Wrist Watch: When Sleeves Collide with Jewelry

There have been some curious things happening in the neighborhood of the wrist lately.

Over the last few seasons, elbow-length and three-quarter-length sleeves have become stylish again, accommodating wide cuffs, big watches and stacks of bracelets. We’ve become used to seeing an expanse of bare arm between a hand and the hem of a sleeve. This season, some designers, embracing these proportions, even introduced winter coats with elbow-length sleeves meant to be worn over warm sweaters or long gloves.

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Illustration: From the February 2010 issue of Lucky magazine, a three-quarter sleeve sweater coat worn with long cashmere gloves and a faux fur vest for extra warmth. The brooch, which dials up the look, is from R.J. Graziano.

Winter has arrived, and long-sleeved sweaters and wrist-covering gloves have once again become part of the equation for the most practical reason: Long sleeves feel warmer and ever so much cozier than shorter sleeve lengths.

And there’s another reason for sleeves to go longer. The article “Play Up Your Assets!” in the February 2010 issue of InStyle magazine suggests that, if you love your legs, you put the spotlight on them and take one additional style step: “Keep arms covered so they won’t compete for attention down below.” As I wrote in my post on February 4th on jewelry at the Grammy Awards, we saw the application of this strategy in the red carpet stylings of such celebs as Miley Cyrus and Heidi Klum.

As some recent magazine stylings demonstrate, covering up one’s lower arms and wrists does not require one to give up wearing one’s favorite bracelets and watches.

A close-fitting wrist accessory, such as a wristwatch, is traditionally worn under a sleeve of the garments with which it is worn and may peek out from under the sleeve. If the item of jewelry is narrow and of a low profile, such as a diamond line bracelet or tennis bracelet, it may be worn at the edge of a sleeve and not interfere with the garment. For larger and wider pieces, however, some style strategy becomes necessary.

One possibility is simply to push the sleeves up, if they are sufficiently soft and stretchy. Here is Sarah Jessica Parker pictured in the January 2010 issue of Glamour magazine, wearing a blazer with tight sleeves over a striped sweater, the sleeves of which might benefit by shortening, pushed up above a chunky wristwatch by Tag Heuer.

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When a sleeve is long and particularly when it covers the top of the hand, there is another practical solution if one wants to wear a substantial wristwatch or bracelet-that is to wear the watch or bracelet on top of the sleeve, as seen in this ensemble of dress and bracelet both by Dolce & Gabbana, from the January 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar (also shown in close-up):

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In the previous issue, December 2009, Bazaar pictured a collection of bracelets by Belmacz and Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel worn over the buttoned cuff of a blouse:

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Also from the December issue of Bazaar, here is another photo of bracelets worn over the cuff of a blouse, this one emerging from beneath the three-quarter length sleeves of a sweater. The bracelets are from Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz and Janis by Janis Savitt:

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Of course, this approach requires that the bracelet or strap of a wrist watch be large or long enough to fit around the extra bulk of the clothing. Here’s the perfect solution for those bracelets that are too large–so large that they slip over the hand or need to be positioned up near the elbow to be kept immobile on an arm.

What doesn’t work in mixing sleeves and bracelets is captured in the following illustrated attempt to gild the lily also from the December 2009 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. An elaborate and fragile blouse by Louis Vuitton blouse is shown worn with a metallic skirt and bow belt by Marc Jacobs and adorned with heavy jewelry. The crystal cuffs by Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz are shown worn close to the wrist, essentially under the long sleeves of the blouse. Of course, as you’ll see at the model’s right arm, the bracelets are completely obscured when she holds her arms down. Moreover, worn under the sleeve, the cuff pushes out against it, presenting the potential for damaging the blouse or snagging the sleeve on the detail of the bracelet.

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And then there’s the unrelated issue of the crystal-studded bead necklace worn over the delicate ruffled collar and pleated bodice of that $2,600+ designer blouse. I’m looking at all those prongs holding the crystals in place and feel compelled to comment. Is anyone cringing with me?