Fashion is an ever changing world. For as much as it changes, trends and styles always come back again. The sleeves of an article of clothing make an impact on the overall look. Check out all the different sleeve styles available and how they impact your outfit.
You might think there is not much to know about a sleeve. It is a long, short, or mid sleeve length on your arm. Some sleeves are way too tight, while others may be a little loose. What else is there to know?
There is a great deal more to know about sleeves than you could have imagined. The more you know about sleeves, the easier it may be for you to find a top that fits you best. Check out this article and open yourself up to a whole new world of sleeves.
- Sleeve Categories
- Types of Sleeves
- Short Sleeve
- Long Sleeve
- Angel Sleeve
- Bell Sleeve
- Raglan Sleeve
- Kimono Sleeve
- Petal Sleeve / Tulip Sleeve
- Puff Sleeve
- Butterfly Sleeve
- Dolman Sleeve / Batwing Sleeve
- Cap Sleeve
- Extended Cap Sleeve
- Cape Sleeve
- Peasant Sleeve
- Slashed Sleeve
- Mutton Sleeve
- Tailored Sleeve
- Hanging Sleeve
- Lantern Sleeve
- Flutter Sleeve / Circle Sleeve
- Frill Sleeve / Flute Sleeve
- Balloon Sleeve
- Shoulder Sleeve
- Juliet Sleeve
- Bishop Sleeve
- Marmaluke Sleeve / Virago Sleeve
- Melon Sleeve
Sleeves have a practical purpose, which is to cover the arm and shoulder. Sleeves either protect them from the sun or keep them warm, depending on the weather. Sleeves are stylish and give your top a specific type of look. They can help to provide structure to the article of clothing.
These sleeves are added to the bodice of the piece. They are joined at the seams and have to match up with the armhole to make sure it fits properly.
One Piece (Attached) Sleeves
These sleeves are part of the design and pattern of the article of clothing. The seams of this type of sleeve run down the length of the arm.
Types of Sleeves
Some sleeves look much better on a specific type of clothing or a particular design. Some sleeves look better on some body types than others. You probably never imagined how many different types of sleeves there are.
This is a more generic type that refers to any type of sleeve that does not go past the elbow. It can be any length from barely extended past the shoulder to elbow length. It can come in many variations, from plain to gathered to circular.
This is also a generic term that refers to a sleeve that starts at the shoulder and goes all the way down to the wrist. It can be a variety of fits and styles. It is most often worn when the weather is colder, of you want a sleeve that covers your arm.
These sleeves are flared and resemble the wings of an angel. They are flowy sleeves that provide a large amount of comfort. This is a set-in sleeve. The sleeve starts at the armhole and hangs loosely at the shoulder. It flows to the wrist in a wide asymmetrical shape.
These sleeves are often lace or sheer and ideal for summer clothing. You will see these on robes and gowns. These sleeves give the outfit a touch of charm while remaining attractive. They can be on fancy evening wear or more casual daily wear.
There are two different styles of bell sleeves, short ones, and long ones.
Short Bell Sleeves
You may see short bell sleeves more often on dresses. They do not have pleats or sheers. These bell sleeves are flared at the bottom and usually go to your elbow. Even though these sleeves were popular in the Medieval ages, they are still trendy today. A dress will bell sleeves can make your arm look very attractive.
Long Bell Sleeves
Long bell sleeves flare out to the wrist, and the sleeve looks like a bell, hence the name. You may hear them called trumpet sleeves. They give clothing a soft or bohemian look. These sleeves are set-in and give your arms room to breathe. Their airiness makes them ideal for casual clothes. They are comfortable and affordable.
The raglan sleeve is a common one that you will often find on t-shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts. These sleeves have the distinct look of a seam that runs diagonally from the shoulder to the armhole. This is a comfortable sleeve that fits almost everyone well. This is often seen on a baseball shirt, and in many cases, the sleeves have a color that contrasts the shirt’s color. The raglan sleeve has a wider area in the underarm to give extra space for layering. You can also move easily in a top with raglan sleeves.
The kimono sleeve is modeled after the traditional dress of Japan. This sleeve gives a sense of tradition and style to your outfit. The sleeves are wide and loose. They also feel comfortable.
Short Kimono Sleeve
This sleeve is cut under the shoulder. You may see them cut vertically. This cut limits the amount of fabric that is used. If they are cut horizontally, the sleeves have a more flowy look to them. The horizontally cut sleeve may make shoulders look bigger than they are.
Long Kimono Sleeve
These sleeves go below the wrist and have a soft feel and beautiful look.
