if only I could find a PLUS size dress with sleeves, I will be one happy camper.

    I have considered a dressmaker from Etsy, so if anyone has any good experience with any dressmakers (dressilyme looks so far so good) I’d love to hear more about that.

    I thought APW was going to do a whole post on best plus size guide, but maybe that’s coming in the new launch?

    But I love this post, it gives me so much hope!

  • Liz

    I just got married 3 weeks ago and Long Sleeves Modest Dress #3 was my dress!! We got married at the courthouse and it was just so so perfect. I’m sooo glad I chose it. Also, as a pear-ish shaped person, it made me look super skinny, which is always good but especially when you’re being photographed all day long!

  • Wedding is such a very special moments in everyone life. Thanks for shearing information about Bridal Gown Alterations

  • Kelly

    You picked some really nice dress styles! I don’t wear dresses very often but this has inspired me to be a little more outgoing with them! http://Www.ShopSavee.Com

  • PurpleHeather

    I’m totally with you on this one! I don’t want a floor length, strapless white meringue. While I’m getting married in white, I want a tea length gown with a wildly coloured petticoat, so that it expresses some of my personality. I also need straps/sleeves, as there is no way I can go bra-less, and I’m not squeezing myself into uncomfortable undergarments on a day when I want to feel relaxed and happy.

    I’ve found this site over here in the UK – – who do affordable tea length wedding dresses with straps, so I think they are a good alternative.

  • Amber Dawn

    Oh my goodness! Thank you thank you thank you! I’m so happy to see people that highlight — and prefer! — wedding dresses with sleeves! I’m getting married in May, and it’s going to be a religious ceremony where I have to have a dress with sleeves. Not to mention I prefer sleeves in general and would worry about a strapless dress falling off of me (LOL!). So again, thank you for the showcase!

  • This unique wedding dresses really got some awesome style.

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