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SS17 Trend: It's a sleeve thing

Sandra Halliday
25 October 2016

If you had to choose one area to really focus on for SS17 what would it be? Well, if you want to follow the world’s top fashion labels, it’ll be the sleeve. You couldn’t move for OTT statement sleeves on the runways last month as leg of mutton met trumpet and ultra volume came trimmed with frills, drawstrings and a host of other details.

It all offered up a great way to update last season’s dresses and tops but also underlined the fact that the blouse or shirt is a key item - no, make that THE key item - for office to off-duty, occasion to festival next spring/summer.

But of course, it’s not just blouses that are getting the sleeve treatment. Dresses, jackets and knits do too, all drawing inspiration from the Tudors, the French Revolution, the Victorians, the Edwardians, the kimono and a whole lot more. What it all means is that it’s not so much the specific detail or silhouette that counts but the very fact that there’s some kind of detail or unusual silhouette. A classic-cut sleeve with a basic cuff just won't do.

What it also means is that ironing in boards and steamers are going to be working overtime. While that might be seen as one of those factors that could hold the trend back, at high street level the sheer silks and crisp cottons will be translated into synthetics giving these sleeves easy wash ’n’ wear appeal.

So what are the options?

Power puffs


Dries Van Noten, Simon Rocha, Simon Rocha, Dolce & Gabbana, Christophe Lemaire, Erdem, Erdem

The puff sleeve references retro, ultra-feminine themes, from the late 18th century through Alice in Wonderland to late 60s/early 70s babydoll styling. A shoulder-focused detail on a longer sleeve or a short sleeve that’s perfect for warmer days, it works in soft, sheer silks and cottons as well as stiffer organzas, poplin and even gabardine where it can be seen as an outerwear option.

Top tier

top-tier sleeves

Preen, Dolce & Gabbana, Erdem, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Michael Kors, JW Anderson, Preen, No 21

The tiered and (usually) frilled sleeve is a star item in itself for SS17 and is ultra-versatile from the conservatively pretty to the quirky, the exotic and the downright surprising. Layer rows of deep or tiny frills for a look that makes you want to shake your maracas. Combine the frills with unexpected contrasts like a Fred Perry-style top or a long-sleeved tee. Or take a tip from the Tudors with tiers that are gently puffed and slashed.

Shoulder shift


DSquared2, DSquared2, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Isabel Marant, Gucci, Marc Jacobs

Are designers fully committed to the 80s-style larger shoulder. Or are they holding back from Krystle Carrington shoulder pads but testing the water with Alexis Colby shaping and gathering? It looks that way. The statement sleeve gathered into a leg of mutton silhouette or at least an exaggerated puff was big news on the runways. And while some preferred to cut their tops wide with no hint of gathering, shoulder pads were still kept under control. The jury remains out on whether the shoulder focus will turn into a full-blown 80s trend and designers this time were certainly hedging their bets.

Trumpet blast


Valentino, Tory Burch, Sachin & Babi, Karen Walker, Adam Lippes, Alice & Olivia, Loewe

Trumpet sleeves curve outwards from a narrow upper arm, are wider, kimono-style, down the full length, while other feature a classic slim sleeve with a frilled and flared ‘cuff’. It’s a silhouette that works in soft gathered silks and stiffer cottons as well as knits and jersey - in its simplest form. Think of it as a long-sleeved T-shirt update in its most simple form. Or use it to move on a basic sweater shape.

Cuff stuff


Chloe, Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Topshop Unique, Gucci, Burberry, JW Anderson

The longer cuffed sleeve is soft, fluid and gathered. Some are ultra full statement sleeves that demand to be seen (and couldn’t be hidden under a jacket without being crushed beyond all recognition even if you wanted to). Cuffs can be simple and classic (as long as the rest of the sleeve really makes an impact), loose bands that add to the feeling of fullness, simple drawstring vehicles, or deep and cut slim to emphasise the fullness further up. Experiment with crisper materials than we usually see for this sleeve type as well as the usual fluid silks.

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