Petal Sleeve / Tulip Sleeve
The petal sleeve became fashionable in the 1940s and is still an eye-catching sleeve. This sleeve is short and only has one seam. It resembles the look of tulip petals, hence the name. The petal sleeve is sewn to the armhole with a special technique that creates an overlapping pattern on your arm. There is no underarm seam. This style sleeve is used on dresses and blouses. In most cases, the edges of the sleeve have a trim of contrasting color to draw attention to them.
A puff sleeve can be short or a little longer, but it is gathered at the top and/or by the hem. The gathers of the sleeve create the puffed look in the middle. They may be referred to as gigot sleeves. The puff sleeve can have many variations.
It may be fitted at the bottom of the sleeve and gathered at the armhole. It can be gathered at the bottom of the sleeve with a cuff, ribbon, or drawstring. The latter is called a Drawstring Puff Sleeve. This set-in style sleeve gives your outfit a traditional look. This style sleeve is often found on a girl’s dress.
This is a type of puffed sleeve. This sleeve has a puff closer to the top of the sleeve. It is looser as you get to the hem of the sleeve. It does not have a cuff sleeve.
Dolman Sleeve / Batwing Sleeve
The dolman sleeve and batwing sleeve are sometimes used interchangeably. This is a conventional style sleeve. It has become incredibly popular in the fashion world. This sleeve style looks like a batwing. The armhole is deeper than most armholes. The sleeve may go down to the waist area.
The wrist of the sleeve tends to be tapered. These sleeves are helpful in making your waist look slimmer. This sleeve can be of varying lengths. They are attached, so there are no seams. They tend to use a large amount of fabric when making these sleeves. This can give your clothes a vintage look.
Cap sleeves are a short-sleeve style. These sleeves are incredibly short. It covers your shoulder and not much else. It is like a fitted cap for your shoulder. This is a set-in-style sleeve. As the sleeve moves underneath your arm, it becomes more tapered.
These are comfortable sleeves that work with casual or slightly fancier style clothes. This is a flattering style sleeve. This is usually a separate piece of material that is added to the bodice to create a sleeve.
Extended Cap Sleeve
This is exactly like a cap sleeve, but it has a slight extension at the end of the sleeve.
This is a short sleeve that resembles a bell sleeve. It does not go down to the elbow. It is sometimes called a Capelet sleeve. The end of the sleeve is flared. When looking at this sleeve from the back, it looks like a cape but drapes more in the front. They are a set-in style that gives your arms plenty of space to breathe.
They are comfortable and stylish. These sleeves are most often found on jumpsuits, but you will see them on dresses and blouses.
The peasant sleeve has a name that is steeped in tradition. This sleeve is usually on a piece of clothing that is simple. This set-in sleeve is often long but can be short. These sleeves are soft and loose. They are puffed and gathered at the bottom with a cuff. Sometimes this sleeve has an off-the-shoulder look. They give the outfit a modest and bohemian look. This style is mostly on casual types of clothing.
This style of sleeve is unique and mostly found on denim jackets. The slashed sleeve has cuts or slits in it that are horizontal. These slashes allow you to see the skin, or sometimes a different material underneath. The slashes often have edges, and the material looks frayed or stringy.
This sleeve has many variations of its name. It might be called Leg-o-mutton sleeve, Mutton Leg Sleeve, or Leg of the Mutton Sleeve. The mutton style first made an appearance in the 1820s. It has wider fabric at the top by the elbow. It resembles a leg of mutton and why it has its name. It makes the top of your arm seem bigger, but then it tapers as it moves from your elbow to your wrist.
The sleeve can look triangular. It gives your outfit a classy look and is more often found on dresses and gowns. Some mutton sleeves have a touch of frills added to the bottom of them.
The tailored sleeve is two pieces and often has seams down the back and front. It does not usually have seams under the arm. This gives the sleeve a distinct shape and is often found on a suit.
This sleeve may also be called an Open Sleeve or a Slit Sleeve. They all have the same concept but show it in a slightly different way. A part of your arm is exposed with this type of sleeve. It is a long sleeve that hangs down, and it open at some part.
The slit, or opening, can be bold or subtle with a small slit, or the entire sleeve can be open. This can create a dramatic look, especially when contrasting colors or fabrics are used. This is often a casual summery look.
The lantern sleeve is a set-in style often created with an outfit that has a drop shoulder. This can be a long sleeve or a short sleeve. While it is most often a long sleeve, you may even see it at 3/4 length.
