It is almost exactly one year ago to the day that I wrote a blog post entitled “Customer Watch: When Long Sleeves Are Not Right,” commenting upon an article by Plum Sykes in the October 2008 issue of Vogue. In the article, Sykes extolled what she deemed the perfect sleeve: long and close-fitting: “I am very specific about what kind of sleeve counts as chic,” she opined, emphasizing that the sleeve must not be loose or “flappy.” “The perfect sleeve sits in a tiny armhole, thereby making one’s shoulder look smaller, and hugs the entire length of the arm like a glove.”
In citing examples of her perfect sleeve, Sykes inexplicably directed the reader to emulate the sleeve style of designer Carolina Herrera, among other fashionistas. As I pointed out in my blog, however, Herrera’s signature style does not incorporate long sleeves hugging the length of her arms. Her favored style is to push up the cuffs on her blouses, a detail incorporated even into her designs of wedding gowns. This look gives volume to the arms and adds a bit of insouciance to a look – and is something quite different from a long, close-fitting sleeve. As between the two choices of sleeves, Herrera’s look is much more flattering to all but the leanest of physiques. Tight sleeves are uncomfortable and unflattering both to athletically developed arms and to soft, rounded ones.
In any case, styles have changed. Small shoulders are very much last-year’s trend, as strong shoulders reminiscent of the 1980s are back in style [see my post “Trend Watch: The Return of Strong Shoulders” from June, 2009] although, as might be expected, they are certainly not a universal feature on garments. Sleeves are back, perhaps in part a practical seasonal adaptation of the sleeveless dresses popular over the spring and summer. Vogue magazine, in this year’s October issue, again takes up the cause of sleeves and announces that long sleeves are essential: “The key length this season has nothing to do with hemlines and everything to do with sleeves, going long on boldly printed dresses.”
As a bracelet lover, with this pronouncement about the “key length” of the season, I worried that the bracelet-favoring three-quarter and otherwise cropped sleeves of the last few seasons are to be superseded by decidedly less bracelet-friendly styles.
I had nothing to fear. Inexplicably, the illustrations accompanying the article are of dresses with all manner of sleeve designs, but none of them are long sleeves as Sykes would describe them. Presumably Vogue is now using the term “long sleeves” simply to mean sleeves that are not short. Nevertheless, the dresses are lovely, the prints are absolutely luscious, and each look is finished with eye-catching jewelry.
The sleeve styles shown are:
• Cuffed three-quarter-length sleeves on a blouse worn under a short-sleeved dress, both by Jonathan Saunders, with a pair of bracelets by Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere and a Dolce & Gabbana watch necklace. Notice the interesting watch face charms on the necklace.
• Leg-o’-mutton style three-quarter-length sleeves on a peekaboo dress with lace bandeau and a pair of bracelets, all by Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere.
• Ruched bracelet-length sleeves on a dress by Diane von Furstenberg shown with a shell necklace by Dolce & Gabbana (an unusual motif for autumn).
• Loose and flappy bracelet-length sleeves, not tapered, on a pair of Dries Van Noten silk dresses, one accessorized with a Dolce & Gabbana watch necklace; the other, with a Jonathan Saunders bracelet.
• Three-quarter-length sleeves on dresses by 3.1 Phillip Lim and Elie Tahari, the sleeves on the latter dress banded. Both models are wearing Dolce & Gabbana bracelets and watch necklaces.
• Bat-wing sleeves, bracelet-length, with cuffs on a Marc Jacobs dress worn with a Dolce & Gabbana watch necklace and an enormous ring by Solange Azagury-Partridge.
Every one of the sleeve styles can be beautifully accessorized with a bracelet or two.
Of course, if sleeves do return to full-length, narrow styles that hug the arm and extend all the way to the break of the wrist at the top of the hand, bracelet lovers need not despair. As illustrated in the September 2009 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, one can always wear one’s favorite bracelets right over the sleeves.