THE AGE OF EXTREME SUPER SLEEVES

If you are a fervent fashion follower like me, then you know that extreme super sleeves have been trending since 2018 and at each of the recent 2020 fashion week shows.

This reminded me that in our pattern drafting archives, we feature how to draft several of these gems, like the Leg o’ Mutton, the Extended 2-piece, the Princess Puff Short Sleeve, the Darted & Extended Sleeve Cap, and several others like the petal, the bell, the bishop, the short puff and short flare. Click on the links to catch a preview of our newest sleeve lessons and how each sleeve is drafted.

 

HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF THE PUFF SLEEVE

If you follow my blog and social media channels then you know that I absolutely love fashion history, which is why I am always happy to provide insight and background whenever I can about a particular fashion trend, detail or event. In fact, my book, the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry, Second Edition, is a treasure trove of info if you love reading about the history of our industry. I invite you to check it out.

History has taught us that fashion cycles come and go. Skirt hems rise and fall, pants go from skinny to full, silhouettes from fitted to sack, and frilly looks to androgynous.

Today’s fashion cycle is bringing back the ‘shoulder’. What better way to do it, other than with shoulder pads, is with the puff sleeve!

Thinking about how the puff sleeve and the broad shoulder gained popularity over time, I decided to explore it’s rise and fall throughout history, beginning in the Renaissance.

Renaissance 1450-1600

With the rise of culture, style, art and architecture developed during the Renaissance, the sleeve became a prominent fashion statement. Fun fact: did you know that dresses in the Renaissance consisted of detachable sleeves that were given by the groom to their new wife? And that sleeves were also be passed down from mother to daughter, aunt to niece, or even be rented?

Italian artist Agnolo Bronzino – A Young Woman and Her Little Boy, circa 1540


Elizabethan Era 1558-1603

Inspired by the very stylish Queen Victoria, a variety of puffed sleeve styles dominated fashion during her reign and continued on and off, inspiring trend cycles for years to come.

Elizabeth I Armada Portrait


Victorian Era 1837-1900

Typical of the middle 1890s was the puff and the ‘leg o’ mutton’ sleeve (named because it resembled a mutton leg). Dresses included tight bodices and back bustles.

Victorian Era (Source: flickr.com)

 

Edwardian Era 1890 – 1914

The Edwardian era revolved around the ‘S’ curve, where corsets created an S-shaped female silhouette. This was a change from the Victorian hourglass figure, but with more lavish sleeves, as depicted below, which were interlined with layers of organza to help keep their shape.

1894 from La Mode Illustree (Source: histporicalswewing.com)

Suffragette/Abolitionist Susan B. Anthony circa 1900 (Source: crfashionbook.com)


1930s & 1940s

The 1930s saw a departure from the body-skimming silhouettes of the 20s. Gilbert Adrian, designer to the stars, brought back huge puff sleeves in the 30s and broad-shouldered suits for women in the 40s.

Joan Crawford, “Letty Lynton” 1932. Laura Loveday. (Source: Flickr.com)

Gilbert Adrian 1940 (Source: Pinterest)


1980s

Fast forward to the 1980s when the shoulder once again took center stage. One of the best examples was Princess Diana’s famous wedding dress and its leg o’ mutton sleeves. And, in ‘88 when Lagerfeld (for Chanel’) created a new take on the puff sleeve by dropping the shoulder.

Wedding of Princess Diana to Charles Prince of Wales July 29, 1981

Chanel 1988 (Source: Getty Images for crfashionbook.com)

 

2005

Decades worth of body conscious fashion would dominate before we would see the rebirth of the puff sleeve, however, this time in the form of Steampunk, which was basically a re-interpretation of Victorian fashion.

Steampunk puff sleeve look by Atomic Jane Clothing


2018 – 2020

The latest sightings of puff sleeves to enter the fashion cycle began in 2018, and ever since designers have been flirting with them. However, this season they went full boar and they’ve been reimagined in some of the newest and most voluminous versions.

Miu Miu Fall 2020; Alexander McQueen Fall 2020; Fendi Fall 2020; Paco Rabanne Fall 2020; Gabriela Hearst Fall 2020; Rodarte Fall 2020 (Source: GoRunway.com)

The timing is perfect, since no one has had this trend in their closet for decades. And so, it’s the perfect ‘bait’ to lure all fashionistas into the stores. Or, better yet, view our sleeve tutorials and make your own extreme-sleeved garment!

Come on…aren’t you sick and tired of living in your athleisurewear since the pandemic began?  

Sign-up for our newsletter

Join our newsletter to receive updates on future blog posts, special deals, and new lessons. Also visit the main webpage to check out all of our video lessons.

Francesca Sterlacci

Francesca Sterlacci is the CEO of University of Fashion (UoF) which she founded in 2008 as the first online fashion video library bringing the art and craft of fashion design and business to schools, libraries, organizations and the general public. As owner of her eponymous label for ten years, her collection sold in fine stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Barneys and Nordstrom. As a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology for 11 years, she became Chair of the Fashion Design Department where she initiated the complete revision of their AAS and BFA degree programs, as well as wrote three certificate programs: Leather Fashion Design, Outerwear and Haute Couture. Francesca has also taught graduate level fashion design at the Academy of Art University San Francisco for six years, both on site and online. Her publishing accomplishments include: Leather Apparel Design, the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (First and Second Editions), the A-Z of the Fashion Industry, Leather Fashion Design and a 3-volume beginner series on Draping, Pattern Making and Sewing designed to complement the UoF lessons. She has also made literary contributions to both the Encyclopedia of Clothing & Fashion and You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Women. Francesca holds an AAS, BA and an MSEd (master’s degree in higher education).