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The 20 Most Popular Types of Sleeves for Tops


Tops are essential parts of any person's wardrobe. They fall into the categories of a blouse, shirt, sweater, poncho-style, or any other garment worn from the shoulder to the waist. You can change the appearance of a top by adding different sleeve styles. We were interested in knowing how many different types of sleeve styles exist. Our research turned up dozens of sub-categories, which we condensed into the twenty most popular types of sleeves for tops.

20. Bell sleeves

Treasurie explains that Bell Sleeves are a style that hangs down from the shoulders and flares outwards toward the hands. The sleeves are constructed in a style that adds more material toward to bottom. they're wider in the lower part of the sleeve near the wrists, creating the shape of a bell as the sleeves billow downwards from the elbows. Another name for Bell-style sleeves is Trumpet sleeves. Bell sleeves are found in clothing with bohemian vibes. They offer a feminine aesthetic for blouses and other kinds of tops.

19. Angel sleeves

Angel sleeves are popular in high fashion circles and for wedding attire. It is a traditional sleeve style that is cut from a pattern and sewn to create the appearance of angel wings in their downward flow from the armhole to the wrist. The sleeves are wider at the wrist. The style gets applied to lace and sheer fabrics. It is also a classic sleeve style for commercially sewn robes and various gown styles for prom, cocktail parties, and other formal occasions.

18. Bishop sleeves

Bishop sleeves are full-length sleeves in a distinct style. The sleeve tapers to a semi- or fully-fitted style at the elbow and becomes wider as it opens toward the wrist. Most Bishop sleeves are cuffed at the wrist and adorned with buttons. Some Bishop sleeves are secured with elastic or hook and eye closures.

17. Batwing or Dolman sleeves

Batwing sleeves are also called Dolman-style sleeves. Batwing sleeves are cut from a pattern that resembles a batwing. These sleeves feature a deeper armhole than most other sleeve styles. The sleeves are wide and may extend to the elbow or the wrist. Batwing sleeves get cut as one piece with the body of the top. The seam is sewn down the back center of the top of the dress featuring batwings. Batwings are a part of a single piece of fabric to create a flowing effect with draping fabric that is usually light.

16. Kimono sleeves

Master Class describes the kimono sleeve as a one-piece garment appendage that is similar to the batwing-style sleeve in that it is not sewn separately from the other part of the garment. Kimono sleeves feature a design that is uniform in width throughout the entire sleeve. Kimono sleeves should not be confused with Japanese kimonos. Bear in mind that they're not the same even though they share a name. Japanese kimono sleeves are sewn apart from the other components of the garment, and Kimono sleeves are not. They are a component of Chinese-style robes.

15. leg-of-mutton sleeves

Leg-of-mutton is a sleeve style characterized by a gathering of fabric near the shoulder and a puffy aesthetic at the upper part of the arm. The long sleeve tapers to a fitted style as it proceeds down toward the wrist. It's called a leg-of-mutton because the style looks similar to the leg of a sheep. That's where it got its name.

14. Lantern sleeves

A lantern sleeve is a type of long sleeve. This sleeve style is distinguished by a balloon-like visual effect that happens between the elbow and the wrist. The material is gathered around the wrist to a taper or elasticized ending. It creates the effect of a lantern shape because of its thinner top and balloon toward the bottom, reminiscent of a Chinese lantern. Lantern sleeves are a lovely and novel sleeve type with the power to transform an otherwise drab top into a conversation piece.

13. Balloon sleeves

The balloon sleeve is a long sleeve that is puffed. It gets this appearance from gathering sewn at the shoulder that pulls fabric out and pulls the fabric back at the wrist. The puffs of the sleeves can occur at the shoulder or just under the shoulder. There is no tapering in the sleeve until the fabric reaches the wrist. It creates the look of a balloon on each arm with fabric draping from the shoulder to the wrist. This sleeve type uses twice as much fabric as lantern sleeves with a billowy effect, depending on the types of materials used. It's a less common sleeve type that is seen in costumes for stage production characters as an essential wardrobe, but some tops use this approach. It's a novel type of sleeve used sparingly by designers to maintain its unique aesthetic.

12. Off-shoulder sleeves

Women's Mania explains that off-shoulder sleeves are a style that leaves the shoulders open with no fabric on that area of the body. The sleeves begin from below the shoulder, leaving the skin exposed in Haute fashion tops. This style sleeve may be long or short lengths. you'll know them by the exposed skin of the shoulder. They're best for blouses and any type of western-style top.

11. Cap sleeves

Cap sleeves are smaller versions of the sleeve components for tops and dresses that cover a small portion of the top of the arm and the shoulder. These sleeves consist of small amounts of fabric that scantily cover the shoulder. They are an inch or two long. There is little to no extension of the material for the sleeve under the arm. Cap sleeves are used in tops, blouses, and dresses.

