In New York, London, Milan and Paris, the news was the same: the statement sleeves trend was going to be one of the biggest of the Spring Summer collections. It began in earnest in 2016, when Gucci featured bell sleeve tops in its Spring Summer show.
By 2016, the trend had taken off and Tibi, Simone Rocha, Saint Laurent, and Loewe were just a few of the houses that explored the statement sleeves trend in their runway shows. This flurry of attention saw some incredible statement sleeves outfits, featuring not just tops, but dresses as well. Here are four of the best ways to flirt with the trend.
Bell-sleeves as casual wear
The statement sleeves trend was recently revived by way of princess sleeves and bell sleeves, featuring in number of collections including Alexander McQueen and Gucci. Embellished, indulgent, and billowing with luxuriant fabric, princess sleeves look as though they were ripped directly from the Disney costume collection. In spite of their royal connotation, these sleeves make for a great casual look, embellishing an otherwise dressed-down, laid-back outfit.
For inspiration, check out the selection of tops from Gucci. The brand have demonstrated a fondness for both princess sleeve and bell sleeve tops, with some of Gucci’s recent decadent offerings being a unique extrapolation on the look. With enormous sheer sleeves billowing dreamily around the waist attracting the eye, Gucci’s catwalk stylist created contrast within the look by pairing the top with a figure hugging pant. This creates a focus within the look, allowing the sleeves to speak for themselves, rather than be drowned out by volume.
Statement sleeves tops aren’t all about dreamy silhouettes and indulgent fabric. Houses like Maison Margiela have taken the exact opposite route, designing versions that play with classic workwear designs like the white oxford shirt, embellished with enormous, lumbering cuffs. It’s a great look for the creative professional, combining excellent design with a dash of workplace conservatism. The length of the cuffs drags the centre of the top downwards, so it’s best worn as it was on the runway with a skinny trouser that accentuates the wearer’s height. This counterbalances the cuff’s length, creating a lean boardroom-ready look.
Another way to get the look is to shop around for a classic white shirt with French cuffs and simply wear the shirt with the cuffs undone. Comme des Garçons shirts are the perfect example here. The brand has an impressive range of shirts for this purpose – you could even choose from the house’s men’s shirts, styling the extra fabric and bulk into a dressed-down, Sunday brunch look.
Statement sleeves as evening wear
Wear statement sleeves tops as part of a great evening wear outfit. Indeed, much of the development of the trend has been in evening wear in the form of cocktail dresses and sleek tops, giving plenty of style inspiration, no matter what the event. One look that has had a lot of paparazzi attention, being spotted adoring several of Hollywood’s bright young things, is the statement sleeve crop top. Iterations of this style by Ellery borrow liberally from classic Spanish flamenco dresses, which had sleeves made of ruffles of fabric that tumbled to the floor. The contrast here is in the sparse, minimalist design of the top’s body against the indulgent folds of fabric on its sleeves. Paired with cropped trousers, it’s a great, minimalist evening wear look, embellished with a single, arresting detail.
Houses like Simone Rocha create statement sleeve outfits for events that are a little less club and a little more cocktail. Cut from dark, brooding material, the house’s evening wear looks branch out in a completely different direction to statement sleeve tops. Whereas those looks were all about contrast, Simone Rocha’s evening wear looks are styled to completely lose the wearer in ruffles of statement fabric. The sleeves here are part of a statement outfit that billows and sways with dreamlike ease – the exact antithesis of minimalism, the look is designed to completely immerse all who wear it.
Contrasting textures and clashing patterns
One of the persistent statement sleeve trends from more established houses like Saint Laurent was the propensity to use the sleeve to clash patterns. Saint Laurent’s bell sleeve dress was cut from busy gingham pattern layered over itself – the rigid lines of the pattern appeared to twist, contort and spring off in all directions – creating a fiendishly busy effect and appearing to make straight lines bend. The outfit just shows what contrast it’s possible to create even within a single pattern. An unrepentant statement look, Saint Laurent’s statement dress would be perfect for events like the races or a springtime wedding.
London-based house Rejina Pyo stamped its mark on the statement sleeve trend with elegant tailored blouses in a fluted, almost denim-like material. The subtle design is perfect for wearing under a tailored jumper, contrasting the two textures – such dramatic sleeves are a perfect way to add some punch to this otherwise classic look.
With such a rich cornucopia of styles to choose from– and indeed, new offerings cropping up all the time – it’s clear that the trend has plenty of gas in the tank. With ever more houses proffering their own take on the trend, the statement sleeve appears to have a long and exciting history ahead of it.