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The Power of Statement Sleeves - Finding the Right One

The Power of Statement Sleeves - Finding the Right One

Sleeves.  I've always been obsessed with them.   To me, the sleeves or lack of sleeves on a garment can make or break the entire look.  Cristobal Balenciaga was one of the most brilliant fashion designers of all time, and sleeves were definitely the strongest examples of his design mastery.  He, of all people, understood the importance of the sleeve.


Balenciaga Sleeves - The first five are by Irving Penn, then Henry Clarke, and Hiro Wakabayashi

This year, sleeves are the defining fashion statement and there have been some incredible examples in every runway show. From balloon sleeves to Elizabethan sleeves, modern day designers are finally rediscovering the beauty of the sleeve!  Just in time because I was starting to get bored with the same sleeve or lack of sleeves on every garment. 


Ronald Van der Kemp and Jean Paul Gaultier couture


Valentino Couture


Giambattista Valli Couture


Maison Martin Margiela and Dior Couture

But the statement sleeve is by no means a new concept, from fashion's earliest history, it's obvious that the sleeve played an important role in defining the decade's style. Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England certainly understood the powerful role a sleeve could play on the throne.  Before the 20th century, it was the royal family of each nation that set fashion trends for the rest of the country.  

Queen Elizabeth I of England DressQueen Elizabeth Sleeves Dress

Queen Elizabeth statement sleeves from the 16th Century

17th Century Sleeves

18th Century Sleeve Detail

So, since it looks like the sleeve isn't going away any time soon, we thought we would share some of our favorite Dressing Vintage pieces with sleeves that make just the right statement from every era of the 20th century!  If you are wondering which one will work for you, try to think more about what you feel the most comfortable wearing - dramatic pieces, oversized, slim fitting, etc. and no matter what style you decide to wear, you can find an incredible sleeve to go with it.

Subtle with a hint of romance:

1920's Vintage Beaded Dress with leg of mutton sleeves

1920s vintage dress leg of mutton sleeves

1920's blue velvet vintage dress with leg of mutton sleeves

Vintage Chanel Adaptation 1930s Dress1930s Vintage Dress Shirred Sleeve

A Chanel Adaptation rare 1930's Vintage Dress and a 1930's blue velvet dress with shirred sleeves

Strong and defining:

1940s Jean Andre vintage dressPhilip Hulitar 1950s Vintage Dress Green Satin

Two 1940's dresses with structured sleeves Jean Andre vintage black dress and a 1950's Philip Hulitar vintage green satin dress

Elegant and glamorous:

Vintage Victoria Royal Beaded Silk Evening Coat Fur CuffsVintage sequin sweater white mink cuffs

1960's Victoria Royal Evening ensemble and 1960's beaded cardigan with white mink cuffs

 Free Spirited Chic

George Stavropoulos vintage silk evening outfitBill Blass Vintage dress 1970s statement sleeves

A George Stavropoulos vintage evening ensemble with batwing sleeves and a Bill Blass 1970's vintage silk dress with angel sleeves.

Sophisticated Drama:


A French hand painted rayon vintage 1980's dress with batwing sleeves and a Lilli Diamond black dress with fringed batwing sleeves 

Fearless with a sense of humor:


1980's statement sleeves from Tadashi, Lillie Rubin and Victor Costa

Casual but extraordinary:

Norma Kamali vintage clothing statement sleeves

Norma Kamali vintage pieces with statement sleeves

Sophisticated but unique:

Claude Montana Vintage Top Shirt BlouseArmani-vintage-sweaterYSL Yves Saint Laurent Vintage Dress

1980's and 1990's examples from Claude Montana, Giorgio Armani and Yves Saint Laurent.

So this year, whether it is a leg of mutton, butterfly, princess, batwing, balloon or bishop sleeve, find something with a sleeve worth wearing that best represents your personality!  Don't be afraid to try something new, after all, if statement sleeves mattered to Balenciaga and Queen Elizabeth, we might want to give them a try!


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1 comment

  • Allison

    I love your new site! I really want that black dress with the batwing sleeves for a party in December! I’m also glad that sleeves are back!!

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