10. Cold Shoulder sleeves

Cold shoulder sleeves are components of a top that are also referred to as open sleeves. This sleeve style earned its name from its openness at the shoulder and the top portion of the arm that leaves the skin exposed. Most cold-shoulder sleeve styles are created via a cutaway in various shapes including ovals or moons. It's an alternative to going sleeveless as it adds some material to the top that does not completely omit the sleeve while leaving a good amount of the skin exposed. This sleeve style is used to create many Western top styles. It is also present in Lehengas and crop tops.

9. Raglan sleeves

Raglan sleeves are one of the most common sleeve types used for T-shirts, bodycon dresses, and tops. The sleeve portion of the top begins at the collar and proceeds down to the underarm with a diagonal seam. It's one of the most comfortable types of sleeves. Raglan sleeves are sewn into tops in various lengths. It's common to see this sleeve type applied to tops made of cotton blends and jersey fabrics.

8. Bracelet sleeves

Thread Curve reports that the bracelet sleeve is a three-quarter sleeve that extends three-quarters of the length of the arm, to leave the lower portion of the wrist exposed. It's called a bracelet sleeve because it allows men and women to wear bracelet accessories without covering them up with the fabric of the top. Bracelet sleeves are consistently above the wrist, but they come in various lengths. When you hear the term three-quarter sleeve, it refers to bracelet sleeves. The two terms are interchangeable.

7. Butterfly sleeves

The butterfly sleeve is a style that gets its name because of the design that it creates. Butterfly sleeves are not functional sleeves but rather a treatment for tops that provide short-flared sleeve designs. This sleeve type extends from the shoulder down the arm without connecting on the sides. They're intended as an accent for tops and not as sleeves, but they fulfill the role by covering the shoulders a few inches down the upper arm.

6. Cuff sleeves

The cuffed sleeve is another type of sleeve that is more laid back and less formal look. It gets its name for the look created by rolling up the material and securing it to the garment as though the wearer rolled it up. The cuffed end of the sleeve is pre-formed and secured into place. Cuffed sleeves may come pre-sewn into the sleeve, or they can be held in place with a button.

5. Drawstring sleeves

Drawstrings sleeves are a type of puffy sleeves that gather near the bottom or hem of the sleeve using a drawstring. The material is cut and sewn to extend beyond the sections of the fabric that are gathered, to create a short ruffle or frill. There are multiple styles of drawstring sleeves applied to tops and dresses. It's a feminine and frilly design that you can use for both men's and women's tops. It's an effect that is most commonly inserted into the design of the sleeve near the bottom of the sleeve near the wrist, however, it can be applied higher on the sleeves for a novel effect.

4. Juliet sleeve

Sew Guide describes the Juliet sleeve style as a kind that is similar to the leg-of-mutton sleeves. The two sleeve types are sometimes confused for one another, but there are notable differences that distinguish them. The Juliet sleeves have two parts in their construction, while the mutton style has one component. The top of the head of the Juliet sleeve is exceptionally full-bodied. The fabric is gathered and foined to the lower component of the sleeve. It then tapers into a fitted style extending down the lower arm to the wrist.

3. Cape sleeves

Cape sleeves are also known as circular sleeves. It's a shorter kind of bell sleeve that extends from the shoulder to just below the elbow or higher. The sleeve is highly flared and extends to the crease of the elbow. Versions of the cape sleeves that are an inch or more above the elbow are referred to as capelet sleeves. This type of sleeve is highly fashionable and creates the look of a cape that extends around the upper portion of the top. It's used to accent features of the top.

2. Frill Sleeves

The frill sleeve is also called a flute sleeve. It is a kind of sleeve that is filled until it reaches the elbow. At that point, a frill is attached that flares outward. This is a versatile style that can vary greatly from one top to another. The size of the frill can vary from a pleated style, which is the lesser flare, to a more robust style that uses ample amounts of fabric.

1. Petal sleeves

The petal sleeve is a style that is also called a lapped sleeve or a tulip sleeve because of the design that is created by the overlapping fabric. This type of sleeve joins at the top at the shoulder with the two top edges overlapping. The petal sleeve has no underarm sleeve. It is created by layered panels that form a short sleeve that has the appearance of petals you see on tulips. It's one of the thinnest and shortest styles of sleeves that leaves the arms, and sometimes portions of the shoulder exposed.

Final thoughts

We've gone through the list of the twenty most popular sleeve types for tops. Sleeve styles can change the personality and functionality of a top in dramatic ways. Some sleeves are barely there and leave the shoulders exposed while others create a fitted aesthetic that outlines the shape of the arms. They provide us with many options when choosing a wardrobe. Fashion designers use these twenty-sleeve styles to develop new and exciting fashions, but they're also known to use the basic sleeve styles and add their flairs to them to create sub-variants. If you're a seamstress looking for new ideas to alter your patterns, experimenting with the sleeve styles is a great way to create new and exciting styles of sleeves. We hope you've found the information about sleeve styles helpful and informative, and we wish you the best of luck in importing the ideas into your creations.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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