The big sleeve style trend is spreading like a virus
The trend for fluted sleeves from the elbow down is not going anywhere
Lisa Hahnbueck at Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018. Photograph: Getty
They may get in the way of eating soup, catch on door handles and knock over wine glasses, but there is no getting away from fluted sleeves, a trend which has spread like a virus through the high street and beyond this season.
Every brand from Asos, M&S and Primark to Whistles, Finery and even Peter O Brien here at home have featured a more elaborate finish from the elbow down. Blouses, shirts or dresses – even coats – are veering away from the standard cuff, creating attention around the lower arm.
It’s another way of making the mundane look modern and exciting interest. “It’s a long time since anything has happened in the sleeve department”, says Peter O Brien, “but fashion is cyclical and it just looks right, now”.
The cold shoulders of summer have given way to these flouncy affairs, some styles far more extravagant than others whatever their practical disadvantages.
It makes for what’s called a “statement” look and for those who gesticulate a lot the bell sleeve adds drama to any exchange and focuses attention on the expressive hand in much the same way that bell bottomed trousers draws the eye downwards to the flare.
Summer’s kimono trend kept cuff width narrow and wearable for everyday rather than ornamental use; puff and leg o’mutton sleeves did something similar in Victorian days, drawing attention to a tiny waist and curvaceous silhouette, a subtle indication that you didn’t dig ditches.
You need to pay attention to where the flutes gather volume; do they cover the hand? Leave a space for the wrist? Are they three quarters or full length? They can look great flaring out from under a narrow sleeved jacket giving some fashion oomph to an otherwise everyday look.
A fluted top with jeans or slim trousers elevates a familiar combo in the same way. The more elaborate and extreme belong to fashion victims and attention seekers, the more subtle and sophisticated have the visual drama to make arm candy that is sweet and easy to digest. “My flared sleeves are made in double layers of fabric – a sculptural shape – so they are not floppy and won’t droop into things or get in the way”, says O Brien. “And they add a little quelque chose....” So why not take a flutter on a flute this winter?