The lantern sleeve has two sections. The top section flares out from the top of the sleeve and goes down towards the wrist. The bottom section flares up from the wrist to join the flare from the top. They meet close to the elbow, depending on the length of the sleeve, and have a seam where they meet.
These sleeves have more volume at the top and give a slim arms shape. The short lantern sleeve is ideal for those with narrow shoulders because this look gives more bulk. This is a popular and fashionable style. You will often see this style on dresses and jackets.
Flutter Sleeve / Circle Sleeve
The terms flutter sleeves and circle, or circular sleeves are used interchangeably but may not always look the same. Both of these sleeves have a feminine appearance to them. They are both full and have a flare.
The circle sleeve may have more of a circle at the end because of the way it is cut. It falls a little softer, and the wider the circle means, the more flow it will have. These sleeves can have more volume depending on how layered and gathered they are.
They can be varying lengths and may not fall into a typical length. These sleeves are ideal for summer clothes and dresses. They flatter an outfit when joined with a bodice that is fitted.
Frill Sleeve / Flute Sleeve
The frill sleeve is also called the flute sleeve or the ruffled sleeve. It adds volume and layering. There can be a few variations of this type of sleeve.
The top of the sleeve is ruffled or gathered, but it could be a light-gathering to give it a more feminine look.
Most often, the type of fabric used determines how much gathering this is on the sleeve. These sleeves can appear bolder and big, or softer and flowing.
A variation of this style is to have a frill attached to the end of the sleeve hem, typically at the elbow. The frill attachment can be an umbrella frill, which is a cut that is used on skirts. It may also be a flared frill, which is a more toned-down frill.
This sleeve has a unique look. It is often padded and resembles a balloon. It is typically a long sleeve shirt, and it is full throughout the entire length of the sleeve. It is often gathered at the top and has a cuff at the bottom. It makes the arm appear full.
There are many different types of shoulder sleeves. They all look different from each other and have their own name. Since they have the word shoulder in them, they could be easily interchanged, even though they should not be.
Off The Shoulder Sleeve
This is a sleeve that exposes your entire shoulder. It is more often found in summer clothes but could be used for a dress or gown. The off the shoulder sleeve sits below your shoulder bone. The sleeve itself can be of varying lengths. The key piece of this sleeve is that your entire shoulder is exposed. This is used in peasant-style dresses with elastic at the neckline.
Cold Shoulder Sleeve
This is another sleeve that is an off-the-shoulder style. The sleeve hangs from the bodice at the sides instead of from the top. This leaves an opening for the top of the shoulder to be exposed. The top of the part of your arm is also exposed with this sleeve type. These sleeves often have a cutout in a specific shape, such as an oval or moon.
Drop Shoulder Sleeves
This is another shoulder sleeve, but it does not expose the shoulder like the ones above do. This sleeve style is one where the armpiece extends beyond the shoulder. It makes the sleeve oversized and super comfy.
This is a casual look that is comfortable and fun to wear. This makes the sleeve popular among women. This style is often found in sweaters, t-shirts, and clothing designed for activity. You will also see this sleeve on shift dresses.
The Juliet sleeve closely resembles the mutton sleeve. The main difference is the Juliet sleeve has two parts. The top of the sleeve is full and gathered. The Juliet style is attached to the lower part of the sleeve, which is fitted. This style sleeve comes from medieval times, where it was a traditional style.
These sleeves are often buttons on the bottom fitted part of the sleeve. This is often found on wedding dresses.
The bishop sleeve is a trendy and fashionable style. This is a long sleeve style. It is a set-in sleeve that is gathered by your wrist. It often has a slit, cuff, or button at the wrist. The sleeve itself has some fullness to it, but that is based primarily on the type of cuff. It may have elastic at the wrist. Clothing with this sleeve has a classy but not stuffy look.
Marmaluke Sleeve / Virago Sleeve
The virago sleeve is also called a marmaluke sleeve. This is a vintage-style sleeve and incredibly unique. This style is straight out of 1700 Western Europe. These sleeves are full and have a sectioned, paned look. The sleeves have several puffs through the length of the sleeve. There are about five full puffy sections. There are often embroidered stripes on the sleeve.
Source: Simply Dresses
The melon sleeve is a popular sleeve for clothes that have a goth flair to them. This is also a vintage-style look. This sleeve is a short sleeve and a set-in style. The sleeve is gathered directly above the elbow, which gives it a puffy look. The melon sleeve has a full look. It is rounded at the shoulder, continuing toward the elbow, which ends in a band or cuff. This sleeve is often seen on blouses and dresses.