The Evolution: Puffed Sleeves

The Evolution: Puffed Sleeves

The puffed sleeve is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries yet its allure has continued to captivate fashionistas through time. Even before Queen Victoria popularized this style of sleeve,  this trend was making waves and has since evolved from bigger and bolder to subtle and light. We have written about many trends before – one coming to mind is our sassy clapback to millenials, which you can read here – but this one pretty much takes the cake as the longest running trend. We are talking hundreds of years. Let that sink in. The interest in the puffed sleeve lies in the sheer power you can feel strutting down the street (or in the grocery store) wearing a power move top. Even if you modestly dress the puffed sleeve, or if you're pulling a frumpy, faux-puff, your dominance is still present. These sought-after tops can slim you out and add umph. Who doesn’t love that! We’ve seen our fair share of modern “mutton legs” and although we don’t like ours limp we still have love for the trend.



Puffed sleeves made their way to the mainstream outskirts in the Renaissance Era. This actually makes sense since this era is seen as one of much discovery and culture. Everything was a little more lavish during this period compared to the middle ages. Art, politics and fashion were favored. We won’t go too much in detail but a lot of new fashion tactics were being used to create these lavish dresses. During this time, sleeves were an important part of society, often passed down through generations and given to brides as wedding gifts from spouses. They were kind of hideous tho. They were supper bunched, dense looking and overall not really flattering, paired with the elaborate dresses that they wore in that period. Although many styles are considered “puffed” they are not recognizable to the styles we see today.  

Victorian + Edwardian Era 1837 - 1914

This was the era that catapulted this style of clothing into the limelight and coined the term “Mutton Leg,” due to its resemblance. Each fashion hub around the world had a different approach to the same trend so check out some of those crafting differences in the images, for example italy.  Also, can you take a look at the ads of this era. So happy we are moving away from this mentality. Yea, we are the shaping aspect of this style, who don't want to look their best, but we don’t promote the Kardashian corset controversies. Yeesh. The Edwardian Era is from 1890 - 1914 and although this is a short lived time, this period of puffed sleeve is by far the most interesting. The sleeves are bigger and the waists are smaller, the effect is very eye catching. To hold their shape, sleeves were lined with layers of organza - that sounds… Itchy. Anyone remember Anne’s dream of having a dress with puffed sleeves?” Yes yes. We talked about the Gibson girl a few times in our blogs, and she reappears again wearing a bunched arm coat in a v-cut. Remember if she wears it, it's a must. We are seeing something similar to our modern day tops, minus the mutinous color schemes. The latest fashion trend of modern history is this. 

1930s and 40s: 

Well if you read our blog about power suits then you already know this era of clothing was a lot more freeform on the mainstream fashion forefront then previous years. Women still wore dresses but they were less restrictive and chic. 

1980s - Now

Many have deemed the 80s as a tragic decade in fashion history but we think this era gave birth to every lasting trend we see today. Each year something is recycled from this prime time and it gets better each year. Puffed sleeves in the 80s, are for the most part disastrous. I’m looking at you dynasty! It is one thing to have puffed sleeves on a gown from the 1800s that looks like carpet and weighs as much, but adding puffed sleeves to alien-esque holographic fabric, sequined and paired with that 80s hair is just overbearing. The 80s is filled with way too many patterns, fabric types and just excessive to the max. The 90s bore some resemblance to the previous decade but the aoughts did not see such a reverence for the trend. By 2018 tho the heat was back as runways flocked to their stylists and designers, begging for muttons once again. 

The runways still serve as a big inspo when it comes to trendy and chic looks so it's no surprise that balloon sleeves are hot right now. Miu Mui and Alexander McQueen, among other brands, really played with this style up. Read below for some ways you can wear this lasting trend. 

How to wear the puffed sleeve

  1. Go Simple! Make your puffed sleeve the bold part of your outfit and pair with a simple skirt or jean combo. 
  2. We always say this when it comes to fashion, but knowing your body type and shape will aid your search for any piece of clothes. If you need a little help on where to get started visit our blog here. Now if you have a short neck, a bigger bust and want to add some upper depth make sure to find that puffed sleeve top with an open slit. 
  3. For the petite chested ladies anything with a cinch is going to work for you. The great thing about puffed sleeves is that you don’t have to worry about competition. Your sleeves can literally be as wide and big as you want. 
  4. For ladies who are fearless then show your wild side with the sheer puffed sleeve top, or for the ultimate level of fun, a dress. You have to possess a certain level of confidence for this one but try it! You might have fun.
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