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Item of the week: the puff sleeve

By Rachel Douglass

Jul 27, 2022

Fashion

(From left) Image: Na-kd, Ted Baker, Madewell

What it is:

The puff sleeve trend has made its round through fashion over the last few years, returning thanks to designers regularly experimenting with the distinct sleeve look. Occasionally called ‘Juliet sleeves’ or ‘mutton sleeves’, the style is often defined by a gathered shoulder and hem, causing a ballooned silhouette in the centre. The puff sleeve’s current presence is often linked to the ongoing ‘Regencycore’ trend, as made popular by Netflix series Bridgerton, in which characters sport decadent regal outfits complete with corsets and full skirts. It has also allowed brands and designers to experiment with silhouettes, giving them a unique shape to play with and generating fascinating results.

Image: Karl Lagerfeld

Why you’ll want it:

The puff sleeve allows shoppers to add an elevated element to their outfit with minimal effort. Its connection to the aforementioned Regencycore trend has also put it in the spotlight, especially on social media, allowing it to take off and become a fashion-forward wardrobe staple for young consumers. Its simplicity gives customers the option to play with their look, in a style that works both formally and casually. Brands are also experimenting with the design, meaning there is a wider variety of iterations available for alternate customer groups each looking to get in on this highly popular trend. The technique can be used for anything ranging from blouses to dresses, each offering different outfit options and opportunities, depending on customer requirements.

Image: United Colors of Benetton

Where we’ve seen it:

For her AW22 collection, Simone Rocha stuck to her typically vintage-inspired aesthetic, with a series of dresses that utilised the puffed sleeve technique, either in velvets or organzas. Similarly, Zimmermann also opted to draw inspiration from eras past, with looks that bore resemblance to the flower-power movement of the 60s. Floral dresses and blouses, many with dramatic flares, were further exaggerated through over puffed shoulder silhouettes. In contrast, Christian Siriano modernised the technique through the use of varying materials for a collection of regal gowns. The look was most notably achieved for one dress made in a stiff, plastic-like material that helped create a more emphasised structure. David Koma also offered up an alternative puff sleeve option in a shoulderless mini dress for which the sleeves appeared further down in the arm in an oversized puffed shape.

Image: Stella McCartney

How to style it:

In keeping with the Regencycore trend, take some tips from the costume designs of Bridgerton. Pair a puff sleeve blouse with a flowing maxi skirt and heels for an elevated evening look, or modernise the trend with an oversized puff sleeve dress elongated with over-the-knee boots and simple accessories. For effortless day attire, add a blouse to jeans or edge it up with leather-look trousers for an easy-to-throw-on option. For outerwear, the design can be worn with just about any coat or jacket, but the real effect is in the piece itself, so make sure not to cover it up too much and miss the puff sleeve’s appeal.

Image: Ted Baker

Linked to current social media trends and making big moves on runways internationally, the puff sleeve is a popular design that is both elevated and effortless. It's a perfect piece for summer days or simple evening looks, requiring little work and appealing to a wide customer base.

Image: Na-kd

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