NEW YORK (AP) – Forget hemlines. Forget necklines. The shift in silhouette this fashion season is the sleeve.
It’s true, those things that cover your arms that you probably give very little thought can freshen your look for fall.
Imagine the possibilities: a delicate bell sleeve on a sheer crepe blouse that creates a fairylike image; a dolman sleeve that comes out from the middle of the bodice and helps you spread your wings; or a sleeve with an oversized cuff that you can picture on satin blouses of the 1970s at Studio 54.
Sleeve treatments are important in many designer collections for fall, including Proenza Schouler, Narcisco Rodriguez, Anne Klein and Nicole Miller.
After seeing all the runway shows, Michael Fink, senior fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, declared a shirt with a lantern sleeve, which puffs out just before it’s closed tightly at the bottom, as one of the must-have items.
“I’m very excited about the sleeve. I’m a fan of the sleeve,” says stylist Nicole Chavez, who works with young Hollywood starlets including Rachel Bilson and Jaime King.
But she’ll be careful when dressing clients not to make them cartoonish imitators of the runway, where models sometimes had three or four layers of tops. The key to the look is proportion, she says.
“Big sleeves go with sleek, high-waisted trousers so you’re not overwhelmed in fabric, or you wear a belt, something that will give you some shape, or a pencil skirt,” Chavez says. “I’m 5’3 and I’m still able to work that sleeve if I cinch in my waist.”
This isn’t only a workday look, though.
Designer Pamella Roland, who specializes in eveningwear, says that many of her customers are demanding sleeves on their gowns and dresses. More people than you think including younger customers _ are insecure about the appearance of their arms, she says, and as we head into cooler weather, sleeves also make sense.
“As a designer, sleeves are not easy. It can be difficult to make them sexy,” she says. “Sometimes we embellish them or do a cut out, and we do a lot of the illusion sleeve. It still looks sexy and bare, but it’s covered. Otherwise women will cover up with a shawl.”
Another trick is to cut a slit right down the middle of a long sleeve. “The top is covered and that’s what people want, but you can still see skin,” she says.
The dramatic dolman also works well in eveningwear, according to Roland, and lace or stiffer fabrics, such as taffeta, make a sleeve special.
Nicole Phelps, executive editor of Style.com, says the interest in sleeves might be an extention of the 1940s mood of the polished clothes dominating retail racks. The ’40s, she says, were when women started wearing a very strong shoulder, and a strong shoulder is commanding.
“There is a lot of experimenting from the shoulder on down,” Phelps observes. “We’re playing with sleeve length and billowing shapes that are big at the shoulder with tapering down to the wrists.”
For a more “downtown girl,” Chavez suggests wearing a striped henley or a bright-colored long sleeve shirt under one with shorter sleeves.
Hand-in-hand (so to speak) with the sleeve trend are elbow-length gloves. Chavez thinks gloves are a complementary item to the sleeves and they’re practical, too.
If you’re wearing unconventional sleeves you might find it hard to wear a traditional coat, leaving Chavez to suggest a cape, which is unlikely to keep you quite as warm. Also, there are a lot of coat styles being shown with bracelet sleeves that hit above the wrist (hence the name, you can see your bracelets), but again that leaves more exposure to the elements.
Chavez picks a pair of Burberry studded gloves as her favorites because they look great with tweed.
“Gloves are going to be huge! You’ll see short hand ones but mostly operas,” she says. “They go underneath the sleeve and the coat and I think it looks fantastic.”