A sleeve by any name…may just work!

While it is true that in modern clothing, there may be some variations, it, nonetheless, does not compare to the copious amounts seen in gowns from the past century.  Whenever I am planning my next gown, one of the areas that I will carefully considered are the sleeves.  Sometimes I decided based on the fabric, sometimes the shape of the bodice, or the length of the train, but the accurately chosen sleeve can really complete a look.

When choosing and creating a sleeve there are three simple rules to keep in mind:

1. Make sure the shoulder seam is dropped a few inches than what today’s clothing would view as normal.

2. Make sure to NOT have a tight sleeve.  While some styles may be narrow around the arm, you do not want it stretched over your bicep.  Think graceful and flowing at all times!

3.  The sleeves (just like everything else ) should be designed to show off the waist….whatever size you are.

Here are several examples of the most popular styles of sleeves from the late 1850’s-18’60’s.  Since this is my area of expertise, I began here…however please comment below if you would like me to focus on other time periods!

The Coat Sleeve

Called so due to its close fitting nature.  I use this often on gowns that are designed for more active movements.  Remember #2 when creating this sleeve.


The Bishop Sleeve

Easiest sleeve to make in my opinion, and goes with so many styles.  Full sleeve is gathered into shoulder and than into a cuff.


The Pagoda Sleeve

Very lovely and perfect for afternoon gowns.  This is one of my most requested looks as it gives a phenomenal profile.  It features a wide open sleeve that can end as high as the elbow  or down to the wrist.  It is proper to wear with an under sleeve.




These are the three most common…but of course, there are some lovely examples of gowns where the designer became creative!


I hope this has been helpful, and will guide you to your next perfect sleeve!

Leave a Reply