In fashion at the moment there is a lot of talk about voluminous, exaggerated or just embarrassingly gargantuan sleeves. This is not just a trend for the Spring/Summer 2016 season, but it will extend into the next Autumn and Winter.
There are quite a few garments with exaggerated leg o'mutton sleeves in J.W. Anderson's S/S 2016 collection, such as this top with a white and an ivory cream sleeve. The main inspiration for these sleeves is not modern, but comes from historical dress.
These particular sleeves in J.W. Anderson's design originate from the leg o'mutton sleeves, introduced in the mid-1890s.
These sleeves gradually grew in size each year until they disappeared in the early 1900s. If you go back in time, though, you will discover further interesting voluminous sleeves.
One display in the fashion section of the V&A Museum focuses for example on designs from the 1800s. One dummy wears a plain cotton petticoat (1820-30) with shoulder straps showing how the sleeves were built and anchored by inserting inside them cotton shoulder puffs filled with feathers (for more sleeves constructions and architectural comparisons, please check out this post).
The same display also features a wool day dress (1835-38) with a print of shamrocks on a lilac and brown chequered ground. This dress is characterised by a fitted bodice and a slightly high waistline.
The tightly pleated sleeves remain the most striking detail featured in this dress: the shape of these sleeves shows how around the 1830s, the puff of the full gigot sleeve (a very full style of sleeve that tapered to a narrow circumference at the wrist) started moving from the top of the arm to the elbow.
In the case of this dress, the fullness of the sleeves was reduced and the sleeves have stitch marks suggesting they were reworked from an earlier style to update the dress to the latest fashion. Tapes at the elbow held the fullness of the puff (stiffened with calico) in place, preventing the sleeve from sliding down the arm.
The most intriguing thing about this comparison between historical dresses and a modern design? Well, apart from the fact that the latter looks rather odd when it comes to the fit, J.W. Anderson's design also features sleeves in slightly different colours, almost a further link with the dummies you may see in a museum that show the internal and external construction of the sleeves (and therefore feature mismatched sleeves). Could this be the original inspiration for this rather ridiculous and ill-fitting modern design?
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