When it comes to fashion, knowing the specific words to describe silhouettes, cuts, textures, fabrics, lengths, etc… is just as important as knowing that black is a universal color.
That’s why adding some new fashion words to your dictionary will always come in handy.
16 Sleeve Types You Need to Try
If you’re a fashion geek, then this article is perfect for you! I’ll guide you through the most popular sleeve types while showing you different outfit ideas that will leave you inspired and ready to try them for yourself.
These sleeves have a diagonal seam that connects the underarm to the collarbone. They can be in any length, from short to long and can also be mixed with other types of sleeves because it’s not a silhouette but rather a type of seam.
Ranglan sleeves are often associated with vintage t-shirts, but you can find them in different stylish and modern designs.
But if you’re into a vintage style, few sleeve types can beat ranglan sleeves.
2. Cape sleeves
This sleeve style is self-explanatory: it literally has the shape of a cape. They can be described as an extension of regular sleeves, that go all the way down or/an above the chest, which is why cape sleeves are usually made with sheer light fabric.
They’ve gotten trendier thanks to high fashion tailoring designs, and you can often find them on blazers and structured dresses or tops.
3. Batwing sleeve
As you will notice, sleeve type names are really understandable. Batwing sleeves, for example, “recreate” the shape of bats’ wings when they fly, so whenever you raise your arms, your sleeves open thanks to their deep armhole.
You can also find them with long sleeves, which can give you a relaxed silhouette. They’re the complete opposite of a structured or padded shoulder top.
4. Butterfly sleeve
This one can be mistaken with a batwing sleeve because they create a similar silhouette when you raise your arms. The difference is that butterfly sleeves have a regular armhole but the sleeve opening is wide so the fabric hangs loosely from the shoulder.
They’re perfect for a cute and feminine look:
You can also find them with a slit opening as a variation:
5. Puffed sleeve
This is a typical sleeve type of the 80s and has become quite a trend among fashionistas. An extra amount of fabric is sewn at the top of the armhole, making a puffed effect that emphasizes the shoulders.
They can look vintage, cute or super bold, depending completely on the top/dress design.
6. Peasant sleeve
A peasant sleeve is kind of the opposite of a puffed sleeve because the volume is not at the shoulders, but rather at the bottom of the sleeves, next to the cuffs. This means that the sleeve opening, whether it’s a short or long sleeve, has an extra fabric that creates a puffed silhouette right next to the cuff.
This sleeve style is romantic and sweet and has become quite a trend, especially in tops and dresses.
You can add some edge to peasant sleeves with the right accessories:
7. Poet sleeve
This is another romantic looking sleeve type and can give us some Victorian vibe to our outfit. It has pleats from the shoulder to the arm opening, where it flares right above the hands.
Poet sleeves are usually long sleeves and are perfect for a bohemian or romantic outfit.
8. Padded shoulder sleeve
This sleeve type has another self-explanatory name: pads at the shoulder. They’re often associated with tailoring, but you can find them in dresses and blouses, which can make you look edgy and trendy.
These sleeves emphasize the shoulders and make you appear with an extra dose of glam and authority.
9. Bell sleeves
Bell sleeves recreate the silhouette of, obviously, bells, right at the arm opening where additional fabric flares creating one or several layers of “ruffles”. This sleeve style is usually either long or mid-length, in order to wear the flared opening comfortably.
It’s a popular sleeve type that’s best suited for a feminine and classic outfit.
10. Off-shoulder sleeves
These sleeves are probably one of the most popular styles to wear. Seasons have passed and we still can’t get enough of off-shoulder sleeve tops/dresses.
They are very feminine and flirty because they leave your shoulders exposed, and can also be merged with other sleeve styles. This one, for example, is a combination of off the shoulder style and poet sleeves:
11. Cold shoulder sleeve
The cold shoulder is a variation of the previous sleeve type with the plus of being much more comfortable because the sleeves hang with the shoulders and you can move comfortably without worrying your sleeves are going to come up, which is what happens with off shoulders.
You can find endless variations of cold shoulder tops and dresses, but all are equally trendy and stylish, so feel free to try different styles.
12. Cap sleeves
These sleeves can’t be considered short sleeves because they only cover right below the shoulder and nothing else. It’s a classic and timeless sleeve type you can’t go wrong with.
Capped sleeves are perfect for pear-shaped bodies because they add length to the shoulders, balancing their curvy and full hips.
13. Petal sleeves
These ones have a unique shape: you can see the two sleeve edges overlapped right at the top or at the front side of the armhole. They have a delicate look and are usually short sleeve length.
These may not be the trendiest sleeve type, but they’re perfect for timeless, feminine and sweet outfits.
14. Kimono sleeves
Kimono sleeves simulate those of, well, kimonos… The arm opening is super wide, which makes the fabric hang elegantly from the shoulders.
These are often elbow length, ¾ length or long sleeves, and are perfect for a romantic and boho outfit because of their relaxed silhouette.
15. Slit sleeve
Slit sleeves are another self-explanatory sleeve type and there’s not much explanation to give. The slit usually starts at the top of the armhole and joins right at the cuffs, but you can find different variations.
One thing’s sure, slit sleeves are perfect for showing off your arms.
16. Layered sleeve
Layered sleeves give an extra volume to your arms in the most stylish way possible. They have several layers of circular fabric that, when sewn together at the armhole, create a cute ruffled look.
You can also find different variations of these sleeves, but all share one same thing: they’re girly, flirty and add a dramatic look to your outfit.
Different Sleeve lengths
The type of sleeve you wear doesn’t rely solely on the silhouette or pattern, but also on its length. These are easy and basic definitions, but refreshing your knowledge always comes in handy.
It’s not actually a type of sleeve, because there literally no sleeve at all, but still deserves to be mentioned as a dress/top style.
These tops and dresses can feature different stylish designs such as halter necklines, spaghetti straps, thick straps….
2. Short sleeve
These sleeves have a length that finishes a few inches below your shoulders. Most t-shirts have a typical short sleeve length.
3. Half sleeve
Half sleeves are commonly mistaken for short sleeves, but they’re actually longer than the latter.
These finish right at the elbows, which makes them ideal for anyone who doesn’t like to show her arms but doesn’t want to get too hot with a long sleeve. It’s just like having the best of both worlds.
This length can feature almost any of the sleeve types we’ve seen on this article. From ranglan to poet, a half sleeve is perfect for showcasing a stylish silhouette.
4. Bracelet or ¾ sleeve
I love the name bracelet sleeve only because it’s quite literal: a sleeve that lets you show off a cute bracelet. But this length is most commonly known as ¾ sleeve because it takes three parts of your arm, finishing right at the middle of your forearm.
5. Long sleeve
Last but not least, long sleeves are a must-have length on both tops and dresses. Even if you live in a tropical country or city, long sleeves will always save the day on those chilly nights or rainy days.
There’s no such thing as “knowing too much”, especially when it comes to fashion. That’s why learning the trendiest sleeve types by name will only expand your vocabulary and lead you towards becoming a fashion expert.
Show off your fashion knowledge by calling each sleeve type by its correct name, and be ready to leave everyone else impressed!