Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Return (Again and Again) of Big Sleeves

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Isabella reporting,

One of my favorite small museums in NYC is the Museum at FIT. Their ever-changing fashion exhibitions are always beautiful and intriguing, and guaranteed to make me think even as I ooh and ahh. (Remember my post on their Eco-Fashion exhibition?)

Their current show is RetroSpective, running through November 16, 2013. It's a thoughtful look at how often fashion repeats itself, or perhaps more accurately, how often the same elements are re-imagined and reinvented. (The Life Magazine feature on 1930s hoopskirts that I recently mentioned is part of this exhibition.) See it if you can - FIT is only a few blocks from Penn Station, if you're in town for the day - but if you can't, here's the link to their on-line version of the show, featuring some of the highlight pieces.

According to the exhibition, one fashion element that keeps returning is the big, poufy sleeve. We've shared the big sleeves of the 1830s here and here on the blog before, but the look was hardly new then. From our Pinterest boards, here's an Italian Renaissance example from 1532, and another a hundred years later in 1635, worn by English Queen Henriette Marie.

The image, above, is from the FIT exhibition on-line, and the dresses are both from the FIT collection. Big sleeves like the ones on the green silk gown were first popular in the 1830s, contributing to an exaggerated, sloping shoulder-line. When big sleeves returned again in the 1890s with the name gigot, or leg-of-mutton sleeves, they were much more exuberant, as seen on the brown silk dress. But the style didn't end there. Two other examples in the exhibition are decidedly modern: an Yves Saint Laurent evening dress from 1980, and another by Caroline Herrera from 1981. Hmm...is it time for big sleeves to reappear again?

Above: Left: Two-piece dress, brown brocaded silk satin, jet, sequins, c. 1896, USA. Right: Afternoon dress, green silk satin, c. 1830, England. Both from Museum at FIT; photograph courtesy of Museum of FIT.

6 comments:

GSGreatEscaper said...

Time for big sleeves again? Frankly, it's time for sleeves. Period. Fashion's diktat that even winter clothes must be sleeveless is pretty $%^& stupid, especially in the Northern US where the winter temps can reach -40 F.

kipha said...

Yes, I think they're making a comeback. Aren't most clothing now days have been around before. Leggings, vintage, laces?? Hair teasing is still here too right?

Karen Anne said...

That purple and rust dress looks like it would make the wearer look 200 pounds heavier.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I have to admit that whenever I see big sleeves on a modern dress, I don't think "luxury and power" (as Caroline Herrera says) but "bad bridesmaid dress." But then again, if some designer can make it look new, I'd probably be as fast to jump on the bandwagon as anyone else. *g*

Isobel Carr said...

So, the 30s = big sleeves and the 80s = big butts. Interesting...

Cassidy said...

There's a Chanel wedding dress in the September issue of Vogue that absolutely has 1830s sleeves!

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