Your definitive guide on how to wear all the sleeve lengths
Look smart with this newfound sleeve knowledge, because you deserve it
Oh sleeves, we overlook them so easily, often only paying attention to them when we are directed a question towards it. And in that moment, it’s too late… Because your friend has fired a question on that particular sleeve top you two spotted from a distance and you’re panicking internally. You don’t want to admit that you’re not in the know because reputation man.
You vaguely cough up an answer that is relevant for both and phew, you averted this one. Fingers crossed till the next attack, huh. We feel you ladies, so we’ve decided to compile a definitive guide to all the sleeves that are oh-so-common and quintessential. Now you can confidently rock any conversation and hold your head up high, cheers!
Cold shoulder sleeve
A cold shoulder? We don’t want no cold shoulder from anyone. Except that this actually refers to tops that have a cut-out shoulder sleeve, where the cut-outs exposes your skin. Cold shoulders are super on trend right now and try as you may to avoid them, chances are, you’re going to cave in if not already done so.
Cold shoulder sleeves are so versatile! When on a satin gown it gives an added ethereal look, when on an embroidered or casual top, it adds quirk to the overall outfit. Amazing, we know, and since the details are on the shoulder, keep the outfit simple without chunky arm accessories.
Cape?! Not a superhero cape though we shamelessly wish we were superheroes sometimes. A cape sleeve basically drapes over the shoulder, sometimes with slit sleeves, other times it just remains like a cape. So you can really channel your little red riding hood vibes with a cape cardigan / jacket draped over your outfit. Not your thing? Then go straight for the cape top or blazer, giving you a dramatic look that remains classy.
Alice + Olivia, Merrie satin trimmed crepe cape, $537 from Net-a-porter
Okay all these out-of-the-world names for sleeves, but trust me it gets better and it’s pretty literal right? Batwing, which suggests that it resembles a bat’s wing, where the sleeves are loosely connected to the waistline, with a deep armhole. A good way to pair a batwing sleeve top would be to wear it with jeans. If the top is simple, put on a pair of embroidered or ripped jeans for that extra character.
Have you seen a kimono before? They’re so pretty and so… structured. We wish we had monthly festivals like they do in Japan, so we could put on a kimono and strut down the streets with enthusiasm.
So yes that, adapted to casual everyday wear, it becomes a loose structured sleeve with a slightly flared end, all of which promises comfort in style. We absolutely love the kimono sleeve because of it’s ability to elevate a normal t shirt into something more chic. Now now, don’t you ever belittle the power of sleeves. Want to rock this? The trend right now is to wear a thin kimono wrap over the usual outfit but we love this adorable playsuit that would be great for a picnic date!
The cap sleeve would be a genuine teaser if it was an animate object, the kind that takes a little peek at you and just disappears. Why? Because it’s a sleeve that extends for a really short distance, ending in a tapered manner to nothing under the arm. The cap sleeves are great on dresses, especially for work because it adds a formal and elegant touch to it. So, it can be your go-to for client meetings or that high class dinner date.
Temperley London, Leo off the shoulder embroidered lace midi dress, $1,129 from Net-a-porter
Hmm, so an off shoulder sleeve top usually has an elastic band that allows the top to cling unto your upper arms tightly as with the last moments when Jack was holding unto Rose before he finally drowned in Titanic. But of a less tragic sort, these sort of sleeves are so sexy because you get to parade your collar bones strong and proud. Or that healthy tan you got over the weekend. Here are some suggestions on the off shoulder – go for the super bohemian look with off shoulder floral top and denim shorts, or be wedding ready with off shoulder midi dresses!
One shoulder sleeve
One shoulder sleeves are tops that hang only one shoulder (duh) and they are pretty sleek, you know, the whole coy invitation by revealing only one shoulder. That, will totally leave one hanging and we are absolutely sorry for the horrible puns. But hey, go for a jumpsuit that will make you luncheon-ready, or a cute frock for that casual date you have this coming weekend.
Johanna Ortiz, Marmara one shoulder ruffled printed silk jumpsuit, $1,875 from Net-a-porter
Just in case, a long sleeve top stretches over the arms, usually ending near the wrists. Hence the name, but don’t let the description bore you. Simply because there are just so many variations of long sleeve tops, like mesh, fishnet, lace etc. We love this quirky fishnet long sleeve top from Monki, especially when paired with a cute shift dress and black sneakers!
Monki, Fishnet mesh long sleeve top, $42.23 from ASOS
Remember when bell bottom jeans were a thing? Transfer that onto a sleeve and you’ve got a bell sleeve top where the sleeves are flared outwards, giving a va va voom look depending on how flared you like it to be because the world is really your oyster. Choose a smaller flare if you are going for a more subtle look. If not, amp it all the way up and be a showstopper, like this incredibly chic bell and puffed up top from Style Mafia! Guess who’s going to be a real stylish mafia in this?
Style Mafia, Gloria Belle Sleeve Top, $179.48 from ASOS
The perfect my-guitarist-boyfriend-tee look, a raglan sleeve extends fully to the collar with a diagonal seam from the underarm to the collarbone, giving the undefined and relaxed look. Don’t you just mostly see these sort of tops on acoustic guitar players who are usually starving artists, or sk8er boi? So if you’ve always dreamed to be the girlfriend of said person, put on an oversized one with some ripped skinny jeans. Or simply put it on because it’s comfortable, obviously.
Vans Off The Wall, Logo oversized raglan t-shirt, $63.35 from ASOS
Frilly or ruffled sleeves refers to any tops that ends with folded layers, it is full and flowy, incredibly pretty and feminine. A must have as a staple in your wardrobe is a frill / ruffle top that can be paired with just anything in the world. Just like this ruffled top from McQ, it can be worn with al skirt, jeans, pants, shorts, anything, you just gotta name it!
McQ Alexander McQueen, Ruffled broderie anglaise cotton trimmed crepe top, $401 from Net-a-porter
Just stay with us for now, we know you might be rolling your eyes back from our explanation of a short sleeve top but hey, it’s called a definitive guide for a reason. So, back to the main point, a short sleeve is one that cuts midway along the upper arm and we love the laid-back casual look a plain white tee has to offer. Tuck it into a nice tulle skirt and you’re ready for your date!
T by Alexander Wang, Classic slub jersey t-shirt, $89 from Net-a-porter
We really don’t know how else we can say this but… a sleeveless top is a top without a sleeve. The more you know! Anyway, we recommend a sleeveless blazer, which will add that extra elegance and attitude to your outfit.
Millie Mackintosh, York Sleeveless Blazer, $187.92 from ASOS