FF: Sleeves (the basics)

(I’m super-excited about the response to make. wear. love. so far. We have only around 10 spots left in the retreat as of this evening, so if you’d like in on this wonderful weekend please let me know soon! I’m really looking forward to summer and wouldn’t wish it away, of course… but now I’m really looking forward to the fall, too.)

This week in Fashion Friday, we’re going to take a quick look at sleeve length and how it changes an outfit. To illustrate the difference between the 4 basic sleeve lengths, I’ve chosen a pretty plain outfit–cardigan, over tank top and jeans. These were all taken seconds apart, with no retouching or tricks or anything.

The basic principle is this: In the average case, the eye will be drawn to the part of the body where the sleeve cuff ends. That part of the body will gain more prominence, visually speaking.

Let’s start with long sleeves first: They draw the eye down, to the legs.


Now, 3/4-length sleeves. They tend to end in-line with the hem of a top, and so paint a visual line around both the arms and the mid-hip.


Elbow sleeves draw the eye to the waist (real or manufactured with clever use of clothing).


Gold star to anyone who can predict where short sleeves draw the eye. (grin)


That’s right! Short sleeves are probably the most visually bust-enhancing thing going on.

There are lots of other things to keep in mind about sleeves, too–but we’ll save that for another week. For this week, just think: Where are your sleeves drawing the eye? Where would you like the eye drawn?

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My personal favorite sleeve length is a tie–I love both 3/4 and elbow-length sleeves, and wear them both frequently. Do you have a favorite?

12 thoughts on “FF: Sleeves (the basics)

  1. Elbow and 3/4 length. I have a long torso and short arms so it draws attention to my waist, which is my thinnest part. But I also just hate having sleeves around my wrists.

  2. I totally see what you’re saying, but (forgive me) do you live where it’s warm all the time or something? I cannot imagine wanting to wear a sweater that didn’t have full length sleeves. What is the point? I wear sweaters because it is cold for half the year and I like them because they keep me warm. When I want to wear shorter sleeves, I generally am not reaching for my sweaters and the extra layer they create. I see you talk about this all the time, and every time, this is the wall I run into. Please explain (sometime when you get a chance) how this works on a practical level. (And no, I don’t work in an office so I don’t have a corporate wardrobe where such a thing might be practical…though I’m just guessing that is the part I’m missing?)

  3. I love my 3/4 sleeves and now that I know they are the most flattering for me I love them even more. I am constantly pushing my sleeves up. My current sweater I will adapt to have 3/4 length sleeves.

  4. I like long sleeves for winter so that I can push them up to 3/4 but wear them down when I need to. I like 3/4 in summer.

  5. Though I’m proportional, I’m also very busty. This thing you’ve been talking about about short sleeves is a total relevation!

    I have become a recent fan (in the past couple years) of sleeves that are “trim” (hug the body) or perhaps flare out a bit at the wrist (slight bells). I like long sleeves and 3/4 sleeves, and will have to explore elbow length. I’ve also become more willing to wear sleeveless in public. Between being busty, working out a bit, and age, my upper arms aren’t the thing that magazines show us!

    I also like to wear a big funky bracelet on my left wrist. I figure it helps draw the eye away from my bust. I do like to show a hint of a waist (because I have one), but too much and I feel like it emphasizes the bust a bit more than I want. Though I am so happy I have stopped wearing tents.

  6. I personally prefer 3/4th sleeves and cant stand full sleeves. Hate elbow length.

  7. I tend to stick with either short-short sleeves or elbow-length. I am forever shoving up sleeves, and have been known to give away sweaters or long-sleeve t-shirts whose sleeves were too tight to shove. I like cap sleeves because I think they visually widen my shoulders – and conversely, I tend to avoid tank tops because they make my shoulders too narrow.

  8. Living where I do, long sleeves are the most practical. But, I find that I really like the extra warmth of that additional layer on my torso and throughout the course of the day find that I usually have my sleeves pushed up to my elbows anyways. I’ve also noticed that I don’t wear sweaters/shirts that lose their shape when I push them up. Very nice to know that it is the most flattering way for me to wear them. I’ll have to consider working that into the next sweater that I knit myself. 🙂

  9. Since I’ve been listening to your insights
    I plan on wearing elbow length sleeves more
    To emphasize my waist
    Even though I’m ‘proportional’
    My waist wants to be noticed
    Since I’ve lost a ‘few’ pounds
    Love your ideas, Amy

  10. Well, style-wise ellbow length would be best – BUT I have the same problem that was pointed out earlier: I easily get cold hands when my wrists are not covered, so I am not really feeling comfortable with those. I knitted an ellbow length cardigan (did not have more yarn) and ended up wearing wrist warmers /fingerless mitts with them.

  11. My observation is opposite to the first comment. I live in an area so warm that I rarely get to wear two layers, and I don’t like the faux two-layer look ready-to-wear. I LOVE the common sense of your clothing ideas, though, and maybe when I love even MORE pounds, I’ll be able to wear multiple layers without being so warm. And your blog is a great incentive. THANKS!

  12. […] I love seeing how Amy styles herself and why. Subtle tweaks make a huge difference. A post on sleeves was […]

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