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Fashion & Apparel

The Great Arm Cover-Up In Women’s Formal Wear

By a Verblio Writer

(677 words)

Can we talk about sleeves for a minute? Of course, when we say sleeves, what we really mean is arms.

We have empirical evidence (trust us) that more women hate their arms than any other parts of their bodies. No matter how many wonderful things those arms have done for a woman, she still finds them to be flawed and wants to cover them up or draw attention away from her arms.


Formal wear designers have taken notice of this disdain and are providing women more options to drape some cover over their arms. Once only the purview of mother-of-the-bride dresses, now a variety of sleeve types have taken their place on the formal wear runway.

Consider the options:

Long or Three-Quarters Sleeves

When long sleeves began appearing on two-piece prom dresses a couple of years ago, that was pretty much the clincher for us that sleeves would be here to stay for quite a while. After all, why would young ladies slim enough to want to show off their abs feel the need to cover up their arms?

Unlike mom dresses, however, most of the full to three-quarter sleeves you find on formal dresses, both short and long, feature light lace or mesh, giving the illusion of cover more than fully disguising the arms.

Long sleeves also have made their way into wedding gowns, varying from the billowy styles for a bride searching for a Victorian look to the bedazzled sleeve for the modern bride who cannot get enough bling in her gown.

Short or Cap Sleeves

Cap sleeves have been a staple of the mother dress for those moms who wanted a little modesty but didn’t want to look grandmotherly. These also have risen in popularity in the younger formal wear dresses, though often they are brightened with beading, lace, and sequins to ensure the look remains flashy, fresh, and youthful.

Short sleeves are more rare among the prom and wedding gown styles, though the girl who really is searching for such can be accommodated.

Illusion Sleeves

Probably the biggest change in styles over the past five years in the formal wear industry has been the addition of illusion sleeves to the predominant sleeveless styles. Whether these wider-than-a-typical-strap sleeves appear as plain mesh or decorated with lace, beading, or embroidery, they provide both an extra layer of modesty and the security of holding the dress up during a long evening of dining and dancing.

Bridal gowns have followed this trend as well, much to the relief of late 20s and 30-something brides who don’t want to look like teenagers but also don’t want to look like their mothers.

The Latest: Off-Shoulder Sleeves

The hottest trend right now in the formal wear industry is the off-shoulder sleeve, a revival from the early 1800s, the 1960s, and the 1980s. Since this trend hit the ready-to-wear runways in summer 2016, formal wear designers have embraced the look and added many twists of their own.

Off-shoulder styles in formal wear range from loopy straps to muscle-tight bands to deconstructed long sleeves. They also range from plain jersey fabrics to bejeweled bands to intricate lace.

InStyle noted the trend in deconstructed sleeves, where the sleeves appear to be detached from the dress, have made an appearance back in the ready-to-wear fashions in spring 2018 as well.

For the prom girl or bride who doesn’t want to give up the security of the strap, a new trend for 2018 is the circular off-the-shoulder, where the top of the circle serves as strap while the bottom drapes across the bicep.

Wrapping Up the Cover Up

Whether you really do hate your arms or merely want to feel warmer or just believe the sleeve trend will make you stand out at your formal affair, designers are working to meet your desires with a plethora of options.

Of course, if you really are proud of all your arms have carried you through in this life and want to show them off to the world, styles also are available to draw attention to your amazing arms and shoulders.

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