Non-offensive statement sleeves
I confess that I haven’t taken to the statement sleeve in the same way that most designers have—that is with unfettered abandon and a zeal for an excessive amount of things happening between the area from the shoulder seam to the sleeve opening. Its most popular versions have been pleated at the top of the armhole and gathered at the sleeve openings, angular and wide like a kimono or ruffled in unthinkable ways. All of which is understandable. Certainly, the skimpy minimal “going out tops” of the early oughts were collectively due for a re-boot.
The rules of proportion have historically encouraged us to choose either a dramatic top or bottom, never both, lest we care to induce the dizzying side effects of overindulging in say, vegan chocolate cupcakes. Impossible Conversations, an exhibition at The Met around 2012 delved deep into this dichotomy and subsequent synergy between ensembles that are either top focused or bottom focused with designs from Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.
Schiaparelli favored emphasizing a woman’s top— with yes, sleeves, but also built up shoulders and insect/heart/sword/rickrack embellishments that adorned the neckline and waists while Prada’s designs feature bottoms as focal point using many of the same embellishing and pattern cutting techniques.
Personally, I’ve found myself in team Prada’s camp opting for stream lined simplicity of a clean and well fitted top combined with the play and diversity of a bottom when designing or dressing myself generally.
But personal preferences aside, statement sleeves do present an opportunity for striking design details. I’ve found this bevy to be among the most tasteful iterations. They still pack a punch of understated drama without going overboard.